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Spirit of the Valley
The Magazine of Mountain Wellness









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Last month in Spirit of the Valley, Reverend Wendy Collins wrote about willingness: specifically the willingness to move from any feeling that has "held us in bondage". Many times, we have only a vague idea, or perhaps no idea, of what holds us or why.   We only know that we feel stuck, have unanswered questions or unresolved feelings.

So, how can the expressive arts help us connect willingness with self-knowing, with healing and with soul?  

You might begin an expressive art session with a question or a problem you are facing.   It is possible that your intention during a session may simply be to step into not-knowing, to play and discover whatever it is that comes to you.   If your question is a difficult one, you can ask a friend or partner to join you as a witness to your process.   A therapist trained in working with the arts in therapy is essential for deeper work and for assured confidentiality.  

You will be giving form to your private inner world. One of my teachers, Shaun McNiff, said that the images always come to heal.   Allow your images to guide you, to express themselves through you.   The images will let you know whether they need color, words, sound or movement.   This allowing is a path to authentic work.   Many find that expressing one image will free many others.   Even if the first image has been perceived internally, perhaps as a dream or a melody, when realized in 3-dimensional form it can become a source of wisdom and guidance for you.

Initially, some images can be strange and scary, or wrinkled, red and wailing like a newborn baby.   Remember that the images come to heal.   As with a guest at the front door, invite them in and be interested in what they have to teach and in the insight they bring.   Hang the hangable, read the readable, sing the singable and move the movable.   Live with the images as one might live with an invited houseguest.   Give them privacy of display if required and learn over time what they have to teach.

If you decide to share your images with another (and remember this is not necessary), share only with persons you trust not to analyze or criticize, no matter how well intended their comments might seem to them.   Remember that even the comments "I like it" or "Pretty colors in that one" are judgments.   The most important part of image making is the process, not the product.

Please give no response unless your partner asks for one.   If asked for a response, I suggest that you give your first response in some art form, rather than in talk.   In the expressive arts approach, response is not a critique, nor is it an analysis of what the other might have meant or felt, nor has it anything to do with technique.   The art response is the truth of one's own experience.   An authentic response frequently has seemingly little connection to the initial image.   What came up for you as the witness?   Notice that and share it if it is appropriate to do so.

After creating your images, hanging and then living with them for a time, you will very likely begin to discern patterns or recurring motifs in some of the images. When I began to focus on the expressive arts and hang my drawings in my room (60 at one point!), I discovered that every so often an image was similar to others: part of a pattern or a series.   I began to call one evolving pattern "The Whirlpool Series".   These whirlpool images came in drawings, paintings, words and clay.   It is possible they came in movement and sound also, however, I was not tuned into them largely because of the transient nature of those art forms.    The "whirlpool" that initially came as a frightening black swirl, gradually evolved into an image of The Void, still and peaceful and connecting soul to Soul.  

Image making and the images themselves encourage insight.   I encourage you to create opportunities for your images to arrive.   Make a space, assemble materials, set your intention and allow your images to manifest.   Enjoy!


Eve Heart is a Licensed Professional Counselor residing in the Wood River Valley.   She has a several areas of specialization including Expressive Arts Psychotherapy with children, adults and families, brief therapy, family preservation and severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. Using an Expressive Arts approach, Eve offers playful options for accessing one's inner life and bringing it into consciousness.   She can be reached at 208-578-2170 and .