Tag Archives: Health

let’s get together

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I would be sharing projects that focus on community health, healing, and art. I have found a few — today, let’s visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

One summer, I spent a few weeks in the city of Philadelphia. It was just after high school and I wanted to do something! help someone! expand my consciousness! make a difference!

So, I looked through a booklet (yup, not a website) filled with all kinds of projects and signed up for one that promised an ‘eco-friendly, inner-city experience with a group of young folks from around the world.’ And so it was! We lived together in a big ol’ house and cooked communal dinners. Never sure what we would be doing each day, we ended up in abandoned crack house (cleaning was the aim but it was a lost cause), worked in a community garden, and painted nationalistic murals on the rooftop of the house we stayed at (I think mine, in true Canadian pride, included pot leaves and peace signs). One day we went to the organizer’s house and cleaned up his overgrown library! It didn’t seem well-organized – there were times when we seemed to simply be serving the organizer’s personal and political persuasions. And sometimes, I wondered what I was really doing there – we all did.

One day we ended up in neighbourhood where the store fronts were big garage doors with bullet holes spattered across them. My eyes opened wide. Our job was to throw concrete at a mud and wood perimeter of a hole for a basement – were we building walls? I don’t know. The… space … was to become a women’s shelter – I don’t know if it ever did.

But I do know that I met a man at that site. His name escapes me. I remember his slight outline sitting on top of a ladder in the bright sun, big work boots, black jeans, and his constant companions – a walkman and the music of Phil Collins – music he credited with saving him from a life of heroin addiction and homelessness. He springs to mind when my heart is captured with joy, belonging, and a sense of home as the right note, the right phrase, the right blend of instruments fills my body with sound. I am grateful to him for sharing his path of healing with me – it helps me to recognize and open to my own unique path of healing. Because, really aren’t we are all just looking for, and finding, those sweet spots that ignite our soul? And, really, only you can know when you find yours.

What were the long-term results of our work? Did I make a difference? Did I help someone? Are those the questions to ask to get at what happened in that space?

I don’t know. We ‘parachuted’ in, didn’t complete any project, and didn’t spend much time talking with local community folks. It was loose, messy, unstructured. Subtle and gentle. A time to explore my own identity, a new community, and sit in a place of a belonging/not belonging. I took a step outside of my everyday experience and expanded – heart, soul and mind. Small steps into big questions.

So, I have a soft spot for Philadelphia and when I found the project below, I was pretty excited to share it with you. If I was going to return to Philly now, I would like to lend my skills and heart to this project:

The Porch Light Project
A mural arts project
organized by Mural Arts Program & the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services.

“A three-year initiative that situates art and human connection at the heart of recovery and healing in three North Philadelphia neighborhoods”
(http://muralarts.org/programs/porch-light-initiative).

How does it work? Three areas of Philadelphia are participating in the project. The site is prepped and funding is attained. Then the mural artists get together with community members and people within the partnering community organizations to talk, make art, write, and share community and individual priorities, issues, and aesthetic sensibilities. The design process is specific to the mural artist – so each project is quite different. And of course, the painting and installation is done by everyone who wants to participate! When the painting is done, there is a celebration.

The Color of Your Voice – drawn from poetry created by community members, the mural focuses on themes of resilience, history, strengths and challenges.

Our Vision, Our Testament – this mural was drawn from words, lists, and collages about the value of community and what it takes to make a community to thrive.

To see more projects, click here.

And it doesn’t stop with murals! What is the value of participating in such a project? For individuals? for organizations? for communities? Long-term research/evaluation is being completed by The Yale School of Medicine and includes in-depth interviews (before and after), focus groups, and examination of data from different municipal departments about things like ” behavioral health services, neighborhood commercial activity, and crime over time” (http://muralarts.org/programs/porch-light-initiative-evaluation).

What a neat project. I wonder what stories the participants will tell about their involvement in the project. How will these stories be shared? Will we learn about the messy, difficult parts as well as the joyful, smooth parts of the projects? I will follow up in a while and post if I find anything interesting!

