Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Art and Mindfulness

By Angela Marchese

An Art Therapy Conference was held in the Romano Center at St. Thomas Aquinas College on Wednesday, November 6. A professional art therapist, Dr. K, spoke to students about her experience and how we can apply her techniques to our studies as well as our everyday life. 

She began the conference with an exercise. She had us practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is focusing your awareness on the present moment while you try and acknowledge your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. We all had to walk up to the front of the room and grab a piece of paper while practicing mindfulness. She made us become aware of our feet hitting the floor and how the paper felt when we grabbed it. For many, this was a tough challenge. In our fast-paced society we don’t have the time to be aware of our surroundings. For us be calm and aware is not part of our comfort zone.

She then asked us if being mindful was something we practiced in our everyday life; out of the 30 people that were there only one person practiced it. This person happened to be a therapist as well. We practiced some more on being mindful, but this time we using breathing techniques.

Breathing comes natural to us so we never stop and ask ourselves, “Am I breathing?” She had us close our eyes and breath in when she said ”one” and breath out when she said ”one” again and the same thing until we got to 10. The group of people was very diverse in age. The students had a harder time with this breathing technique because of how quickly they get distracted, while the adults were a lot more focused. She proceeded to ask us why the students and even some of the older people got distracted. The most common answer was because we felt embarrassed and uncomfortable breathing very hard in front of new people.

This feeling of being embarrassed and uncomfortable led into our final project of the night. We got to work hands-on with clay and other tactile material to create the voice inside our head that makes us feel uncomfortable or makes us do things we aren’t supposed to do. For the next 20 minutes we sculpted our little creations, but in silence. We were not allowed to talk, that way the voice inside our head would come out and be expressed through the clay.

Some people did not want to focus on the bad voice inside their head so they made something happy to try and distract from the bad voice. We closed the night by going around talking about our voice inside of our head. This art exercise was part of teaching us that by practicing mindfulness daily we can over-power that voice and come out stronger, so we can get a lot more done and feel better about ourselves. 

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