Non-Dominant Hand Art

Sun Mandala ~ Sara Roizen

About a week ago I had surgery on my right (dominant) hand to repair a torn tendon. It was the first surgery I’ve had, and needless to say my anxiety was high at times. There was also the fear surrounding my right hand being  ‘out of commission’ for about a month as I heal from the surgery. As an artist and art therapist both hands are usually covered in paint each day, and yet I had been given strict orders not to use my right hand for now. Hmmm…

I made a deliberate choice before the surgery to frame this whole experience in a positive and creative way. The timing seemed serendipitous, since I had been noticing how fast life had seemed to be moving recently – the days all blurring and feeling as though I was not fully present each day and moment. This has definitely slowed me down, as I navigate each day with the use of only one hand! (For example, typing this post is an exercise in patience and stamina without both hands!)

At work my art therapy clients have adapted beautifully and I am noticing how empowering it can be for them to take even more responsibility for the set-up and clean-up of the art therapy groups. I’m also seeing how disarming (pun intended) it has been for new group members who might feel intimidated to begin making art. When they see me drawing or painting with my left hand they often decide to try – and my spiel about the ‘process and not just the finished product’ now seems more poignant. I am also learning to ask for help when needed, whether from other staff or my clients. This is often difficult for me, and it is turning out to be a good learning experience. 

I started making art the same day that I came home from surgery. I just couldn’t stay away! It has helped me to tolerate the discomfort in my hand and to focus my energy on something I love. There have been many theories about non-dominant hand art and writing. Many believe that non-dominant hand writing/art helps to bypass the conscious/logical side of our brain and help us to access the unconscious. I have personally explored non-dominant hand writing as a way to do inner child work and access more primal and raw emotions and experiences. In addition, there are some studies that explore how non-dominant hand work utilizes the brain differently – some believe that it helps to integrate the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
The pieces in this post were all created with my non-dominant hand. I have been using metallic (silver/gold) permanent markers on black paper and also creating water paintings with my new ‘Buddha Board’ (perhaps a separate post on that later!) I am noticing how relaxed I am when creating non-dominant hand art. Creating art usually helps me enter that ‘zone’ that many of you are familiar with. However I’m finding that I’m entering that quiet space (zone) even more quickly in this current art work.

I would encourage any of you to try creating some non-dominant hand art to experience this for yourself! Try it out and then report back here with your observations!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend… 

City Landscape ~ Sara Roizen 
Overlapping ~ Sara Roizen
Cocoon Woman ~ Sara Roizen
‘Buddha Board’ art ~ Sara Roizen
Chrysanthemum ~ Sara Roizen
‘Buddha Board’ Art ~ Sara Roizen
Bodhi Tree ~ Sara Roizen
‘Buddha Board’ Art ~ Sara Roizen

Writing-Inspired Art Therapy

“Siddhartha” acrylic & collage on canvas, Sara Roizen

“When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to the song of a thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of on word: Om-perfection.

From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny. There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is no longer confronted with conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things.”  

From: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I created the painting above a number of years ago after reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. The book evoked so many powerful visual images for me that I felt inspired to create a piece of art in response. The passage that I shared above is the part of the book that stayed with me, long after I had put the book down. I wrote the passage on transparent paper and incorporated the text into the piece as well. While creating this piece I let myself surrender to the stream of the creative process, as I layered color and collage and let the composition create itself. 

Fast forward 15 years or so…During my last art therapy group, a number of the clients began incorporating words into their art pieces. One group member created an abstract layered painting on canvas, and then carefully stenciled the words “We are one, Love.” Another client made a piece that reflected her favorite passage from the bible – a passage that had brought her strength during difficult times. One woman spent the time writing a poem about what love means to her and then shared it at the end of group. 

collage with quote: Sara Roizen

I was fascinated by the spontaneous addition of words to the art process and began thinking about the relationship between writing and art therapy. 

A few months ago I had attended the Expressive Arts Therapy Summit here in NYC and had attended a workshop led by art therapist Erin Partridge, titled Personal Hope Book: A Container of Resilience. The workshop included a discussion about Erin’s work in a high security prison setting, with treatment-resistant men. Erin found quotes about hope that resonated with the group members and was able to engage the group members in the process of creating “Personal Hope Books” where each page in the individual’s handmade book included a quote about hope and accompanying art work.

There are numerous possibilities to explore in terms of directives when it comes to using writing within art therapy. Below are a few ideas:

  • Before group, write feeling words on single pieces of paper (such as sad, joyful, ashamed) and put them in the center of the table. Ask each group member to select a word that reflects what they are feeling at the moment and then create a piece of art that visually represents that feeling. Or, ask them to create a piece of art that represents the opposite of the feeling they have chosen.
  • Provide the group members with a number of printed out quotes around a certain theme (such as the hope quotes mentioned above). Ask them to incorporate the quote into a collage/mixed media piece.
  • Chain story/mural: (Great warm-up activity too!) Have the group members participate in a chain story – where each person writes a few sentences of a story and then folds the paper down so that only the last part of the sentence can be seen and then continued by the next person. When the story is finished it can be read aloud, and then a group piece (such as a mural on paper) can be created to depict the story.
  • Transforming stress: (This is an idea that I created a little while ago after one of my clients brought an entire pile of bills/forms to our session and dumped them on the table!) Have the clients bring any forms, bills, etc. that are stressing them out at the moment and then make photocopies of them. (Just be sure to block out any personal info on the forms). Then, have the clients create a “stress collage” with the photocopies. Encourage them to get some frustration out by ripping, cutting-up, and layering the copies and to add color (with paint, markers, etc) to the piece. Additional words can be added on top of the photocopies.

One final note: Be mindful of language barriers and/or the fact that some clients may struggle with reading. This can be handled, (without drawing any attention to the client) by simply reading the quotes/words out loud at the beginning of group and arranging them in a way on the table so that the client(s) can differentiate between them clearly. 
Happy creating!

Art Therapy & Body Image

Francesco Clemente:  “After Attar’s ‘The Conference of the Birds’ V”

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.
                    Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

One of my earliest memories of making art was a day in preschool, when the teacher traced our bodies on large white paper, and then let us paint in the outline. At the time my all-time favorite heroine was Rainbow Brite and I spent the entire afternoon adorning my outlined figure with her fanciful apparel and colors. Long after the other children had moved on to another project, I was still painstakingly painting in her rainbow belt and star scepter. (According to my parents, this art project was a defining moment in my burgeoning career as an artist). 

San Borjitas Cave, Mexico

The human body has been a source of inspiration for artists since the first human figures appeared in cave drawings. Many artists such as Keith Haring, Ana Mendieta, Francesco Clemente, Daniel Goldstein, and Kara Walker have worked with the human silhouette or outline in particular. Art therapists often utilize the body outline technique in different settings and with varied populations. 

Body Image Group
A few weeks ago I facilitated an art therapy body-tracing session within a body image group. The group (Body Positive) addresses body image, nutrition, and mental health among HIV+ men. The idea behind the art therapy directive was to use the art process to foster greater body self-awareness and to encourage a dialogue with the group on body image. We taped life-size pieces of white butcher paper on the wall, and the group members worked in pairs to take turns tracing each other. (Note: For some individuals, being traced might be too triggering or uncomfortable. An alternative is to give the group pre-drawn silhouettes or ask them to ‘free-hand’ draw a silhouette). Once the outlines were finished, each person spent time filling in the outline in any way they chose. I provided them with oil pastels, markers, and colored pencils. (Paint would have been great, but we opted for dry materials to avoid making a mess in the conference room where the group was being held!) 

“Offensive Orange” by Jean-Michel Basquiat 

Not surprisingly, some of the group members were not sure where to begin and what to draw. I reminded them that this was not an “art class” and that they would not be graded on their finished art piece. I encouraged them not to over-think what they were doing, and instead to trust their gut and delve into the process itself. A few minutes later, the room was completely quiet as each group member worked intently on his body silhouette. The advantage to the life-size silhouettes is that they encourage a very direct relationship between the artist and the piece. The process really became a visual dialogue. I enjoyed watching the group members work on one area and then step back from the wall, to visually absorb the ‘gestalt.’ 

When it was time to process the art, many of the group members expressed how surprised they were with the finished pieces. Imagery had surfaced in the outlines that they had not consciously planned, and yet while looking at the pieces the group members resonated with the imagery. One of the reoccurring themes was the idea of visual opposites. The theme of ‘hiding’ versus being ‘seen’ emerged for many of the men. For example, some of the group members created visual barriers around certain areas of their bodies (such as a lock and chain around a heart) but created openings to the outside world in other areas (a flower sprouting from the heart and bridging the internal body with the external). Two of the group members had drawn faces that were split in half; one side smiling and the other side frowning. We explored the notion that each of us contains polarities and the process of accepting this about ourselves. Many of the group members spoke about the experience of living with HIV, and sometimes feeling as if there was an invisible war being waged in their bodies.

“The Presence of Absence” by: Daniel Goldstein

I was very intrigued to see that the group members used the body outline to highlight both emotional and physical self-imagery. I had thought that the group members might focus more on physical body imagery, but what emerged spoke to both body and mind. I verbalized this observation during the group, and this led to a deeper discussion on how body and mind are connected. The group members were able to describe what certain strong emotions feel and look like in the body. One man had drawn swirling tornadoes in his body to represent the way that stress and other intense energies manifest for him. 

The group members seemed to take away many things from the group that day. The process of working within the body outline helped to illuminate the way each group member moved through the world, inhabited his body, interacted with others, and felt feelings within the body. In addition, creating the artwork within a group proved to be validating, as the men were able to visually and verbally process their experiences and find common threads with one another. 

Art Therapy Around the Holidays

examples of leaves with words
It’s been a while since I posted…This got me thinking about how quickly these cooler months (Fall and then Winter) seem to pass by. Where does the time go? When it’s almost completely dark out by 4pm, you know it’s that time of year again! This is also the time of year when all of the “biggie” holidays seem to meld together…Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, and so on.
For many of us (and especially our clients) this can be a very emotional time of the year. Although all of these holidays can bring joy and celebration, they can also be incredibly triggering at times. Many of my art therapy clients and groups talk about the mixed feelings that the holidays bring. If we have lost a loved one around this time of year or experienced some other type of traumatic event, the memories may come flooding back with a vengeance. Perhaps this is compounded by the expectations that we “should” feel happy around this time of year because it may seem as if the rest of the world is celebrating and happy. For those who struggle with substance use, the holiday parties and gatherings may be an additional trigger. Those who have family to visit must often deal with the family dynamics and stress that can arise during family gatherings. Alternately, people without family or close friends to be with often feel isolated and may struggle with feelings of sadness and anxiety during this time.

As an art therapist, I have found that creating seasonally themed work can help emotionally frame the holiday experience for some of my clients. Now, before you think – “break out the turkey hand prints and paper x-mas tree cut-outs,” hear me out for a second:) There are ways of utilizing the seasonal and holiday imagery in a way that honors the emotional process (and spares your clients the turkey hand print art project). 
Here’s one simple idea that is a little spin on a simple Fall/Thanksgiving themed craft idea: 
Today in my art therapy group I handed out pre-cut leaf shapes to my clients. I used thick watercolor paper for the leaves, so that they would have a sturdy feel to them and be a good surface for paint, colored pencils, or any other art material. I asked the group to think of one word that described something they wanted more of in their lives at this moment. Some of the words were: hope, joy, love, healing, and happiness. 

After writing the word on the leaf, the group embellished the leaves with the art materials. You can also have printed out words to inspire the group (and have fun using different computer fonts to really make the words pop!) With this group we are going to display the leaves in a community area of the building, so that the beautiful leaves and the messages they carry may serve as a visual reminder and inspiration for all of the clients who live there. If possible, it can be a wonderful process for other staff to create their own leaves during the week, to add to the wall of leaves that the art therapy group has created.

“hope” leaf
The simple added step of including a word to the leaf helped to frame the experience, and in this case also generated group discussion around why the members felt they needed that specific quality (word). The group members realized that they shared many words in common. This realization helped to foster a sense of community and connectedness – especially in a group where many of the members felt socially isolated and far away from family members.

What are some of your holiday-themed art activities, and how have they helped to shape your experience of the holidays?

Ink Painting & Art Therapy

Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
“Learn how to meditate on paper. Drawing and writing are forms of meditation. Learn how to contemplate works of art. Learn how to pray in the streets or in the country. Know how to meditate not only when you have a book in your hand but when you are waiting for a bus or riding in a train.”
     ~ Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)
These are a few recent ink paintings on paper that I have created. I started this series during one of my open studio groups, after being inspired by a group member and his ink paintings.

The technique I have been using is “wet on wet” and is commonly used with watercolor and ink painting. You begin by doing a light water wash (spreading water over your surface with a larger brush) and then add your pigment (paint or ink) to the paper while the wash is still wet. You can wet the entire page before adding paint/ink, or you can only saturate certain areas of the page, which is what I have been experimenting with for the most part. As soon as you drop or apply the ink to the paper, it bleeds across the page as it follows the water. In some ways you can predict the way the color will flow, and in other ways you can’t! You can blow gently on the water pools to coax them in certain directions, or you can even move the paper around to move the water/ink. Experiment with the “blotting” technique, where you gently dab a paper towel, cloth, or sponge to the paper, which lifts off some of the pigment and water. This creates interesting textures and can add depth to the painting.

Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Ink Painting as Art Therapy
Last week, I used this technique in two of my art therapy groups at work. I gave a brief demo of the wet on wet technique, and provided my group with canvas paper, watercolor (metallic colored!), high pigment liquid watercolor, and of course water. I encouraged them to experiment with the technique, and not think too much about creating a finished art piece. Instead, I asked them to see what happens when they added more or less water, more or less color, moved the piece around, blotted it, etc.

While painting in group, we processed how this art technique can be related to life. Many of my group members shared that they had a difficult time “letting go” in general, and getting out of their own way at times. When I asked them to explore where that fear might be coming from, one of the basic themes that kept emerging was the idea of “trust” and how so many of my group members had not learned to trust others or themselves after years of trauma and negative experiences. Therefore, the process of letting go was often difficult for them, since they had no basis for trusting that things would work out if they were not in tight control.

After creating the paintings, group members shared how pleasantly surprised they had been at the way their pieces had come out. They were also surprised by the fact that they had been able (for that entire hour) to let go of the finished result, and simply enjoy the process of exploration. A few members expressed how much easier life might be if they could apply this way of painting to their way of interacting in the world. As we ended the group, I encouraged each person to think about one area (outside of group) where they could try on a more relaxed and open perspective, whether it was just smiling at the annoying person on the crowded train, or enjoying their next meal in a more deliberate and slow manner.
Finally, a short quote for you to contemplate:
“Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems.”
~Bill Watterson~
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011

Random Acts of Kindness (and Creation!)

Sara Roizen 2011 ~ acrylic, aluminum foil, and sand on canvas
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”  – Plato

The idea for this post came to me a few days ago, when I was thinking about some of the suggestions I have given my clients who are struggling with depression and other life difficulties. Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed by the intricacies of our own life challenges, it can be very healing to step outside of ourselves for a moment. 

One way to engage in an act of kindness is to extend ourselves to someone else who is struggling. Although it might seem counter-intuitive at first, engaging in acts of kindness towards others can be part of our own healing process. It helps us to remember how connected we all are in reality, and this can be a powerful reminder when we are experiencing an emotion or situation in which we feel isolated and alone. It can divert our attention from our own suffering, and broaden our perspective. It also aids in the re-directing of our energy and provides us with a creative and productive outlet. 

Art making provides us with a direct way to engage with others and share our creativity and vision. Below are just a few ideas to get you thinking about ways that you might use your own art-making in acts of kindness.

Some artful acts of kindness to try

  • Donate a piece of your art to a local hospital 
  • Create a hand-made card and send it the “old fashioned” way in the mail – send it to someone who might need a little extra TLC at the moment
  • Join in the creation of a community mural, in an environment that could use some new energy and creativity 
  • Donate a piece of art for a silent auction that raises money for a local organization you would like to support
  • Looking for wedding gifts that you won’t on the gift registry? Create a unique book of photographs for the couple that highlights their life together – for a great site where you can create your own books go to: Blurb
  • Similar to the previous idea, create a book of photographs full of images that you know the other person will find inspiring and uplifting (and add any words/poems/quotes to the book that might also help heal!)
  • Volunteer for an afternoon doing art projects with children, adults, or the elderly…Here are a few organization’s sites that offer arts-based volunteer opportunities: Free Arts (NYC)New York Cares There are many organizations like this all over the U.S. so just do a search for one in your area 🙂
  • Donate art materials or any material that could be used for art projects to an organization or a school  
Here are a few sites to inspire you:
Pay it Forward (Movie) 

Have you performed a random act of kindness for someone you know, or someone you don’t know? Have you ever received an act of kindness from someone else? What are some experiences that have really stuck with you and touched your life in some way? 

A Few Works on Paper

My latest drawing obsession material!

I am currently pretty crazy about Prismacolor “art stix.” They look like hard pastels, but they are actually woodless colored pencils. They are a bit pricey, (you’re paying for amazing quality) but this evening I marched into our local Michael’s store with a 50% coupon in hand. (Hint: always print out coupons for Michael’s! They constantly have 40-50% off of one item deals!)

I often join in the art making process during one of my weekly open art therapy studio groups. Lately, I have been drawing with art stix on black paper. The rich colors on top of the black paper creates a striking contrast and the colors really pop. I am not sure exactly what has been drawing me to this materials combination lately. Perhaps it seems to capture the intensity of the group process, as well as the energy. 

Working on black paper is a very different process from working on white paper. The black paper seems to suck the colors in and create depth, whereas the white paper seems to allow the colors to bounce off the surface.

Here are a few drawings and one collage from the past month – created during my weekly open studio group. 

color stix on black paper ~ feeling energetic that day!
color stix on black paper ~ needing to wrap myself in a safe cocoon
color stix on black paper ~ healing rings expanding outwards
color stix on black paper ~ looks like I needed more structure that day!
magazine photos on black paper  ~ intense feelings finding an outlet in collage

A Short Story: Working With Resistance

Two weeks ago during one of my art therapy groups I had a pretty tough crowd. To preface it, the clients in this group are all living in emergency transitional housing and facing many challenges such as addiction and past traumas. However, this group was particularly rough. 

First, it was a struggle to get the t.v. turned off (since the group is held in the community room). Then there was a loud disagreement over what type of music I would play during the group. Each of the group members was in a particularly angry, restless, and intense mood, and for the first 10 minutes it felt more like I was doing damage control than running an art therapy group. 

Energy was low and resistance was high. With this in mind, I made a gut decision that I should join the group in their current state rather than try to push them out of it. I took a deep breath and brought out a pile of blank doorknob hangers that could be decorated. 

I usually steer clear of the more “crafty” art directives when it comes to art therapy, but this group seemed to need a very concrete project that day. When I brought up the idea of decorating doorknob hangers a few eyes lit up (slightly) and I knew I had hit on something. I also knew (without a shadow of a doubt) that these doorknob hangers would quickly be decorated with multiple versions of “keep out!” Sure enough, one woman began painting the words “Go Away! This Means You!” on the door hanger. The rest of the group quickly followed suit and by the end of the hour the table was covered with angry messages and threatening doorknob hanger signs. Did I see this group as a “failure?” Not at all.

Although this was not one of my deeper processing art therapy groups, I think that it served an important role that day. On one level it helped to refocus the anger so that it was directed into the artwork and away from one another. Even more importantly, the people in my group are constantly asked by society on a whole to get clean, get sober, get moving with their life, and make changes. This is all an important end goal, however at times I think it is vital that we acknowledge the struggles, the anger, and even the resistance experienced at that moment. We cannot change something that we have not yet accepted. Art therapy is uniquely suited to exploring the ambivalence that is so commonly felt by individuals who are struggling with these types of experiences. 
Two weeks later I held another art therapy group. It was at the same location but with a slightly different mix of members. Instead of giving an idea for the group to create art about, I left it open so that each person could work on whatever they chose. One of the group members was the woman who had been in group from two weeks ago, when they had all created the doorknob hangers. She had been the woman who had started the project by painting “Go Away! This Means You!” on her sign. 

At the end of the art therapy group everyone shared their piece and spoke a little bit about it. When it came to this woman’s turn she didn’t say anything. Instead, she handed me a sign that she had painted for her apartment door. It read: “Welcome to my room.” 

Art Therapy and Anger

 “Seeing Red” ~ Sara Roizen

“Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.”  – Aristotle

The other day one of my therapy clients asked me if I ever got angry, because she could just not imagine me ever becoming angry. 

I asked my client what she thought before answering (I know…typical therapist response!) But it was important to explore her perception of anger before jumping in with my own answer. Although she could not picture me becoming angry, she guessed that I must get angry once in a while. As the session progressed we had a very interesting dialogue about different types of anger and how it felt, what triggered anger, and ways of handling that type of emotion. And yes, I did eventually answer her question by responding, “Of course I get angry…more frequently than you might imagine. We are all works in progress, and anger in and of itself is not a “bad” emotion. It is what we do with that energy that matters.”

Graffiti Art by Banksy

Anger does not have to become a problem for us. At its core, anger is a pure emotion. So is depression, anxiety, or any other negatively labeled emotion you can think of. In fact, pure anger can be useful. It can make us aware that something is off, or doesn’t feel right at the moment. When harnessed properly, anger can motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. Sometimes things go unchanged in the world because we haven’t become angry enough to take action.

Anger may become an issue if it is not properly acknowledged and explored. Unconscious anger has the potential to harm us or those around us. 
Self – Portrait by Edith Kramer
There seem to be 2 basic ways that people deal with their anger. The most obvious way of dealing with anger is to act out: either physically, verbally, or both. The other way of dealing with anger is to turn it inwards. You may have heard of the idea that depression is actually anger turned inwards towards the self. There is a third way of handling anger, and that is the method that I will be exploring a bit here. The third way of handling anger is to transform the anger into something creative and/or productive. The art therapist pioneer Edith Kramer called the artistic transformation of unacceptable thoughts and urges sublimation.
There are countless methods for exploring and transforming anger in art therapy. Below I have listed a few art therapy experiences that some of my clients have found helpful and transformative. 
Clay Work
Clay is a powerful artistic medium and can evoke many strong feelings by itself. For this reason, using clay with a client should be thought out beforehand and never done in a haphazard way. Clay can bring up primitive feelings and can cause people to regress during a session. This can be a wonderful thing, but the art therapist needs to be mindful of the therapeutic “container” and make sure that the client feels safe. Making cleaning up and washing up into a closing session ritual can also help to contain the energy of the session within the room, so that it does not follow the client home! I have had clients pound on a ball of clay, throw it onto the table, jab holes into it, and twist it into different shapes. Once the physical need to discharge angry energy has settled a bit, the client may wish to create something from the clay (or not). The process of working with the clay can be therapeutic all by itself, even if no recognizable form is created during the session. 
Torn-up Collage
Tissue paper collage

The physical act of ripping up paper or magazines is another way of working with the energy of anger (instead of against it).Try colorful tissue paper, rice paper, newspaper, magazines, construction paper, or decorative paper. Another step that can be added is to write down all of your angry thoughts on paper and then tear up the pieces of paper. In order to transform the pieces into a new art form (sublimation) you can create a collage with the pieces. I like working with “mod podge” as my adhesive instead of glue sticks, because you can lay down many pieces of paper at once and work more quickly. 

Leaves on a Stream

There is a wonderful meditation visualization that I often use when feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and intense emotions. Imagine that you are sitting alone by a stream or river. Next, imagine that each of your thoughts is carried by a single leaf on the stream. As you sit by the stream, picture your thoughts floating by you and disappearing down the stream. This visualization can be particularly useful when strong feelings of anger emerge. If you are fortunate enough to actually live by a body of water you can actually practice this meditation with real leaves. Gather leaves from the ground and write on them, using a permanent marker. Once you have a pile of your “thoughts,” release them one at a time and watch as the river or stream carries them away. This experiential can be done without an actual stream or river as well. Using watercolor pencils, write your thoughts onto cut-outs of leaves on white paper. When your leaves are finished, submerge the leaves in a bowl of water and watch as the watercolor pencil writing blurs and then dissolves!

These art therapy ideas for working with anger are just a few possibilities. I’d love to hear from readers about any other ideas that you have explored!