Working with Concussion and Brain Injuries: A Lesson in Cognitive Flexibility through Art Therapy

A brain injury leads to rigidity. This means over-thinking and over-planning to compensate for memory loss, lack of attention to details, inability to self-regulate like before – otherwise known as cognitive failures. Meaning people feel like they are a failure because of their brain injuries.

People with a brain injury and a concussion have increased headaches, dizziness, difficulties planning and these can result in difficulties adapting to new situations and people.

What are the results? Blaming oneself for the perceived failures and inability to perform like they used to.

Blaming oneself increases stress, anxiety and can result in depression.

Using Art Therapy can help with cognitive flexibility. Even for those who have no art experience and insist they are mathematically inclined. Why does Art Therapy help? Because it works on cognitive flexibility in action.

Let’s take the example of creating a word-art collage.

1. First, the client has to find words that represent how they feel.

They are encouraged to do this by scanning a magazine for the words in their heart. I also teach the person to create new words if they can’t find the exact word they are looking for. Experiment and cut out new words. This increases creativity, which is a flexible process, by thinking outside the box!

Through this process, clients are learning to discriminate and prioritize between what is important and what is not.

Clients are learning to cut things out and throwing unnecessary words away, and surprisingly this is a very difficult task. Due to the memory loss after a brain injury, everything seems important because losing things including thoughts and ideas has become the new norm. But this is overwhelming. Learning to use cognitive factors such as the ability to discriminate and prioritize means recognizing that not everything is important. This leads to more flexible problem solving by reducing the need to hold onto everything as a way to compensate for memory and cognitive failures.

2. By throwing in the element of surprise, clients are learning to work with unpredictable circumstances.

In the Art Therapy exercise, I add an element of surprise by adding the collage paper underneath before placing the words on top. This means that once the client creates their carefully designed word collage, they have to remove it to place collage paper underneath. This shows them that plans can change. And the results can still be ok.

In life, there are many unpredictable situations. Being flexible saves psychological and emotional energy. Rigidity creates mental and physical tension. Tapping into creativity to solve problems and come up with novel and innovative ways to approach a problem leads to re-discovering one’s potential for innovation; the act of bringing something new into the world. This builds self-confidence.

3. Trusting in one’s intact abilities.

Art Therapy teaches the client the skill of learning to create a rough plan and then having the freedom to problem solve and create something new. This is the key characteristic in innovation. The inward experience after a brain injury and trauma tells a person that risks are unsafe. ‘Don’t do it!’ Learning to take safe risks again is key to breaking through the emotional barriers that keep a person stuck. Accepting there may be mistakes in creating art and that this it is OK. This builds a new foundation of safety. A key feature in healing from trauma. In life, things do not always turn out the way we plan, but sometimes we can be surprised by our abilities to adapt and create something new from difficult circumstances. It may even turn out better than we expected. Surprise!

4. What are the results?

A reduction in self-blame, acceptance of perceived failures, acceptance of one’s current abilities, decrease anxiety and depression. And most of all, learning to have confidence in one’s abilities again. To feel that there is still happiness and joy after trauma.

What happens during Mindful Art Workshop?

“So what is it that you do during the workshop?”

I’ve been asked this question several times so I’ve decided to give everyone a glimpse into what happens during the workshop.

Step 1. Meditate

Colour Outline Meditation

Step 2. Design your Print

Tobi desigining his print
Tobi desigining his print
Don designing his print
Don designing his print
Giovanni & Nicola
Giovanni & Nicola

Step 3. Start Carving

Giovanni Carving
Giovanni Carving
Giovanni Carving
Giovanni Carving

Step 4. Wash your Stamp

Tobi Washing his Stamp
Tobi Washing his Stamp

Step 5. Start Stamping

Tobi Printing his Stamp

Don using a Stamp Pad
Don using a Stamp Pad
Don printing his stamp in his journal
Don printing his stamp in his journal
Mary Ellen stamping her print
Mary Ellen stamping her print
Nicola stamping her print
Nicola stamping her print

Step 6. Ta-daa!

