The healing power of creative expression?


full body tattoo

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Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at the esteemed Okanagan Institute Express, on the topic of  THE THERAPEUTIC MUSE CELEBRATING THE HEALING ARTS. I was one of a panel of four artists, each involved in different artistic ventures that have resulted in a particular experience of healing.
The mission of the Okanagan Institute is to contribute to the quality of creative engagement in the Okanagan through publications, events and collaborations. If you have never attended one of their Express events, I encourage you to do so, Thursdays at 5 PM at the Bohemian Bagel, Bernard Avenue, Kelowna, B.C.
This is what I shared with those gathered last Thursday night.
Soli Deo gloria, Lesley-Anne.
Poetry and the healing power of creative expression

Preparing to speak tonight on healing and creative expression, both as a writer, and as a human being, led me to ask several questions;

What is healing?
When we say healing, do we mean physical healing?
I have a friend who is absolutely convinced that her cancer-filled body, is healed. Another friend, with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, believed in a healing miracle for three years before he passed away. I’ve been asked to pray for ‘healing’, and I have to admit that causes conflicting emotions for me.

Healing is multi-faceted, involving our heart, our mind, our spirit or soul, and our body. When we make peace with something, that’s healing. When our hearts finally mend after a huge loss, that is healing. When we change a thought pattern, or still the voices, or quiet the demons, or forgive the unforgivable, all that is healing. And, when we speak of our disease going into remission, or our body being clear after a series of treatments, that’s profound healing as well.

Why do we need to be healed?
To say we require healing suggests we are broken, hurting, imperfect people. This is the human condition. This is who I am, as much as I’d like to project otherwise. Yet, we all desire to be whole people, don’t we? We all seek healing to some degree or another.

And, what is creative expression?
The act of creating anything, whether a dance, or a painting, or a garden, or a cathedral, or a poem, is inherently powerful. This ability to create belongs only to the human race. It is an echo of the divine nature in each of us.

Creative expression is about courageously delving into our inner lives, unearthing or glimpsing something unique, intriguing, transcendent, and then casting our thought, idea, epiphany out into the world, in the belief that what we have expressed has a purpose higher than ourselves.

Creative expression is deeply cathartic. In the process we acknowledge who we are, what we have to give, and then release our creation to leave it’s mark on the worldŠ proof that we were here.

Creative expression allow us to tell a story to someone whom we may never meet. Author Stephen King says in his book, On Writing, ” We are not even in the same year together, let alone the same roomŠ except we are together. We are close. We are having a meeting of the minds.” That’s powerful stuff.

Is everyone creative?
Yes. Although sadly, many have lost touch with that part of themselves, like the free spirited pre-schooler who was told to colour within the lines. Creativity is hard wired within us, and we are more fully alive when we learn how to reconnect and express this part of who we are.
But does developing and expressing our creative nature heal us?
Healing, of the body, soul, spirit, heart and mind, comes from wrestling through, therapy, acceptance, faith, forgiveness, surrender, wise counsel, time, distance, AND creative expression. As difficult as it is to understand healing, it is still more difficult to measure. We look for outward proof about something that is, by nature, internal and personal.

A healed individual may manifest a spirit of peace, grace, joy, hope, resilience, often where we least expect to see it. I recall hearing of a woman who, when pulled from the rubble of Port au Prince, Haiti after 17 days, was smiling and singing a hymn. She was peaceful rather than afraid. I sense her spirit was whole while her body was bruised, broken, hungry, thirsty, and her mind, longing for release.

The creative arts allow us to put our complex feelings about our world and circumstances into word and action, rather than allowing things to fester and grow into something ugly inside us. Peace is a byproduct of creative expression.

Many Kelowna artists are working through their media to express deep sadness over the devastating situation in Japan.  Jody Bruce, an artist friend, woke in the middle of the night unable to sleep, and was compelled to create this beautiful piece called, ‘Hope’, because she just had to do something in response.  She offered her painting of an illustration to us tonight. Another local artist, Carrie Harper, has created a Facebook Group called, “Artists for Japan”, where artists can donate paintings for online auction. All proceeds will go to the Canadian Red Cross effort in Japan.

On a more personal note, last year, when I heard about the devastation in Haiti, and felt immobilized to do anything hands on to help, I worked through my emotions by writing to poetry. It allowed me to let go of my feelings of powerlessness, make peace with the situation, and to empathize to some degree with what was happening there;This is one of those poems; 

Haiti  16:53

What seems like one minute you are chewing on your HB pencil
Staring at the clock and dreaming yourself out onto the dusty street with
Football between your agile feet, and running, running.