In the meantime, I leave with you some images of graffiti and murals that I have collected in my travels:

feel (san francisco) happy endings (regina) robot (san francisco)wrestlers (toronto)monster (regina)lo-cost meat (san francisco)the wall (powell river) safer (san francisco)

peace,
j

P.S. Also in Philadelphia, I convinced my friend that we could make it to the Veruca Salt concert across town without any money for a way home. With the generosity of a stranger who gave us the money for a cab, we did make it safe and sound. A big public thank you to this man — I have never forgotten your kindness and have paid it forward again and again.

Advertisements

move the body, spark the soul

there is a part of me that is stuck. stuck and sad and tired.  this ill health is, yes i know, an opportunity. but but but  i am struggling. some days i just want to get off the busy mind train and into the wide open space of heart.  and some days i just want to sit in it.  and i do.

the tracks of my mind are rough and tumbled and i see the same scenery …. i dip into the stories of loss and done-me-wrong … the trees whisper ‘forgiveness’ and ‘light’ … teachers say ‘let go’ …whatever that means … and little bolts of joy come every so often …

i know it is true that to stay disempowered and sad doesn’t serve anything or anyone and yet, the tracks seem to be getting more and more worn and harder and harder to jump off … fear, anxiety, self-hatred — such strong words but present here, now in the spiral of disease and discomfort.  so, where to go from here? today? right now?  what to do with all this fear bouncing around in my mind?

how bout some yoga?  move a little.  breathe in. breathe out.  stretch to the sky. and fold to the earth. letting the flow move through me and keeping my mind on the movement is sometimes the most grounding thing i can do.

I just took a 2.5 day workshop offered by Street Yoga – a non-profit, US-based organization that teaches mindfulness and yoga  in an outreach style, primarily to youth.

A short and engaging video about Street Yoga:

The training was good and challenging. I enjoyed the opportunity to focus in, learn from others, and really think about how yoga can be more accessible to everyone, especially those who have experienced trauma.  A fellow student wrote a lovely open-hearted post so I’ll just send you over there. She offers a good reminder: 

“Not every day is a bad day.. and when there are success stories, no matter how small… they are so fulfilling and rich. This work can be draining but it can also be nourishing and incredibly full of value. In my own life experience I have found there is a raw honesty that can be found on the streets. Genuine connection happens and great compassion and beauty can surface in these unexpected environments.” yoga4ayear. 

Truth. Yoga is a powerful tool for healing – linking mind, body, soul, and spirit in a personal way and within community. Here are a few organizations and people I find inspiring…

Yoga Service Council  – formed as part of the Omega Institute in 2009
Yoga Activist
Dr. Ellen Horowitz – A Youtube video that talks about the work of “Dr. Ellen Horovitz, registered Art Therapist and Yoga Teacher, integrates the two modalities in order to enhance the healing process. Dr. Horovitz is the director of the Creative Arts Therapy graduate program at Nazareth College of Rochester, NY”
Bo Forbes – Elemental Yoga.  Bo Forbes wrote this book: Yoga for Emotional Balance. I am reading it. I like it.

When i move my body to the rhythm of yoga, to my breath, and to my teacher’s voice, i am sometimes able to just be right there.  nowhere else. not on the train. not locked in my mind. not completely afraid.  here, with intensity, with calm, with emotion, with feeling, with sensation.  i feel a little spark in my soul.  i remember. and then i forget again. and then i remember.  try to just come back with gentleness.  sparking the soul.  moving the body.  jumping off the train.

xo
j


mapping the body, the journey

this past weekend, as part of my art therapy training, i participated in a two-day workshop on body mapping with Christine Lummis, BA, D.K.A.T.I, R.C.A.T — a lovely, authentic and skilled art therapist based in the Kootenays of British Columbia.

