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We must believe in and protect our artistic vision

Our artistic vision is our guiding light. It illuminates the terrain around us and our inner life. We must come to trust ourselves and our artistic vision. At the same time, it is best to surround ourselves with people who believe in us or who support us or who remain neutral. This last part is especially important and has to do with ourselves, too, not just others.

Neutrality

If I do not understand another’s artistic vision or if I am aware of or come to recognize that I question it, I immediately place myself in a willed state of neutrality. I do not want to affect the other person with feelings of ambivalence or anything negative, so I will remain neutral. Sometimes this state isn’t easy to achieve, but I do it by repeating a very simple but extremely powerful mantra that I learned from a person beloved to me, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, otherwise known as Gurudeva. He was not/is not my guru. I have no guru. But I learned much from him and one of the things I learned is this deceivingly simple mantra, the effect of which places anyone who says it in a super-conscious state instantly. The mantra is “Who am I ? Not this body.” When said, it is a means of zapping me out of any form of judgment and putting me on a different plane, one without judgment. It is an easy way to become neutral fast.

Toxic People

Likewise, we must protect ourselves from others who are judgmental or negative and who do not maintain neutrality around us. This is especially important when we have an idea for a new project. If we, without thinking, start chattering about our idea before it is distilled and part of our being, we affect it negatively and might even quash it. The idea quite literally changes, evaporates, or is something that is no longer married to us. However, if we keep the idea to ourselves and let it gestate, the time will come when it is ready to see the light of day. This is not ‘keeping secrets.’ Keeping our idea to ourselves until it and we are ready is a way of protecting ourselves and our artistic vision. At this point, we can speak or write about it to others. Still, it is best to be selective about who we tell. If we tell someone who maintains neutrality, we won’t be affected. If we tell someone who is supportive, our idea is graced, we feel warm and affirmed. However, if we are criticized or if we receive a message that is indirectly negative, clothed in supportive words and non-verbal behavior, we must be guided by our intuition and immediately stop talking to this person about our intended project. In fact, after we do, it’s not a bad idea to take back any power we may have inadvertently given that person, too, by simply stating that we are doing it and visualizing pulling power from the other back into ourselves. For me, I would pull it back to my solar plexus chakra, the chakra of personal power. Likewise, if we do find ourselves in the midst of another who is acting negative or judgmental about our artistic vision, don’t judge them; remain neutral. It can be done with practice. And do not take what the other person is saying personally. It isn’t about you; it’s about them and you do not need to invite that kind of garbage into yourself. View it impersonally and remain neutral. So, our ideas must be incubated around people who believe in us and we must believe in ourselves. Our belief in ourselves is more important, though, and we must culture an internal locus of control. If we constantly look to others for approval, we are operating from an external locus of control and this does not help our artistic vision.

Good Support System

A good support system is invaluable. My first thought is of my beloved friend, Russ, who died in the mid-1990s. He believed in me very strongly and he knew me very well. We attended the same college and had several things in common: photography, journalism, art, poetry. We co-edited a fine literary magazine, worked for the student newspaper and in professional theatre as light-sound technicians and stage hands. At the time, he was coming to terms with his homosexuality in a world that was unkind. We were fast friends and I will never ever forget his unswerving support. Russ quite literally felt that I could do anything. This belief in another was an amazing thing to behold. He also had a strong sense of his own artistic vision, was an excellent photographer and a very a gifted poet. He was able to be as supportive as he was because he was not ego-involved. He was not jealous, nor did he feel competitive, two qualities that spell a lack of support mixed with toxicity. We must recognize readily and stay away from this toxic mix. And culture being around supportive people. Such people are not sycophants. They are people who can constructively criticize as well as support. They are authentic, not phony. Make firm boundaries for yourself. As Fritz Perls said, “I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations.”

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Want to Stay Healthy? Be Creative!

Calypte anna (Audubon)

(Hummingbirds are the Native American symbol of healing.) Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna. Drawn from nature by the author between 1821 & 1833 & engraved in Edinburgh & London by W.H. Lizars & Robert Havell between 1828 & 1836. Source: John James Audubon – Birds of America via Wikimedia Commons

Much has been written about the use of creativity for healing. And, after all, that is what art therapy is all about. Julia Cameron has written about creativity and healing extensively in her Artist’s Way series. There have also been many studies about the mind/body link and its causal relationship regarding health (case in point, Norman Cousins). Nowadays, this link has pretty much become common knowledge and has permeated popular culture. But, what I’m most interested in is another area of research: creativity and its relation to overall health and whether the creative process and the fruits of it can actually heal illness. Does working in clay affect my health in a direct and beneficial way? Can I paint my way to improved health? Can creativity cure?

Arts Community
Quite a lot has been written about creativity and health…here are a few pieces for your perusal: Canada’s National Post: Art for life’s sake: The health benefits of culture.  The author refers to a Norwegian study with interesting findings. “Women who participated in cultural activities were better off, health-wise, than women who consumed cultural events. Put another way, Louise was better off painting her watercolours than admiring canvases in a museum….” Art for Health is British study of community-based arts initiatives, “projects and interventions which impact on health and well-being.” It is a report on findings about social capital for health, commissioned by Britain’s health authority. One of the reasons for creating the report was to understand health, that though “the perceived link between art and health was central to the research, arts projects are seldom evaluated according to strict medical criteria, and reports of improvements to physical health are rare.”

I am quite impressed with the methodology, part of which was to find “Key benefits and outcomes: health; education; wellbeing; self-esteem; improved physical/social environment”. Measures of success depended on social contact and success in the community. For instance, Wolf & Water Arts Company (which appears to be incredible!) stated, ” ‘Success is about encouraging people to be more vulnerable (sometimes), more assertive (sometimes) and better skilled in interpersonal relationships, personal and social awareness and communication.’ The results findings are intriguing. I immediately thought of the local arts centre and recognized ways in which it could improve. Findings: it is important for arts groups to have vision, especially the “single-minded vision of individuals,” responsiveness to local needs, accountability to local people, and participation. Examples of the best ways to make these initiatives happen in a manner that attended creativity and health health included “more ancient traditions of collaborative activity in the arts, such as the making of narrative tapestries, renaissance schools, or the musical masterclass.”

Brain Waves
Creativity, biofeedback and meditation are all practices that affect brain waves. Have you ever noticed that when you are fully immersed in the creative process, you enter a different state? We are completely in the zone and even our perception of time changes! I remember the first time I noticed it. A teenager living at home, I was downstairs working for hours on a painting. At some point, my Mom called down to me and I was jolted back into the ‘real world.’ Much time had elapsed, but to me it only seemed like minutes! An altered sense of time is one of the ‘by-products’ of this brain wave shift. With awareness, we can recognize that state when we are experiencing it. It is the Theta brain wave state. About.com’s Elizabeth Scott addresses this in Art Therapy: Relieve Stress By Being Creative: Do-It-Yourself Art Therapy.

Cover of the book (reissue) The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson. Source: Amazon.com via Wikimedia Commons

Cover of the book (reissue) The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson. Source: Amazon.com via Wikimedia Commons

Meditative states are achieved with both Alpha and Theta brain waves, but highly creative states can only be achieved with Theta brain waves. Theta waves promote creativity. In addition, there are supplements that can help create the Theta state, too, and they all relax or calm a person. So, there is the connection between Theta brain waves and healing, but again I wonder if there is also a demonstrable link between healing and creativity. If Theta waves promote creativity and healing, is the idea of a link between creative involvement and healing far fetched? Research about Neurobiology and creativity are still very much in their infancy, but I think the future will reveal direct links between creativity and health, even cures.

So, my journey continues. I will further investigate Theta waves, healing and creativity and I will get back to my biofeedback. Once I’m in a more mindful state, it is sure to help not only my creativity, but health. If anyone is interested, Herbert Benson’s classic, The Relaxation Response, is a gem of a book for anyone who wants to learn to meditate by regulating your breathing.

ADHD/PTSDEvidence suggests that a form of music therapy called Rhythmic Entertainment Intervention is effective with people who have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and other disorders, including, “anxiety, brain injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and sleep disorders,” according to Sarah Gibbens in an article about students who want to increase energy and a sense of clarity without medication.

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