The next, you are lying on your back struggling
To breath, through white dust that settles in your mouth and lungs
And you somehow can’t make your hand wipe away what stops your eyes from blinking.

Sounds of moaning, all around you in the dark, burst the tiny bubble of
Hope that, you are daydreaming at your desk, and you will wake up any moment
And the clock will say 16:54.

Have I experienced healing as a poet and writer?
I haven’t always been a poet, haven’t been able to say I’m a poet without choking on those words. I’ve become a poet. It’s taken time, courage, and a healthy dose of faith to stand before you today.

Art, music, design, love of the written word have always been part of who I am.  But my design career as an Architect ended when I became a mom. There were many years when I did not creatively express the deeper things of my heart. And part of me shriveled up and almost died.

Then, about 6 years ago, through weighty circumstances, and the pursuit of spiritual formation, I began to pay more attention to my inner life, to the ideas and desires that percolated around inside me. I began to write, and opportunities came for me to share my writing. I started to listen to people’s positive response to my writing, which fueled my passion further, and gave me greater purpose.

I see a clear connection between Creator God, and the ability to express my creative nature in writing and poetry. I am a spiritual being, and my creativity is a spiritual pathway for me to commune with God. To write is a gift. In the movie ‘Chariots of Fire, the olympic runner Erik Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” That is how I feel about my writing.

As I write, I find that my words contain a common message of love and longing, wonder and revelation, grief and loss, forgiveness and redemption, this message resonates with others.

Healing happens when I write because I embrace what I was intended to do. I use my unique voice, and add it to the chorus of humanity. Writing gives me permission to ask unanswerable questions, and to speak of unspeakably difficult things. Writing allows me to own living in the tension of not knowing, not being in control, not needing to be the one. I live as a writer who relies on God, and isn’t afraid to be human.  Living out of this new wider place is what heals my soul, a little bit day by day. 

So what is the ripple effect?
Sometimes we don’t expect to be part of a healing process. it happens as a byproduct of what we do. 2 years ago, I created a book for that friend I mentioned earlier who had ALS. I collected stories, letters, emails, poems, bible verses, photographs, and worked with a graphic designer to produce a book called ‘Buddy Breathing’. The most powerful part of my experience, was seeing how written words impacted my friend. I was witness to healing.

Over the weeks and months that led to his death, Art’s bible, and his book ‘Buddy Breathing’ became touchstones of strength, and platforms for meaningful conversations. In hospice, in the small hours of the night, his nurses read to him. He often asked friends to read and re-read certain portions of the book. He would say, “Is this really about me? I can’t believe people say that about me.” He was made stronger in his daily physical struggles through the affirming words of others, through knowing his life mattered. His heart was healed, though his body never was.

Could it be that our experience of healing through the creative process, the healing of our hearts, minds, and spirits, is just a tiny taste of what’s to come? An ancient Hebrew text promises that, “One day, God will wipe away EVERY TEAR from our eyes, and here will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.” Could it be, that through creative expression, we are being invited to a deeper encounter with  Creator God, the author of creativity and the source of ultimate healing?

Poetry Friday036


The fear of white

I have found there to be voids, like the
times when the stark white of it is blinding
transfixing all attempts at meaningful expression,
mocking my tongue-tied immobility with blank eyes.

The memory of grade school drills assure me that
figures placed in appropriate order make sense,
so that is where I begin to break the curse,
to place one or two words, tentative sentences into

the void. But my heart longs for the rush of thought
and the cramping of my fingers as they frantically try to
match the pace of mental discourse around
something glimpsed in passing, some transcendent

thought, that should someone happen upon it, they might
feel a catch in their throat or an ache in their gut
and maybe the urge to cry — Do you know what I mean?
Like when you hear a voice singing

notes that

clamp around your lungs, leave you

struggling

to breathe.

Lesley-Anne Evans, November 2009

Considering creativity…


Leonardo da Vinci is well known for his creati...

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What is the relationship between Creator, creation, and the act of creativity? Not pro-creation, in this case, but the art of creating objects of our desire. Be it a painting, or a sculpture, or a piece of music, or a home-made card, or a poem, what is the process that leads us to this place of desiring to create something of lasting value.

