Archive for the ‘art therapy’ category

Autumn Eco-Spirituality and Art Mid-Day Retreat

September 7, 2020

Living Your Questions through Art, Writing, and Bulb Planting Meditations

September 26, 2020

1pm -4pm (eastern time) via Zoom

hosted by Liza Hyatt, art therapist, poet, and spiritual director

RSVP: lizahyatt@gmail.com

free, no cost to attend

supplies needed: black paper, gel pens, your favorite art materials, journal, 6-12 bulbs, gardening tools

 

As part of a virtual community, we will honor the natural wisdom of autumn, with its invitation to let go and entrust our longing to incubating dark. We will engage in expressive arts and nature meditations, expressing our hopes and fears during this time of complex personal, cultural, and environmental change and transition.  We will write and make art to express the questions we cannot answer and must grow into. We will plant spring blooming bulbs along with these questions in fertile dark earth and celebrate the blessings of deeply living the questions we carry in our hearts and souls.

Autumn Eco-Spiritual Retreat- flyer2

 

On torn paper, I write the questions I must live.

Wrap them around daffodil, tulip, crocus bulbs.

Plant them in the dark….

Each year’s questions, rewordings of one question,

perennial, persistent, mistaken as failure…

That question buried deep in each life…

And growth – the only answer.

(from “Planting Bulbs:  A Ritual” in Under My Skin, Liza Hyatt, Wordtech Editions, 2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Contemplative Artist’s Toolbox

January 11, 2020
deer dream

Deer dream

As a contemplative artist, my tools include metaphor, creativity, imagination, and symbolism. But what exactly are these tools? Here is how I understand these essential human capacities:

 

Metaphor

 

Metaphor is a poetic linking of two unlike things to reveal a deep inner connection between the two. Metaphors are not just a literary device. All creative processes engage in metaphoric connecting. Spiritual experience can only be expressed through metaphor, a dance, an image, an AUM of breath and heart vibration, carrying some essence of the ineffable within them. Metaphors are packed with emotion and sensory, felt experience, which, when taken in consciously, wake those feelings inside our bodies in ways that make us more deeply alive. The roots of the word are from meta(over, across) and pherein (to carry, to bear, including to bear children as in give birth), so in the most ancient, embodied sense of the word, metaphor means to bear across. Engaging in metaphor pushes us beyond the threshold of what we used to know. Metaphors birth new life.

 

Imagination

 

Imagination is the making of images within the dreaming mind. This imagining is active in us at all times. During sleep, the imagination breaks free from the control of the ego and we wander in realms not possible in waking life. But while awake, we also imagine. We imagine as we remember, as we share stories, as we tell our histories, as we plan events, as we create and anticipate the future.  There is a primary imagination, as in our dreams, that comes without our conscious effort, and a secondary imagination, as in our art-making and other creative activities, in which human creativity extends primary imagination into manifest form. The material that primary imagination gives us is made of image and raw emotion within the living body. Because we are disconnected from emotion and the body, we dismiss this primary imaginal material as bizarre and meaningless. But when we learn to feel into it, we discover that every offering from the primary imagination is innately healing, somehow born from the wholeness we have been separated from. Those who engage in a regular practice of dreamwork experience the healing depth of primary imagination.

Imagination is often lumped synonymously with fantasy. This is a superficial misperception.  Fantasy is the ego’s conjuring. Imagination comes from soul.  When I picture my dream house, my ego is fantasizing something it may strive for.  When I am afraid and picture threatening scenarios unfolding, my ego is fantasizing, offering fight-flight stories, which is ego’s speciality. Self-aggrandizing and self-protection, the functions of ego, are the purpose of fantasy. To meet the healing bear in a dream, to write a soulfully true poem, and to paint from deep within, we must learn to clear the ego, and all its defensive fantasy, out of the way, and to humbly meet the frighteningly transformative soul material imagination gives us.

 

 

Creativity

 

Creativity is our way of solving problems while playing.

All humans are creative. We have survived for millennia because we are creative. Many animals are creative too. (To see animal creativity in action, look for the Youtube video of a creative raven using a metal lid to slide down a snowy roof.)  Whether we are figuring out how to sled, fly to the moon, paint luminous flesh-tones, or express emotion in violin patterns, we are engaging with challenging questions, encountering unknowns and seeming impossibilities, and experimenting in ways that increase connection to the materials being used, expand our learning, and awake a desire to keep going, building up on what has come before. Some creative processes feel scary and painful, fraught with many obstacles, seeming failures, and states of feeling blocked or thwarted. Some creative processes feel lyrical and vibrant, richly alive, blessed with states of flow.  Everyone engaged in creativity will feel both these states, and everything in between. To get to moments of flow, many long treks full of unsure stumbling and unsuccessful first drafts will first be logged.