All Roads Lead to Him by Tobi
All Roads Lead to Him by Tobi
Striving in Life by Giovanni
Striving in Life by Giovanni
Together by Amee Le
Together by Amee Le
Move Forward, Never Backwards by Nicola
Move Forward, Never Backwards by Nicola
Love by Don
Love by Don

Step 7. Gratitude Exercise

Week 8 – Last Session: Art Exchange

Don listening to the Reflection Exercise
Don listening to the Reflection Exercise
Reflection Exercise
Reflection Exercise
Art Exchange!
Art Exchange!
Art Exchange
Art Exchange
Giovanni contemplating
Giovanni contemplating
Mary Ellen viewing the slideshow
Mary Ellen viewing the slideshow

Our First Art Commission – the Twillingate Commission!

I am very happy to announce that Mindful Art Workshop has received its first art commission! This week, I will be shipping our gift tags from Toronto to Twillingate Newfoundland. You may be asking yourself, umm, where is Twillingate and how did you end up connecting to a small town of 2,269 people located off the northeastern shore of the island of Newfoundland?

Welcome to Twillingate
Welcome to Twillingate – Picture by Melodee McPherson

The story begins with Nancy Morin, an Occupational Therapist (OT) from Fredericton New Brunswick. She was reading the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapist magazine, called CAOTNow, and saw a very practical article called Exploring Mindfulness Meditation in Occupational Therapy: An introduction to Basic Practice, written by Nina Elliot, an Occupational Therapist from Newfoundland. Thanks to technology and the good hearts of OTs, it is several months later and we have all grown new project together!

Amazing is the power of the internet and social media to connect like minded people working towards the same goals. Nina, Nancy, and I have exchanged thoughts, ideas, and inspiration. We are three OTs interested in meditation and art and wanting to create a positive change in the work spaces we occupy.

Recently, I received a hand-written letter in the mail. I like getting things in the mail; it feels like a gift. Most of the time, it is bills or advertisements; this time the letter was a precious gift of kindness. Nina sent a cheque, a note, and her quirky inspiration!

Letter from Twillingate
Letter from Twillingate

So who is Nina? She is an OT and a person who is passionate about meditation, art, and craftivism (Activism through Art and Craft). She writes has a blog called Rock Vandals, in which “the aim is to surprise and delight through creative acts in otherwise neglected spaces.” She has recently created a campaign call Old Manolis and the Sea to bring awareness to the effects of oil spills on the fragile marine ecosystem. She wrote about Craftivism, which

“uses craft as a form of expression and political action and is often referred to as gentle, loving activism. The form is familiar and designed to encourage viewers to explore the issue and draw conclusions for themselves.”

To bring awareness to this issue, Nina gathered knitters and crocheters; “nine knitters and two crocheters answered the call, generously donating their wool, expertise, and artistic talent to create over 40 unique starfish for the exhibit”.

I used to knit, but had given it up many years ago because I was bored of knitting in a straight line and did not have the inspiration to follow a pattern to knit a sweater. Viewing Nina’s display of starfish on the rocks has inspired me to start knitting again. And Nina’s offer of a downloadable pattern for the starfish on her website was further inspiration. If you are a knitter or crocheter perhaps you would like to join Nina and her Rock Vandals!

image
http://www.rockvandals.com

I was sharing with Nina my excitement about visiting England for a summer meditation festival and retreat. Prior to the festival, I will be going to London and visiting an organization call Headway, which provides services to people with a brain injury. Headway East London has an art studio full of beautiful art pieces created by persons with head injuries; the studio has regular art shows and exhibits.

Headway East London - Art Studio
Headway East London – Art Studio
Headway East London - Art Studio
Headway East London – Art Studio

 

Headway East London - Mosaic Sculpture
Headway East London – Mosaic Sculpture
Headway East London - Mosaic Sculpture
Headway East London – Mosaic Sculpture

Seeing the studio inspires me to have the intension to learn to create sculpture. Viewing the studio has planted images in my mind of the possibilities of an art program for persons with a head injury. I will also be visiting Headway in Essex to explore the day program and share ideas on how meditation can be modified for persons with a head injury.