what is body mapping? 
Body Mapping is an arts-based process/activity that becomes a “visual journey of the body’s story” (Lummis, 2011).  at the beginning of the day, we talked about the history (see below) and ways that people use the process — to explore disease, body image, life experience and more. we then began the process of making our own – i was excited, anxious, and curious to see where we would go .. and where i would go …

i won’t go into all the details — there are several specific steps/directives that were followed throughout the two days.  at the end of the two days, each person had created a unique map body but where we had placed the information was somewhat similar — thus creating a legend that we could all acknowledge and witness in eachother’s process.  powerful, moving, and so creative!

i’d like to share a my visual journey and a bit of my own process and images … please be gentle as you look and take it all in.  what would you do with these directives and ideas?  perhaps you will be inspired to create your own or seek out an opportunity in a group setting to do so. i’m sure that if i started this process tomorrow, my image would be different — who knows how much?!

one of the first steps was to trace asupport person‘s’ body and then have someone trace my own body onto the paper. in the left bottom corner, i paintedwhere I come fromand in the upper right corner I paintedmy goals and visions‘.  

at this stage, i had also completed a few of the other directives that included outlining my body, filling in the support body with colour, printing my own hand and foot onto the page and painted personal power symbols onto my own body. 

where I come from ~ it was important to me to acknowledge all the people and places that i come from — including my family and extended family and the beautiful landscape that has sustained them for a hundred years.  there is sorrow, loss, connection, disconnection and love. it is good to recognize the love.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

visions/goals ~ my vision/goal is the integration of where i come from in a way that is uniquely my own. bringing together and letting go. holding on. acknowledging painful parts and being with them in compassion. finding new ways of being and becoming.

i came into the process with the intention of compassion, kindness and light to myself and my journey.  sometimes i get caught up in the painful parts but this process allows an acknowledgement of all of it. one of the parts that i resisted and then found more resonance with as the process went along was painting the support person and naming all the people and things that support me — it really serves as a good reminder that i am not alone.

painting marks on the skin, marks under the skin, creating a self portrait (so difficult but once i got into it, i enjoyed the process — still not sure if it looks like me), diseases including treatments, side effects and self-care were all part of the process.  for example, i explored respiratory issues and my recovery from pneumonia through colours and images in the upper body. i did not write a message to the public but i included things i think of in difficult times like: be gentle, be kind, be brave. i am an ocean of calm. it just takes time.  

 

the final piece is integration.  this means filling in the spaces, going in to layer and/or gloss over parts and emphasize others .. whatever feels right at this time to finish the piece.  i spent lots of time here just bringing the energy of completion and wholeness to the piece.  and really could have worked through particular parts much slowly than over a two-day period (which is, of course, possible.. body mapping can be done in any length of time over any period of time as long as you give enough time!).  

i loved this process.  it is a creative, engaging, structured way to explore my own journey. there are many specific directives to follow and this creates a sense of order and safety; however each directive is an opportunity to explore the self, the body, and relationship to others in a very personal and deep way.  i would like to create a body map each year as a visual representation of my own growth and journey … but the process is so big!  perhaps a mini-body map with a larger one every five or seven years (that’s the enviro-geek in my talking).  i look forward to exploring the process and parts of the process in other contexts and learning more!

if you want to learn more:
Body Mapping was developed by Jane Solomon, an artist from Capetown, South Africa in response to the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.  Here is a link to her book (click on the blue link at the bottom of the page): “Living with X”: A Body Mapping Journey in the Time of HIV/AIDS. A Facilitator’s Guide.

The Moon, The Stars, and a Scar: Body Mapping Stories of Women Living with HIV/AIDS — this article, by Carole Devine includes the history of both body mapping and HIV/AIDS, powerful stories, and inspiring images.

Short blog post includes history and major organizations involved.

Canadian Medical Association Journal article 

Khayalitsha Hospital Art Project

xo,
jkl


the heart as home

Lately, I have been wallowing in my ill-health. Preoccupied.  Frustrated, angry, sad, hopeless, and low energy.  Does this sound depressing?  It is!

In response to my constant sniffling and coughing, I get a variety of well-meaning pieces of advice, mostly based on actions I could, should, or should not be doing:

“Don’t eat sugar, gluten, alcohol, dairy … oranges … tomatoes … bananas …”  

“Go to the doctor. Take some drugs. Get some surgery. Do you know what you’re allergic to?” 

