The color and movement of art impacts patients' imagination in a way that encourages them to clearly visualize a positive outcome. The viewing of art inspires communication from a deep place, helping them to express experiences often difficult to put into words. The creating of art - the doodling with various colored pens and watercolor pencils, the shaping of sculpey clay, the shredding of hand-made paper to form the first layer of a canvas piece - allows for a tactile release of energy and attention to detail that transcends the pain and worry of disease.
Creative writing, journaling, and poetry are at the core of any Create to Heal practice. I tell patients that putting pen to paper connects them to themselves in a powerful way. The physical act of picking their favorite colored pen or pencil, putting it to paper and scribbling away becomes a meditation that connects them to that place of limitless possibilities where creativity, wisdom and healing can occur.
In a recent Create to Heal class, I used Mandala Art as a meditation and mindfulness exercise.
Mandala is Sanskrit for circle. These sacred geometric patterns represent wholeness and are often used as meditation tools, for personal expression and spiritual growth. Tibetan Buddhists refer to the mandala as “a matrix or model of a perfect universe” and “an integrated structure organized around a unifying center.”
I like them because they command your attention in a positive way.
A simple exercise I do with all cancer and pain patients, as well as domestic violence survivors, uses these prompts:
“Cancer is …”
“Pain is …”
“Domestic violence is …”
Write the name of your disease or problem, along with the word “is,” as many times as you need to until the writing flows. One patient started by writing, “Cancer is, cancer is, what is this writing nonsense, cancer is, cancer is,” until she broke through by letting go and giving over to Greater Hands. Here is what she read aloud in class:
Physician burn-out, depression is common and affects care, survey says Reuters (1/17, Larkin) reports almost two-thirds of US physicians “feel burned out, depressed, or both – and those feelings affect how they relate to patients, according to a survey conducted by Medscape.” What is a potential antidote? Compassionate care.