Coincidentally, Nina informed me that she used to volunteer for Headway. Her inspiration for Rock Vandals comes from Knit the City in London, England. So what is Knit the City? They describe themselves as “Operating from a secret underground wool-lined bunker in the heart of the busy metropolis of London, Knit the City’s Yarn Corps spend most of their lives operating under assumed names and living their lives like every day people”.

What is it that they do? The group engages in “Guerilla knitting or ‘yarnstorming’ is the art of conjuring up a piece of knitting or crochet, taking out out in the world, releasing it into the wild, and running away like a mad thing.” The picture below is an example of their creation.

I had to laugh while looking at this picture. It certainly left an impression in my mind. Seeing the squid and the beautiful starfish, I decided to purchase knitting needles and orange yarn; perhaps a fun project will emerge from this! A while ago, I had given away my knitting needles and yarn to a friend, who then kindly knitted a dish cloth and cute pouch for me. Perhaps it’s time to once again pick up the knitting needles and see what I can create. Although I cannot knit a giant squid, I can definitely try to knit a starfish.

As one therapist inspires another to start knitting, I hope that the art work from our workshop will inspire someone in Newfoundland to start meditating, carving, and stamping!

The Twillingate Commission
The Twillingate Commission
Mindful Art Workshop - The Twillingate Commission
Mindful Art Workshop – The Twillingate Commission
Don designing his print
Don designing his print
Tobi designing his print
Tobi designing his print
iovanni designing his print
Giovanni designing his print
Nicola stamping her print
Nicola stamping her print
Mary Ellen stamping her print
Mary Ellen stamping her print

From Toronto to Fredericton with Love

Spring is finally here and the warm sun rays have returned to kiss our faces. It’s about time because this past February had been the coldest month in recorded history of Toronto. The East Coast also had record snow fall this year and cars had been buried in the snow.

This February I was also contacted my Nancy Morin, Occupational Therapist in Fredericton. I met Nancy through a lunch and learn session held in June 2014 hosted by the Canadian Association of Occupation Therapists. We’ve exchanged emails and talked about program development to connect our clients to meaningful occupation and artistic expression. At the time, Nancy had been interested in starting a creative expression group and was putting together the bits and pieces to combine Occupational Therapy with creative expression and even mindfulness. We exchanged ideas and encouragement and several months later Nancy had started her creative expression group and was wondering if I would be interested in participating in an Art Exchange with her group. I happily accepted!

I introduced this idea of an art exchange to the artists in my Winter 2015 workshop. Most people had not heard of an art exchange and did not know what it was all about. There was some hesitation as I explained the concept to the group. With encouragement several clients came forward to have their art work featured in the art exchange. Some people were unsure if they were ready to share their art work with others. Our group worked on putting together a collection of gift tags. I also contacted past participants and asked if they would be interested in adding their beautiful art work to this collection. Three weeks later we had a completed collection from the artists at Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto (for further information on CHIRS click here). This was mailed out with love to Fredericton.

From Toronto to Fredericton with Love
From Toronto to Fredericton with Love

On the last day of my winter workshop when I was feeling distracted and consumed by emails. I walked down the hall feeling a bit defeated by my to-do list and scheduled appointments, I checked my mail box and saw a brown paper envelope. The art collection from Fredericton had arrived and opening each paper envelope brought a smile to my face. By the time I finished opening all the envelopes, my mood had changed from exhaustion to delight and inspiration. Here is the collection of art from Fredericton to Toronto with Love.

The art you see below was sent to CHIRS as part of an art exchange with the Horizon Health Network of Fredericton, New Brunswick. Five artists in the Addiction and Mental Health Services program in New Brunswick contributed their art. They are: Sam, Sunayna, Lynn, Vicki, and Amanda.

In exchange, the artists in Mindfulness Art Workshop at CHIRS sent a collection of their art to Fredericton. The artists from CHIRS are: Orlando, Roxanne, RB, Chris, Scott, Ali, Cathy, Elisheva (Rehabilitation Student) and Amee (Occupational Therapist).