Why is it that when we learn to create (yes, some need to be taught how to do this), we feel entirely more whole, more well, more about what we are ‘supposed’ to be doing? Perhaps creativity is hard wired into each of us. I can’t help believing that it is. I’d like to believe that each of us, carrying the Divine fingerprint of God inside our souls from the moment we were conceived, also carry within us (to a much lesser degree, of course) his ability to create. And, through the art of creating, he draws us closer to him, allowing us to find fulfillment in what he made us to do from the start?

Now this is all supposition at this point, and I obviously need to do my do diligence, and back up what I am saying with some strong foundational truths, but, I’d just like you to consider this;

That we were created by a Creator with the inherent and uniquely human ability to carry on his creative work, in perpetuity, for the purposes of his and our pleasure, and the ultimate discovery that he is all in all.

Just wondering…

Lesley-Anne

Poetry Friday on Christmas Eve


 

 

 

 

 

 

MADE FLESH

After
the bright beam of hot annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth
his searing sharply focused light
went out for a while
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor
his universal grace
small-folded in a warm dim
female space–
the Word stern-sentenced
to be nine months dumb–
infinity walled in a womb
until the next enormity–
the Mighty, after submission
to a woman’s pains
helpless on a barn-bare floor
first-tasting bitter death

Now
I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closeted in time
he is my open door
to forever.
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
find wings.
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death’s mesh,
time’s bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

by Luci Shaw

Poetry Friday032


I’m reading my Bible this month,  following along in Luke chapters 1 and 2, enjoying the wonderful details of the Christmas Story… that ageless story of the prophecy areound, conception of and humble yet miraculous birth of my Lord Jesus Christ. I came across this poem in the sidebar of my Bible (Women’s Devotional Bible – NIV), and want to share it with you today. It is lovely.

Virgin

by Luci Shaw

As if until that moment

nothing real

had happened since creation

As if outside the world were empty

so that she and he were all

there was – he mover, she moved upon

As if her submission were the most

dynamic of all works; as if

no one had ever said Yes like that

As if one day the sun had no place

in all the universe to pour it’s gold

but her small room.

Midweek Random Ramble013


1. I just came upon this video of Billy Shakespeare, performed by students from Kansas University. What a delight interesting experience to be able to watch this, listen AND READ SUBTITLES!!! If only this had been available when I was trying to read Shakespeare in High School Engish class. Just saying…

2. Amy, my hairstylist has been cutting hair for over 17 years. She’s young, and I can count on her to give me a style that is contemporary, not trying to look like I’m a teenager, and certainly not wanting to look like I’m old over 40ish! I asked her, among other things, what her favourite part of being a hair stylist is.  She said, “Well, it’s the instant gratification of the styling,” (you know, that part that I (you?) stress over each and every morning of our lives as we try to recreate what was looking sooooo good when we first had it cut). Seems that what takes me a lot of time and a lot of emotion to create, she finds to be both ‘instant’ and ‘gratifying’.  Hmmm… here’s the results this morning as I tried my best. It certainly wasn’t instant for me!

3.  I’ve committed to writing a manuscript of poetry. And I’ve almost committed to submitting it to publishers. Which means I’ve almost committed to writing a BOOK!!! I’m setting aside a time each week where I work on my poems, editing, fine tuning, rewriting them into something I feel happy with. Then I’ll go from there. It appears that I’m going to need about 64 poems that will be a substantial body of work that would be of interest to anyone. So, I’ll also be writing new poems too, as I’m not quite at the 64 mark. Just thought I’d mention it.

BTW, what’s your opinion on poetry? Does it feel rather distant, irrelevant, precious, uninteresting? Does it remind you of #1 where you struggled through Willie and didn’t quite enjoy the process? What if I told you that poetry was simply a story? To me, that is exactly what it is. My poems (which you read here every Poetry Friday) are about regular everyday people, places and things. So, when I say I’m writing a book of poetry… don’t let that put you off. I think you might like it when it’s done.

4. And here is what Halloween costumes looked like at our house this year, after a trip to Value Village and some digging around our own ‘tickle trunk’ downstairs…

… our own version of The Mad Hatter, complete with bunny…

…and a War Maiden of Celtic origins…

… and then there was Luke Skywalker…

5. Gotta go dust and vac. the house. The dog is all over it! Literally. Footprints and bits of leaves and other things Emmy has dragged inside.

Peace,

Out.

Lesley-Anne

Sol Deo Gloria