Fluid art painting of green, yellow, purple, pink, blue and white colors in abstract form.
Inspiration Fanatic

Healing Art to Express Your Intuition

For today’s #InspirationFanatic Friday, I will be sharing a few styles of creative work and art designs that I believe can lend themselves well to allowing inner voices, perhaps those to which you don’t often listen, to come forth and make their mark on the world. I will pay particular attention to the appeal of these methods for trauma survivors as well as those who may have difficulties with fine-motor skills.

Intuitive Painting

Creative Revolution: Personal Transformation through Brave Intuitive Painting has been instrumental in assisting me in learning how to paint using my gut and heart more than my head. I used it to make self-affirmation cards to increase my practice of compassion. As I worked on creating the cards, I was awed at the internal connection I felt in painting layer after layer, without a strong need to know beforehand the form the final product would take. The desire many trauma survivors have for control is rooted in seeking safety, but little experiences of loosening boundaries within safe contexts in which we can release a need for control can be very healing. It allows us to let the painting take form and “speak” to us about what to do next, instead of working from a preconceive plan.

Going with the Flow

Fluid art is a medium of art in which I have recently begun to dabble. I made inkblots as a demonstration of psychoanalytic technique in psychology years ago using Bombay Inks and love how easy it was to work with ink. Alcohol inks produce a watercolor-like effect. I find something very feminine in the form this takes.

Fluid art can also involve diluting acrylic paints with pouring medium; this is the technique I used for the photograph that accompanies this blog post. A few tips about this style of painting from a beginner:

  • If your canvas is small enough, consider using puppy pee pads to soak up the excess paint that falls off the canvas. Weird but effective!
  • If you would like to use the minimum amount of supplies (the pouring medium is very expensive), you can move the canvas around to spread the paint after pouring it on it. Please comment if you have a cheaper substitute to pouring medium!
  • Recycle condiment bottles to allow you to drip and make shapes with the paint.
  • The canvas must be elevated from the cloth or pad underneath of it or it will end up glued to it (don’t ask me how I know this!). I turned bowls upside down and rested the canvas on them, leaving the edges free. Once you pour the paint and get things how you like them, you cannot move the canvas at all or it will “jar” the paint because it has been thinned.

Fluid art, at least with the pouring acrylic paint method, is friendly to people with limited fine-motor skills. No paintbrushes are needed and, if the area is set up thoughtfully ahead of time, a canvas can be completed very quickly. It is a playful way of engaging with color and shape that can appeal to people across a wide range of ages and skill-sets.

Circular Patterns

Labyrinths, mandalas and circles all have strong resonance in Goddess Spirituality. These can be drawn, painted, or created out of all sorts of mediums. Mixing patterns with carefully placed objects speaks to me of the holding Goddess provides for us and the many, many circles and spheres in and through which Nature envelopes us. I added a bit of a spiral and circle pattern to the included artwork to draw it together.

Each style of artwork which I’ve described is accessible to beginners (I know because I’m one!) and can produce visually interested creations that reflect inner truths. What would our lives look like if we took a tough moment during our day, and made a pattern to represent it? Or painted a layer for each feeling we carried but didn’t share throughout the week? To move beyond coping and stress relief, what would it look like if you sat in front of a blank canvas and asked the loneliness and the hurt and the fearful within you to dare to show of themselves by color and splash? I hope you’ll share the results if you open to this potential moment of magic!

Embodied Heart

Going There: Addressing Bias within Goddess Spirituality

Who’s your audience? In many contexts, knowing one’s audience allows the presenter, the spiritual leader, the writer, whomever to tailor their message and to allow those who are invited into the conversation to feel included, respected and witnessed. As a trauma survivor, I’ve been in plenty of settings where my needs and life experiences placed me “outside” of what it appeared the speaker or writer had conceptualized in presenting their material. For instance, statements such as “God is in control” or “everything happens for a reason” don’t meld well with the lived reality of the violence of childhood sexual abuse.

I’ve been repeatedly confronted with social media posts within Goddess Spirituality contexts that have irked me and caused me doubts about the extent to which my faith community is equally receptive of all people. When I first became interested in Goddess Spirituality, I unconsciously assumed it was inclusive and welcoming of everyone, no matter their personal identities. As I’ve dug deeper, I’ve learned there are factions and biases I hadn’t anticipated.

One of the most apparent controversies is in relation to the “embodied” aspect of the spiritual practice. For some, embodied Goddess Spirituality and the physicality of being in a female body from birth through death are inseparable. Specifically, menstruation and childbirth are viewed as core aspects not only of one’s womenhood, but also of one’s feminine spirituality. I accept and appreciate this viewpoint and I long for it to be extended into a more inclusive model to which anyone can relate, regardless of body composition and gender expression. My Goddess is more than a uterus.

I frequently encounter the presentation of those who seek Goddess/the Divine Feminine as being white, wealthy, educated, young, attractive, straight and capable of child-bearing, adorned with the trinkets of borrowed culture without a deeper appreciation of their context or the potential exploitation that undergirds their use. Even if the expression of Goddess that people chose to pursue is within their own culture, they may accept the historical accounts of a particular Goddess without a dissection of the misogynistic or racist roots in which Her story was likely planted. I’ve attempted to circumvent these issues by conceptualizing Goddess primarily within the context of Nature. She has spoken to me in this presentation; I also question if I am self-limiting in order to stay “safe.” My Goddess transcends human characteristics, can I also connect to Her in a way that stands in solidarity with those who are oppressed, respects the unique forms cultures have made of Her, and evolves my understanding of Her as social norms change?

Those who are indifferent to others being excluded and devalued bear a mark of responsibility for those who suffer. I balk too at people who normalize their own inaction by dehumanizing the oppressors; no human is worthless. I have struggled to even dip my toes in this topic for fear of offending people and fear of being harassed. At the same time, if we are not in a particular group who is being marginalized, I think it is our responsibility to educate ourselves as to the situation and its effects, and to “call in” at least the indifferent to a place of self-examination where we wrestle with the difficult questions. Based on where I am at right now with my healing and mental health, I do not see myself seeking out direct engagement with those who discriminate within my faith community on a frequent basis, however, I think this is needed and I anticipate it as a potential area of self-evolution.

I wish to deepen my spirituality beyond blaming and shaming to an authentic and compassionate ability to co-create spaces that do not equivocate on certain norms of inclusivity and that enable each participant to meet the Divine in all Her forms.* There are situations in which not every person will be welcome—I would not knowingly allow abuse perpetrators into a trauma survivor group, for instance. The three specific areas that I count as priorities personally are welcoming people of all gender expressions (as they self-define!), balancing a wish to present material that is accessible to people of many identities with a desire to avoid co-opting and diluting individual cultural expressions, and drawing into fuller connection with my own shadow biases and hidden prejudices within a supportive community. I toggled for hours earlier this summer as to whether to restrict my Summer Self-Compassion Camp to women; I chose the “safer” option, in part because I was unwilling to express my internal conflict to others. I want my audience, as well as all who are drawn to Goddess Spirituality–whomever they may be–to know that they are seen, heard, worthy and welcome.

If your spiritual practice takes the form of Goddess Spirituality, to what extent have you grappled with the issues I shared? Where have you felt included or excluded in your spiritual walk? To what extent do you challenge yourself to confront your own biases and to call into conversation those who are indifferent to the suffering of the marginalized? Do you directly confront those who are oppressive, and, if so, what strategies have been effective?

*I acknowledge the paradox of my discussion in that I also conceptualize Goddess using female pronouns. This, to me, is a thealogical issue that is beyond the scope of this particular post.

Embodied Heart, Inner Work

Bog and Peak: Welcoming Mystery

“Perhaps we should reconsider the importance of swamps. They are the meeting place of earth and water, a liminal space between the surface, the conscious world, and the depth of the unconscious. When we dare to venture into the forbidden forest, the soft ground where waters are dark, or the house of the witch, we engage with adventures and learn more about ourselves.” Eila Carrico, The Other Side of the River, pg. 47.

Trauma survivors face many mysteries—making sense the specifics of their experiences, as well as relating to self and others when core beliefs have been shattered and determining what being “healed” really entails. For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I’ll be examining our response to the unknown. I recently shared a poem that I wrote which blossomed into this post.

I thought the purpose of inner work was evaporation; to remove all traces of murkiness from the bogs of my heart and memory, exposing all that I am to the light. But life holds mystery; pure awareness would bore us instantly. No, I think now life is the film on water surface, the pebble-lined shore bed, the dip between road and grass. Rising and sinking, knowing and unknowing, holding and releasing, body and soul. Dwelling in the space between reality and fantasy, solid and mist, sensation and perception, allowing form to pass into the formless and back again.

I widen myself to include the bits of me I do not know. I pull myself in around the same pieces when they make themselves manifest, forming a protective hedge. This cycle of movement births a mothering of inner trust.

When Self meets Other, magic ensues. The edge, teeming with activity, evolves, grows, dies back and reforms. Boundaries exist in nature but are not created or fixed. We can have confidence in ourselves, as we mature, to feel them from the tips of our fingers as we approach Other, rather than to erect them as solid steel fortresses into which none dare enter or to run rampant through any we meet.

Edges require invitation, both across and down. To know ourselves in the places where we are hidden, we must near the drop and stay our feet until eyes surface and request our presence. Forcing parts of self out into the piercing light is just as traumatic as shoving them into the algae. In connecting with Other, voice ringing over range reigns. Asking and receiving permission to sit with another, as well as calling ourselves away as we leave, signals to loved ones that their Self will not be overrun or abandoned by our Other.

We will never know ourselves or another wholly. To awaken is not to perceive, rather, it is to sense not only what the body experiences, but to lift eyes to the mountaintop—the periphery of Other—and the turbid waters—the depths of Self—and to hold in consciousness the awareness of Secrets. To the fullest extent possible, learning to vigil these Unknowns, table set and heart open, instead of demanding their presence or rejecting their existence, enlivens the edge and entrains its spirals and eddies to soften. What bubbles up, what casts down ladder, is both stranger and old friend.