In art therapy, we utilize a framework called the Expressive Therapies Continuum, or the ETC, developed by art therapy pioneers Lusebrink and Kagin.  In this framework, creativity is at the top of the continuum, and involves the engagement of all the other layers of human expression, which are our kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, affective, cognitive, and symbolic ways of experience and engaging. When we are creative, we engage all these functions.

 

Symbolism

 

Symbols are object or images that substitute for something that is not itself present.  We create symbols to stand for things and codify collective meaning. Sometimes the symbol substitutes for another physical object. For instance, before my daughter left home for college, I bought us both silver rings on a Mother’s Day art fair outing. Five years later, I still wear my ring every day to feel connected for her. The symbolic ring substitutes for her. Sometimes symbols substitute for an abstract thing. For instance, a nation’s flag symbolizes patriotism, love of country. We have cultural symbols, behavioral symbols, religious symbols, personal symbols, mathematical symbols, language symbols. A stop sign is a symbol standing in for the behavior to stop. The number 2 is a symbol standing in for any group of two things. A drawing of two parallel lines with a bumpy oval shape on top is, in pictographic language, a symbol of a tree. Because we are able to think symbolically, we have created language, writing, and other vast systems of meaning.  When a symbol really means something to us, we connect to it with both heart and mind, like the ring I wear, or specific religious symbols for specific people. Meaning is always connected to symbols. We read symbols, interpret them. There is always a cognitive element to symbols, an encoding of meaning.  Symbols can forge rich personal and cultural belonging. They are essential in how we pass on cultural wisdom. But we may know what a cultural symbol means without experiencing an emotional response. Often, we defend ourselves from feeling by staying in symbolic interpretation and its structures of intellectual scaffolding. For instance, when asked to draw a tree, a person might quickly make the typical stick figure tree they learned as a child, a symbol of a tree, instead of drawing a tree with bare branches and hollow trunk that would potently express their feelings of grief. Our we might interpret elements of a dream symbolically, looking things up in dream dictionaries and compiling vast cultural data on what a bear, or chalice, or hollow tree has meant to people in other times and places, but never experience the anger of our specificdream bear, the thirst stirred by ourdream chalice, or the emptiness inside our hollow tree.

 

 

Healing Archetype Monotype

April 30, 2016

griefangel

Prompt: While listening to music that evokes humanity’s shared experience of suffering, create a small pencil drawing of a figure symbolic of spiritual healing. Place this drawing under a Gelli Plate, and using printmaking inks create a monotype and ghost print. When dry, add paint, drawing, embellishments.

Clinical Experience: Psychological trauma experienced in childhood leaves spiritual wounds of shame, as if one were abandoned not only by human caregivers but also by God. My clients often feel nowhere is safe. Their imagination is especially feared, because it brings nightmares, and haunting images related to their abuse. Recently I worked with a client who said all she could see when starting to draw was an image of her heart infested with maggots. We listen to Goreki’s Third Symphony, and I led her through guided imagery in which the maggots became eaters of infection, cleaning her heart’s wounds. She then wanted to draw an image she called “a tree of life” with her heart at its center. She painted onto a Gelli plate colors radiating out from this tree-heart and described pressing the paper into the paint as “massaging her heart”. Lifting the print off the plate was like “peeling off old skin” and seeing “new life” beneath it.

Personal Experience: I often feel afraid and alone carrying the stories of personal and cultural trauma my clients share with me. I drew this figure while listening to Kronos Quartet’s Night Prayers. I then used a three-color reduction technique, printing layers of yellow, red, and blue process inks to build up the image. The unpredictable process of printing layers of color and watching the image emerge felt as if the image was dreaming itself into being from the collective unconscious. The darkness surrounding this angel is rich with grief. The glowing spiral in her core evokes both existential chaos and the creation of the universe. She is weeping, singing, praying for us all, shielding us with her wings. I feel she has been standing guard since the dawn of human life. Creating her helped me remember that, while trauma is always in our world, compassion is also present in equal abundance.

Mini Red Books – An Amazing Dream-Tending Art Process

March 13, 2016
Three Mini Red Books

Three Mini Red Books by Liza

I dream of two Irish passports that are filled with poems, drawings, photos, inspiring quotes, maps, and myths. And so in my art therapy studio, I collage together little passports. My journey through old magazines, recycled paper, and tattered maps leads to one synchronistic discovery after another: standing stones, ancient burial mounds, maps for places I was lost and found my way in, poems for places that loved me, messages for where I am going. I am surprised by how creatively renewed I feel and decide to make passports exploring other dreams.

Next I have a dream in which I am standing at the intersection of two dirt roads. A man from Columbia, dressed in indigenous hat and tunic, is standing in this intersection, holding a 4-necked guitar. He says he is the guardian of the crossroads between life and death, to which I have been walking since my mother’s death, aching to know what has become of her, what will become of me. The crossroad guardian will not let me continue on. “You are not yet ready to visit the land of the dead,” he cautions.

I make a dream passport for the crossroad guardian, drawing him and his unreal guitar. I google “crossroad guardian myths” and find Hermes and his lyre, and Papa Legba from Haitian Vodou. I open a National Geographic by chance to an article about the Kogi people of Columbia who see themselves as the guardians of the Earth. There is a photo of a Kogi man dressed in the very garb my dream figure wore, and carrying around his neck a lyre-shaped medicine pouch. The audiobook I am listening to on my drive to the studio talks about St. Columba, 6th century Celtic missionary. I fill my dream passport with images of Celtic crosses, crossroad mandalas, lyres, myths, and a handwritten request for guidance through mid-life’s letting go, and for the muse’s gift of duendé for my art and poetry. I give the little book a red cover, and realize I have made a small version of Carl Jung’s Red Book, his magnum opus of active imagination and dream-tending.

 

God is in the Wound Book

Inside pages of “God is in the Wound” Book

Then I have an image-less dream offering only these words: The wound is already there before the injury. The healing is there before the wound. The healing creates the wound, which desires the injury, so that we can learn to participate with the healing. I wake up feeling C. G. Jung is speaking to me, joining the dream-book conversation. Googling “Jung wound quote” confirms this hunch by leading me to a simple statement from Jung: “God enters through the wound.” I make a little red book illustrating the dream message with oil pastel resist watercolor on black paper, each page a dark blooming.

Then I dream of a hermaphrodite who is doing yoga. My internet searches to learn about the hermaphrodite in myth, spirituality, Jungian psychology lead to Shakti and Shiva, Hermes and Aphrodite, the sacred marriage of the masculine and feminine in early Christianity, the Buddhist bodhisattva archetypal figures of compassion that are both male and female like Avalokitesvara with 1,000 arms. I fill my book with stories of this sacred marriage, images of lingam and yoni, phallus and vagina.

And now, after a dream in which a bear comes asking for therapy, I have spent the winter in creative hibernation making a bear dream passport, painting images of the Great Bear Mother, god-symbol since the age of Neanderthals, who has come to ask we give therapy to raped and pillaged wild Earth.

 

Inside pages of Great Mother Bear Book

Inside pages of Great Mother Bear book

The energy that comes as I make each “Red Book” Dream Passport is potent and enlivening. I feel connected to my personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious of humanity, nature, and world soul. I am in awe. Things I do not know are known by my dreams. The creative process leads me to this collective knowing with surprising grace, serendipity, and generosity. Images and stories come from the collage box and the Internet in response to each dream without me sweating, struggling, or feeling alone. It is as if everything is one organic mind and making these little books enters me into dialogue with Self. What began for me as a simple collage process has become a recurring confirmation that the territory of the soul is both infinite and somehow accessible, at every point, by imagination.

 

How to Make Your Own Dream Passport “Red” Book

 

  1. Pay attention to your dreams and practice remembering them. Keeping a notebook at your bedside and writing your dreams down each morning will help deepen your connection to them.
  1. Choose a dream that is vivid, mysterious, challenging, or inviting, perhaps one with an animal, a place that seems unfamiliar of symbolic, or a specific message. Write this dream into a creative narrative or poem, typed so that you can include it within your book.
  1. Use the Internet to explore the mythic, spiritual, and collective layers of the dream. For example, if you have a dream about a turtle, search “turtle mythology” to see the multicultural stories associated with this animal.
  1. Print text and images from Internet searches that reveal interesting details.
  1. Using these print-outs, and a variety of other collage and art materials, fill the pages of a blank book (pre-made, or hand-made if you prefer) with creative responses, text, and stories that help amplify the expanding territory into which your dream-tending takes you.
  1. Take your time. This journey with your dream may provide you weeks, or even months of exploration.
  1. If you find this process as awe invoking as I do, looking through Jung’s Red Book will also inspire you. Your public library and/or art therapists in your area will have a copy.