So where did where did this art work come from? Nancy kindly wrote the following explanation:

The Recovery Art Studio creative expression group was founded in September 2014 by Occupational Therapist Nancy Morin and Visual Artist Marsha Clark. The Studio is open to adult clients of Horizon Health Network Addictions and Mental Health Services, Fredericton Region. We also work in partnership with the Capital Region Mental Health and Addictions Association (CRMHAA) and their R.E.A.C.H. Centre (Resources, Education, Activities, Connections & Help Centre). The approach in the Studio is to fully integrate healing based on the principles of Recovery, Occupational Therapy, mental health care, visual arts, mindfulness and vocational counseling. Members are supported on their own recovery journey to self discovery and expression through art, greater self-esteem, skill building and improved confidence.

From Fredericton to Toronto with Love
From Fredericton to Toronto with Love

As Nancy said “members are supported on their own recovery journey to self discovery and expression through art, greater self-esteem, skill building and improved confidence” and that is the power of art contributing to positive health outcomes. The power of art to connect groups of people from one province to another is a testament to our ability  to form new social connections with one another. Through creative expression we can connect with a part of our self suppressed but longing to speak. Sharing art and stories improves self efficacy and boosts self esteem.  When we can push through the barriers of judgmental thinking social pressures, we may be surprised at the results and once we create we should share this genuine inspiration with others.

My teacher at the Kadampa Meditation Centre in Toronto  told me that after Buddha attained enlightenment he was unsure if he could share his experience and knowledge to the world. What he had attained was so great that he was uncertain if the world could understand these teachings. He waited two months and with a special request from Indra and Brahma he was asked to turn the Dharma wheel (teach the path to widsom) and he did. Imagine if he had never shared his experiences to his disciples and pass on his knowledge and wisdom. There would be no Buddhist concepts of: meditation, mindfulness, loving-kindness, and compassion in the world. There would be no path, no teachings, no guidance, no ways to change your mind to cope with difficulties. This gives all of us the encouragement we need to start sharing. We will never know how much our life can touch another’s. The only thing we can do is try our best everyday to put effort in being kind to others and being true to our inner voice and share these moments. Knowing this we can slowly learn to appreciate the preciousness of this human life.

Green

A series by RB

Prints and poetry were created by RB. All photographs were taken by Elisheva, rehabilitation student.

Blue Spruce by RB

Fox Bay

The song is bright today

Listen
breeze, leaves, needles
combine
create soft melodies

Voice carry
forest sounds

–RB

Chorus by RB

Become a community of sound

–RB

Growth by RB
Memory by RB Remember Me I’m 41 and still 12

Market Lament

      for dad

Lost in concrete
trudging
toward grey sun
seeking warmth.

My feet find earth
between
herbalists, fishmongers
screaming
space.

While you
oblivious,
speak
islands of pine
with silence.

Lost my Green.

–RB

Thunder Bird by RB
Thunder Bird by RB

Surfacing

   for Sara

July warmth
Bathes
my morning
in delicious
humidity

Bay mist
curls
flexes
in emerging sun

Water
calm,
serene
imploring fish
“Don’t feed”

I don’t listen
and like a largemouth
shatter lake glass
for my meal

–RB

Brain Injury Awareness Month!

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month and to kick off the month the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) is launching a campaign asking if you are aware?

Are you aware that a BRAIN INJURY CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE?

The impact of a brain injury can be devastating not only to the survivors themselves, but to their family members, caregivers, friends and their community. It can affect every aspect of their life, often resulting in loss of livelihood, isolation, and physical, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Your brain is who you are, it’s your humanity. Just as no two people are alike, no two acquired brain injuries are alike. Survivors will experience the effects of acquired brain injuries in many different ways.

http://www.areyouaware.ca/

areyouaware

After a brain injury a person may experience many of the following changes:

  • difficulties remembering new events, appointments, daily tasks
  • changes to his or her personality
  • frustration over things that used to be easily accomplished which are all of a sudden difficult tasks
  • increase in impulsive behaviours

These changes and many more can be very confusing. There is also a tremendous loss of aspects of their pre-injury life and routine – things that are no longer possible for a person to continue to do. Although on the surface, a person may look exactly the same, his or her brain has changed and this can be frustrating for brain injury survivors to convey to people.

Many people with a brain injury experience seizure activities. We talked about this in our group and most participants are able to manage the frequency of seizures with medication. When a person has a seizure, they are unsafe to drive and for a person who is used to hopping in the car daily and enjoys the experience of driving – this loss of independence is massive.