“Have you tried … [insert every idea known to humans]?”

Okay.  I hear you. I have tried many things.  Not. Working. But one thing that has not been said to me is … 

“Why don’t you make some art?”  Art?!?  Of course!  

“The arts in healthcare movement recognizes the arts, creativity, and imagination as agents of wellness and their consistent and central presence throughout history as healing practices”   
        Cathy A. Malchiodi, art therapist, Arts in Healthcare: Arts for the Health of It.

” Fine art is good medicine. It comforts, elevates the spirit, and affirms life and hope.”  Arts & Medicine Institute – Cleveland Medical Centre says

Watch the Arts & Medicine video to be inspired by performance, participation, and research: 

But, I don’t live in Cleveland. So what can I do?  

Listen to the symptoms and adjust life accordingly”  Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul.  

How? How do I really listen to what my body is telling me? How do I understand it? How can art assist me with this journey to wholeness?

Here are a few methods for using art to connect with health/illness:

1. Start an image journal. A simple way to express daily experiences.  You don’t need to be an ‘artiste’ – you just need something to make a mark.  She says you could even just colour in a square on your calendar!
This idea comes from  Cathy A. Malchiodi’s book, The Soul’s Palette.  

I started mine today and here is my first drawing:

2. Make scribble drawings that connect you with how you feel.  My frustrations often turn inward and I start to berate my beautiful body for its shortcomings.  With this exercise, I can get those frustrations out on paper and perhaps cultivate some gentleness within as a result.
This great idea comes from Karen Wallace , a Canadian art therapist, who writes a fantastic blog! 

3. Join the community.  Get involved in an arts-based project where you can help others in whatever way you can.  Step outside and engage.  The Parade of Lost Souls in Vancouver  is a great example of a community-based arts project that connects self, art-making, ancestors, neighbourhoods, physical activity, and reflection into one festival.

4. Write a self-indulgent blog post about illness, arts, and health  — just doing this little bit of processing, researching, and writing has helped me identify some ways I can help myself.  And I am very inspired by what is happening in the area of arts and health!

In the end, we are responsible for our own understanding and process of health and wholeness. Making art is one way to deepen this understanding and connect with the self and body in an imaginative and holistic way.  It is one way among many.

A poetic reading of the body as it expresses itself in illness calls for a new appreciation for the laws of imagination, in particular a willingness to let imagination keep moving into ever newer and deeper insights” – Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

Note: In this post, I am mostly talking about physical illness, but of course that can not be separated from our mental health and well-being.

P.S  Check out my new etsy page: heart as home  where you can find my hand-made, needle-felted creatures!  


i am my own home

I find it so inspiring to search out and discover what others are working on in the area of art and social change.   Lately I have joined a few groups that are talking about art therapy and arts for social change and am excited to learn and share with these new folks  (I will post links and ideas as they emerge).

Connecting with others encourages me to keep expanding my circles – understanding my local and global community – and also pushes me to focus in on what really makes my own heart sing.    Many of my posts have focused on what others are doing so today I thought I would share a bit about what I am up to.

Right now, I am involved in community-based art for social change project in Regina focused on homelessness for World Community Arts Day – Art as a Catalyst for Caring and Sharing (February 17).  I will blog about it more as the day arrives.

I am also creating my own work – focusing on the process of creating as a healing and meditative practice as well as exploring particular sociocultural issues that are embedded in my mind and body.

… the human-animal .. gender … sexuality…  created by me. no name

… emotion-body… the way our bodies process,  hold, and  emotion and experience…

created by me.  this is what grief looks like.

Today on the radio,  I heard someone say that “creativity is the common ground”  and I think that is part of the reason I am drawn to art.  Yes, we have constructed systems around art –   “high” and “low”, “art” and “craft” – and this may have merit in some circumstances and in some circles but when it comes down to it  …

creativity and expression, however manifested, is a dynamic way to share a bit of our souls and come to a deeper understanding of each other and ourselves .. and it can be a whole lot of fun too.


%d bloggers like this: