“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
What is Art Meditation? Art meditation is a method that allows us, as all meditation methods do, to focus on the process of creation while allowing our thoughts to drift by without engaging with them or reacting to them. According to Eckhart Tolle, “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past… This false self is never happy or fulfilled for long. Its normal state is one of unease, fear, insufficiency, and non-fulfillment.” Art can help us connect to a deeper and calmer part of ourselves. “All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness,” according to Tolle.
This is another article in my “Stress Management Strategies” series. Although many of us have heard about the extensive benefits of meditation, some of us find traditional sitting meditation difficult. Luckily, as we have seen in this series, there are various other meditation methods that may suit us and help us cope better with stress like walking meditation, working meditation, writing meditation…and art meditation. Here at Les Sources Sacrées, in the south of France, we also introduce our mindfulness meditation workshop participants to equine-guided meditation.
Let’s also look at what Art Meditation is not.
Art Meditation is not Art Therapy. Art therapy is defined by the British Association of Art Therapists as “a form of psychotherapy that uses art as its primary mode of communication.” Art therapy helps patients express themselves to release and resolve emotional issues. Art therapy has a positive effect on a variety of illnesses including depression. In a recent study of cancer patients, an art therapy intervention — in conjunction with conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy – not only diminished symptoms typically associated with cancer such as pain, fatigue and anxiety but also increased life expectancy. The study was based on the theory that “the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life-enhancing. It is used to help patients, or their families, increase awareness of self, cope with symptoms, and adapt to stressful and traumatic experiences.”
Art Meditation is not Creative Meditation either. Creative meditation enables us to consciously cultivate and strengthen specific mental characteristics like patience, appreciation, empathy, gratitude, compassion, courage, humility etc. Creative meditation enables us to enhance these strengths of character.
How to practice Art Meditation
If you do not consider yourself particularly artistic, there is still a large variety of exercises that you could do as meditation. The trick is to stay present in the moment and to not engage with troublesome thoughts. Acknowledge these thoughts and then allow them to drift off. If your mind goes off on a tangent, as soon as you become aware, bring it back to focus on what you are doing in the present moment.
I practice art meditation when I write my books. I always take a few deep breaths before I start writing. It gets the blood moving and this gets the oxygen to my brain. I set a timer to tweet every 10 minutes and every 10 minutes, I check in to make sure that I am still fully present in the current moment. I also take a couple of deep breaths. It soon becomes a habit.
Here are a few examples of creative activities that will enable you to practice art mediation:
- Make a vision board of your hopes and dreams for this year, for the next five years, for the next ten years.
- Make a collage with old photographs, either authentic photos or photocopies.
- Create your own coat of arms. Choose symbols that represent your hopes, values and strengths.
- Use natural materials to create a picture or a sculpture. Collecting and using leaves, stones, sticks, dirt and clay can help you get in touch with nature.
- Attach a note or drawing to a balloon and set it free.
- Draw a comic strip about a funny/meaningful or difficult moment in your life.
- Paint a rock or a pebble. You can simply use different colours, or you can paint a word, like “gratitude” of a short message.
- Colour in a design. Adult colouring books have become a very popular stress management strategy in the last few years. Colouring can be a great way to relax.
- Take photographs. You can choose a theme: this day, sunsets, a person or people you love, your hopes and dreams for this year etc. Make a collage of your photos.
- Create and decorate a gratitude box. What are you grateful for? Write down everything that you are grateful for op pieces of paper and add these to your gratitude box.
- Make a picture of a sculpture out of recycled items.
- Sew a stuffed toy. Creating a soft, cuddly toy for a specific or a less-fortunate child, can be very comforting.
- Start a journal. Journals do not have to be about writing. You can make a picture journal, or a photo journal or a scrapbook journal.
Meditation to enhance Creativity
Some experts claim that meditation might also be used to increase creativity. There is a huge number of guided meditations available on Youtube to enhance your creativity (especially for writers!) One of my favourites is this one:
“Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”
If you would like to know more about the various meditation methods I mentioned above – working meditation, walking meditation, writing meditation, art meditation etc. – and about how we use these methods to help our workshop participants to deal with stress, my book, Mindfulness and Meditation in the South of France, goes into each method in detail. I wrote this book especially for beginners and for people who find traditional sitting meditation difficult.