FOND MEMORIES – A Series by Inder

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I am very fond of driving. It gives me freedom, independence and excitement. I am very comfortable in the car. I’ve always wanted to buy a particular car.

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Last year, I finally bought the car – a Red Convertible.

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Exactly two days later, my Neurologist advised me that I shouldn’t be driving so I respected what the Doctor said and I stopped driving.

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I went through the Drive Again program – and passed. Then the winter came and I decided to park the car in the garage. Then spring came and I took the car out and drove for about a week or so.

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Then I had a seizure and the Doctor told me I shouldn’t be driving and I got a letter from the Ministry advising me to stop driving.

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Within a week, the car went back in the garage and I felt devastated.

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Then I made a decision. I felt that there was no point in keeping the car sitting in the garage, so I told my friend to help me sell my car. So he took the car two days ago.

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So, there’s a saying back home – if you want to do something good tomorrow, do it today. If you want to do something good today, do it now. Whatever happens, happens for the good. In spite of going through a tough last 3-4 years, medically, I met a number of very nice people who are very kind to me that I may not have met otherwise. — Inder

Inder shared his story with our group and the impact of this loss was palpable to everyone in the room. When Inder and I sat down to write this story, he look distant at times, worried, concerned, and at a loss yet the story that was very clear and visible in his mind. At the end of the story, when he sold his car, I had asked him “Is this the end of the story?” After sitting back and reflecting, he was able say “Whatever happens, happens for the good” and he had a big smile on his face as he thought about the people whom he has met due to his brain injury and although the journey is tough and arduous at times, and life gives and takes, survival is victory and reminds us that we are strong and life is a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life

A series by Neil.

All photographs were taken by Fiona. The narrative was written by Neil with the help of Carrie M. who recommended Neil for the group and provides weekly encouragement and support, to help Neil through his week.

Life by Neil

This print shows the connection between family and life. The four corners represent each member of my family (me, mom, dad and brother) and shows how we are all connected to each other.

Life by Neil

 I called this print life because you cannot isolate yourself from anything. Living with an injury, you must live as normal a life as possible You have to stay connected to all things and fit in with the group.

Life 4

Life means love. Loving everything that is possible and not being scared of trying things and fitting in. Caring for the place you are living in.

LIfe by Neil

 We are all connected to each other within nature and our environment.   If you are connected with your family, you can understand their moods and what is needed to help them with their day and showing that you love them.

Life 2

This print came to mind because of the relationship with my brother and how my parents have to interfere as opposed to us all being happy together as a family. This interrelationship within my family impacts my life. When my family is connected and happy, I am happy. –Neil

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Flowers

After a long and dark winter, spring has arrived in Toronto. The flowers have arrived and we are blooming with inspiration from our new group of participants. All photographs below were artfully arranged by Fiona, our new mentor for the group. I officially would like to welcome all new participants to the group and look forward to our time together meditating, creating art, sharing stories and finding meaning.

Mindful Art Workshop - Spring 2014
Mindful Art Workshop – Spring 2014

 

Can't Stop Tomorrow by Fiona
Can’t Stop Tomorrow by Fiona

“I’m thankful for getting the opportunity to meet everyone here, it’s always a pleasure to be able to meet other people who know about brain injury and who are generous enough to share their story. Thankful to the community I have around me, my friends, family, and colleagues. I’m just thankful to be here today.” Fiona

Dedication to Amee
Dedication to Amee

“Thankful to Amee for letting me be here and attend this session and letting me get to know two other very nice people. Also thankful to the god for giving me two legs to stand on and two arms for holding other people’s hands. 2 meals a day and a roof over my head and family and friends. For everything despite the head injury I have, I’m still able to breathe and walk and talk and do many things which millions of other people are not able to do.” Inder

LIfe 5
Life by Neil

“I’m thankful this group is very, very, very relaxing, I like doing the art which I get frustrated over, it was very relaxing this group, this group is a very good group, and I am thankful I joined it. Thank you all to the leaders and the two people I met here. Thank you for such a relaxing and good group.” Neil

Storms, Strength & Wisdom

New year and we have a new group! This is our second week and the theme of the class is: storms, strength and wisdom. In Toronto, we have had a series of ice storms that have caused electrical blackouts and icy conditions. Many living in the city, especially those with a disability have had to live through days without electricity. This means limited access or no access to elevators, hot water, assistive devices that depends on electricity. So our theme for the week starts with the storm – both the ice storm and personal, emotional, traumatic storms of our lives. I read the following message of resilience to our group:

“The earth has a heartbeat. In between each beat is silence. That silence is when the life force gathers strength for the next beat. You must learn to do the same. Use the silence to gather yourself. Life can give you strength. Life gives and life takes. As it is teaching you even now. Life takes our time and everyday is one day closer to the end of our journey on this. It takes our efforts our sweat, our best intentions, our noble ideas, our dreams and sacrifices. And often demands more. Then it gives us obstacles, surprises, disappointment, indifference, confusion, doubt and heartache. Yet life does give us much more than the obvious. If we can look back on the difficulties we have know, whether old or new, then we have moved past them at least in time. That we are looking back on a tough experience from the perspective of the present moment means we have survived it. The experience may have taken a toll, as difficulties do. But whatever our losses have been, we have survived. Survival is victory, because we know or we are reminded that is it possible. Survival is victory because life has given us something along with the difficulty.”

“The experience the difficulty has taught us or reminded us that we can be strong.” by Joseph Marshall III – Keep Going from Soundstrue

I would also like to add, that through hard times, we also gain wisdom that comes from the enduring the difficulties. This can open our hearts further so we surface with more love and compassion for others who have also endured this journey. I am proud to share art work from this theme.

Remember - Forward by Micky
Remember – Forward by Micky
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
Storm by Roxanne
Storm by Roxanne
Break Time by Stella
Break Time by Stella
Walking on the Earth by James
Walking on the Earth by James
Rebirth by Robert
Rebirth by Robert
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
The Five Directions by Amee Le
The Five Directions by Amee Le

Mindful Art at the Holiday Party

We had our first Mindful Art Display at the CHIRS’ (cheers) holiday party (Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto). It was a wonderful night to celebrate this special events with friends and family and our community of persons whose lives have all been shaped by an acquired brain injury.

Mindful Art Display
Mindful Art Display by Amee Le & Dr. Carolyn Lemsky
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Mindful Art Display at the CHIRS Holiday Party 2013
Chris and Amanda at the Art Sale
Chris and Amanda at the Art Sale
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A proud artist smiling by his art!

Preparing for an Art Sale!

We are working hard to prepare for our first Art Sale, stay tuned!

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Tree Star by Micky

Here are the gratitude comments from the group:

“I am thankful for my friends and my co-workers who have supported me while going through a transition in my life.” Amee

“I am thankful for the CHIRS clubhouse for the people within this building who have changed my life and made everything a lot easier, also thankful for family and just community and people helping each other.” Chris

“I am thankful for getting here safely every day and it’s cold and soon I’ll be not taking the bus during the winter because it’s too cold, so I am really thankful for that. Also I am thankful that my dog is ok, hopefully, because two times this week she vomited so hopefully she’ll be alright.” Micky

“I am thankful for my health. I am very thankful for my family and all the wonderful people that I meet every day, being at CHIRS. I would like to send a very special prayers for all the people around the world suffering from disasters today.” Roxanne

“I am thankful for being here, for having you guys to support me and help me, it’s really nice. I hope that I can keep coming, for as long as this class is until, so I can get something out of it.” Paul

“I am thankful that I get to come to work every day and do things that I enjoy and I get to discover new talents that I didn’t know I had, not necessarily in this class. I do enjoy the class so I am very grateful for it too.” Amanda

“I am thankful for the blessings and knowledge.” Orlando

“I am thankful that I woke up in time to sign myself in, go out for a smoke, and make it at the right time to open the door for Amee.” WSM

Black & White

Sometimes we need the darkness to see the light. Through the storms and dark nights, the sun rises and a new day begins. Keep going – through the dark for it can make our light even brighter.

What a better way to illustrate this than by using black textured card stock and printing with white ink.

Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

Today I am really thankful for you guys. For doing this group with me. You guys teach me something new every time I do this and it makes me very happy. So I want to thank each and every one of you for showing up.” Amee Le

I am thankful for being able to be here. Thankful for my parents. Thankful for all the people in this room and this building.” MSW

Thanks for the work did today.” Orlando

I am grateful for a lot of things. The time that we have to work on art, and the openness that you guys share while we are here.” Amanda Muise

I am thankful for the different activities we do here. Especially the meditation, I find it’s a good way to relax so when I leave and go home because I would like to carry it on, when I am lying in my bed, when it’s dark and it’s quiet and it helps me to fall asleep.” Paul

I am thankful for my friends here. I am thankful for CHIRS. I am very thankful that I went to the kitchen today for the first time – I prepared spaghetti. I am thankful for so many things, words can’t explain – thank you!” Roxanne

I am thankful that I’ll be getting a ride half way so that I don’t have to walk in the dark. Also for people who have taught me different techniques and things that I need for everyday life.” Micky

I am most thankful for never being alone, because of CHIRS and because of these kind of activities, I get to experience joy and share it with other people.” Chris

One Fish, Two Fish by Orlando
One Fish, Two Fish by Orlando
Bugs Bunny or a Fox? by Micky
Bugs Bunny or a Fox? by Micky
Three Wishes by Chris
Three Wishes by Chris
Clover by MSW
Clover by MSW
Love by Roxanne
Love by Roxanne

Prints and Patterns

This week our group started working with Prints & Patterns. We had a lot of fun carving small and mighty 1.5″ x 3/4″ erasers.

Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

I am thankful for all the helped I’ve received in my life, all those who have thought about me and have gone out of their way to help me because that has helped me to be who I am.” Amee Le

I am thankful for all the people in this group.” WSM

I am thankful for the change in the season and inspiration from the autumn and getting ready for winter.” Amanda Muise

I am thankful for everything that we made today.” Orlando

I am thankful for having two hands. I do art with my left and work with my right and pulled a muscle with my left arm and I can still do art with my right. I am thankful for this call, and the sacrifices that I’ve made to get to where I am and the people who have helped me.” Chris

I am thankful for to share the creativity that I can make and print out to the rest of the group.” Mickey

I am thankful for my life, for being alive, thankful for all the wonderful people who have helped me, and continue to help me. I am thankful for my family and thankful that I’ve met all of you guys here. I look forward every Thursday to come here.” Roxanne

I am thankful for my new friends here and my nice home that I’ve moved to here in Toronto.” Paul Scott

Inspiration for this week:

Tents & Time by Amee Le
Tents & Time by Amee Le
Moons and Stars by Amee Le
Moons and Stars by Amee Le
Woman/Man, Man/Woman by Amee Le
Woman/Man, Man/Woman by Amee Le
My Little Blue Dress by Roxanne
My Little Blue Dress by Roxanne
Triangle by Orlando
Triangle by Orlando
Fall by Chris
Fall by Chris
Moon Set by Micky
Moon Set by Micky
Breath of Fresh Air by Amanda Muise
Breath of Fresh Air by Amanda Muise
Christmas Tree by Paul Scott
Christmas Tree by Paul Scott
Washroom Sign Looking for Donor by WSM
Washroom Sign Looking for Donor by WSM

Kihelakayo – Keep Going

The theme for this week’s Mindful Art Workshop is Kihelakayo – Keep Going

“A young man asked his Lakota grandfather what the answer was to life’s difficulties. Kihelakayo said the old man – we must keep going.”  Joseph M Marshall III

Keep Going by Amanda Muise
Keep Going by Amanda Muise
“I am thankful for a safe place to express.”
Leaves by Orlando “I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Leaves by Orlando
“I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Mauley by WSM “I am thankful for being alive.”
Mauley by WSM
“I am thankful for being alive.”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne “I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance, I am dancing even with a cane!”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne
“I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance. I am dancing even with a cane!”
Five Keys by Chris “I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Five Keys by Chris
“I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Acorns by Mickey “I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Acorns by Mickey
“I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Blanca by Orlando
Blanca by Orlando

Fall Art!

October is here and there is a new group of Artists joining Mindful Art Workshop at Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto. Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

I am thankful for the past two hours because I forgot all about my tooth ache” RW

I am thankful for a carving that is supposed to be a dog that turned into a raptor” WSM

I am thankful for a space to be creative” Micky

My mindfulness creation by RW
My mindfulness creation by RW
Toronto Raptor by WSM
Toronto Raptor by WSM
Fall is Here by Chris
Fall is Here by Chris
Snoop Dog by Micky
Snoop Dog by Micky
Motherhood by Amanda Muise
Motherhood by Amanda Muise

 

Brain Injury Survivors Video

Check out this video made by the drama club at Community Head Injury Resources Services of Toronto. It is a dedication to the one’s will to survive, live and thrive.

Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration

Finding meaning when we have lost a beloved.

I would like to share with you the stories of two clients; each had lost a beloved person in their life. One gentleman spoke of his worries about his grandmother being very ill and having to be hospitalized. He described this grandmother as having been like a second mother to him.  He sat in my office, overcome with concern that she may not live through this battle. Some time later, he arrived to tell me that his grandmother had died. I sat with him, trying to make a space where he felt safe to cry.  We were able to practice deep breathing and gentle seated yoga and he sat through two 10 minute meditations, taking a short break to cry and feel the pain from his grandmother’s passing. When he was ready, I wrote and showed him this message: Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration.

Mindful Seed: Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration
Mindful Seed: Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration

I explained that it is normal to feel pain when grieving, that the pain signifies that the person is important to you and has deeply touched your life; otherwise, you wouldn’t feel such strong emotions.

Grief can have negative connotations and can be labeled a negative emotion. We can take that Grief and add something positive and possibly uplifting – Gratitude. Think about all the wonderful memories and ways that this person changed your life and try to connect with a feeling of gratitude, for without this person, you would not be who you are today. Find ways to be thankful for her life. The way she lived her life has changed the way you have lived yours.

The second client spoke about the loss of his girlfriend, which brought forth in him memories of losing his father many years prior; he allowed himself to cry for both losses.

Let the loss of your beloved also be your inspiration. Take the grief, add gratitude, and create inspiration so that when you remember your beloved, you can experience a feeling of inspiration. Both of my clients asked me to write this equation down for them as reminders.

Each client walked away with a bit of lift in their steps and a slight smile, as if to say, “I’ve found new meaning for a very special person, someone who I will always keep close to my heart”.

Finding Inspiration! Giving to Others

There was a sense of excitement during the first group, combined with nervous anticipation. Participants were eager to get started and were unsure of what to expect. The class started with a deep breathing exercise so that all participants could come together to feel grounded and present. Then I spoke to the class about finding inspiration by giving to ourselves.

This can be an unusual topic, as so often we are giving to others; taking care of ourselves is a foreign concept; it’s like we are speaking an unfamiliar language. As professionals, caregivers, family members, friends, we are socialized to give. We are kind to others and we often feel like our hearts are limitless in the amount of care we give to the people we love.

Then, if we are mindful and pause, we can remind ourselves that, although our hearts are deep and open, our bodies have limits; respecting these limits means finding ways to give back to ourselves,  giving ourselves permission to take care of our bodies, our minds, and our emotions, taking care of the parts of us that connect to meaning, and being kind to ourselves.

This is, we want to keep being kind and giving to others and continue giving; at the same time, we stay mindful and find ways to replenish ourselves. This can be viewed as a cycle of giving so that we are not depleted at the end of the day. We remind ourselves that as we become depleted, we can give less to others. When we give to ourselves, we are in a sense giving to others as well.

But what if this feels selfish”, says a tiny voice? Or, “I don’t know how to do this”, says a louder voice.

Pause and step back; be aware, be mindful without judgment. Hear these thoughts talking to us, give them space to talk, and listen to their messages; this is acceptance. Then what? We may be surprised what comes next. With practice, the thoughts become quieter and the layers peel away as we become more open to ourselves. When we do this, we may be surprised of what we are capable and how deep our hearts truly are.

Through this exercise and by accepting the mindful seed (Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise) the participants in the workshop were able to create these beautiful eraser carvings [click here].

Workshop Participant's Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop Participant’s Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags