This week, I wrote, “I feel forlorn and unmotivated. I am exhausted by 4pm, left with a defeated world at my feet. I can’t muster dinner. My tasks are left unchecked. There is no one to rescue me. Rescue us. Rescue all of us. No one. And that is a lonely lonely feeling.”
A friend wrote back asking me to listen to the pause the world has given us: “Let’s become acutely aware that we have feelings, but we’re not those feelings. We have thoughts but are not those thoughts. We have bodies but are not our bodies. We have sensations in those bodies, but are not those sensations. We have emotions, but are not those emotions ….. We can witness all of those, so can(not) be any of those.” I struggle with this idea because I am attached to my emotions, my physical response, my sense of isolation. How can this global pause help me observe my feelings with non-attachment, so I may allow for the fluidity of change within?
Lessons from a Butterfly
After I saw The Peace Catcher’s images above, I started researching the power of metamorphosis, and found “Lessons from a Butterfly,” by Dr. Devereaux
- If nothing changes, nothing changes.
- What we take in is fuel and nourishment for our new form.
- Shedding old patterns is necessary.
- Solitude is a place for internalization.
- Sometimes “breaking points” make new things to begin.
I think about this time as one of isolation (being in my cocoon), and as one of opportunity (emerging from my chrysalis and spreading my wings). We can dance the Life Cycle of a Butterfly, from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly to explore this metamorphosis. We can move our bodies in time and space, with varying levels of energy and size across different pathways. Creative movement helps us be present in my body, so we may observe its changes as we dance (old and unfold, expand and contract). This rhythm is life’s rhythm. We hold potential in our bodies.
For more on butterfly activities, go to the Museum of the Rockies.
This week’s featured artist is Cristina Clarimón of MadCollage. Her biography reads: “If all artwork is self portrait, as the great Oscar Wilde said, her collages inevitably depict her health struggles, wit and resilience. Despite living with several chronic conditions and daily pain, her collages are peaceful and thoughtful. They have a quiet and even pulse that allows the mind to wander, to imagine beyond what is visible. She immerses herself in her work and finds comfort in the process of making each piece.”
Let our minds wander as we create butterflies with Cristina below.
I wonder… I feel… I need… I want… I hope…
Power of Circles
The circle is a powerful shape and symbol throughout history and in many societies to support communication and belonging: healing circles, talking circles, community circles, circle time. Mathematically each point on the circle is equidistant from the center, so the circle can be viewed as inclusive, unifying, stable and democratic. The circle can be used for introspection (a mandala) or direction (a compass).
We can use the circle during COVID-19 to explore unifying movement in our own bodies and across community.
Many of us struggle with the impermanence of life, which has been tightened during COVID-19. We are attached to our habits, relationships, favorite foods and clothes. Often our unhappiness comes from externally losing something (or someone or some belief) to which we have become attached. I know this rationally, yet am often afraid to accept life’s changes. I am afraid sometimes that if I enjoy happiness, I know that sadness will follow.
Dr. Wong (2017) suggests: “Craving for happiness necessarily causes us to fear or reject anything that causes unhappiness or pain. Attachment to possession and achievement invariably leads to disappointment and disillusionment, because everything is impermanent. Thus, the positive psychology of pursuing positive experiences and avoiding negative experiences is counterproductive, because the very focus on happiness contains the seed of unhappiness and suffering. Failure to embrace life’s experience in its entirety is at the root of suffering.”
The arts provide a medium for observing impermanence and even enjoying the unpredictability of change. We often make “beautiful oops” mistakes during art-making. And some art isn’t meant to stay: so as we play, we learn to enjoy the ephemeral qualities of creating, erasing, and making anew.
To help us enjoy change, we can play “Three Changes.” In this game, one person makes three changes to their appearance, and the others guess what changes were made. Then the next person changes their appearance and so forth. Afterward, talk about changes that happen in life, such as a result of daily living, growth and development, sickness, the economy, social values and beliefs over time, and the pandemic. Then reflect on the feelings and thoughts we experience during change.
“What if you want to be something else?” Hobbes asks Calvin.
Calvin replies, “I left some room. Just write it on the side.”–Bill Waterson
I return to the beginning and move through the pause forced on us by COVID-19. Today, I will do this art therapy technique to help me through. I will notice my feelings and experiences without judgment. I will breathe into my observations of happiness and sadness. I will lean into circles and cycles, into the permanence of change. I will put my virtual arms around you, drawing the world’s circumference with my fingers. And then I will turn around. And turn around again.
Sharon Chappell, PhD, is the Executive and Artistic Director of Well Beings Studio. She is a teacher, breast cancer survivor, parent and artist.
Mental health is important. If you need support, contact MentalHealth.gov. You can also visit your local 211 website (in Orange County, CA ours is www.211oc.org). If you are in crisis, please dial 911.
If you would like to contribute to this blog (family activities for emotional well-being, your thoughts on the arts and healing, your artwork), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org