Expressive Arts: The Art of Consciousness

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
September 26, 2016

Art in our pottery studio is one activity offered during our spiritual retreats.

Did you know that art and music have a lot in common with yoga and meditation? Art has a similar power to elevate the consciousness, the awareness. Creating art, or sometimes just looking at art, can promote positive emotions like gratitude, happiness and joy.  In this blog we’ll find out how — as we dive into the art of consciousness.

Art, like meditation, stimulates the pleasure centers in the front part of the brain, the brain’s center for happiness and higher learning.  For many artists, creating art is a form of dharana, or concentration, the all important sixth limb of yoga. Dharana is prerequisite for dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption into bliss).

The act of creating art is so therapeutic that it became the catalyst behind an entire art therapy movement: Expressive Arts Therapy.

Expressive Arts Therapy
Expressive Arts Therapy (E.A.T.) is a form of art therapy that uses all of the artistic modalities — dance, drama, music, poetry and the visual arts — to enhance our overall well-being. The recent Guru Purnima celebration at Art of Living provided a treasure trove of  the expressive arts: classical Indian dance, inspirational films, poetry,  devotional singing and devotional music with harp, sitar, flute and tabla.

E.A.T. is a two part process: the creation of art and the discovery of its meaning. The arts are used to let go, express, and to release.

In the early 1940’s Expressive Arts Therapy became formally recognized and has since provided meaningful therapeutic experiences for people of all ages in a variety of treatment settings from hospitals to community centers. There is no right or wrong way in the arts which encourages the clients to be free with self-expression.

Expressive Arts Therapy is not about interpreting color or images. It is not necessarily used for diagnosis, although it can help assess an individual’s needs or progress. Its focus is not on a “beautiful” outcome. What’s important is the process of making art and exploring what the piece means to its creator.

Within the Expressive Art Movement is the idea that creativity itself is a path to the divine. Creating art can lead us to happiness and better emotional health.

 

Feelings: An Energy Source

Natalie Rogers, an Expressive Art Therapist, says “our feelings and emotions are an energy source. That energy can be channeled into the expressive arts to be released and transformed. The creative connection is a process that brings us to our inner core or essence which is our life energy (Creation Spirituality, 1993).”
In terms of the chakras, artistic expression pulls the energy up from the mundane to the sublime, from the lower chakras to the upper chakras. The fifth chakra, at the throat, is the home of creativity, art, communication and higher learning. It is the abode of music and mantra.

People have been using music as as tool for healing for centuries. The Greek physician Aescalapius played the harp for his patients to calm their minds. It was believed that healing the soul through music also healed the mind and the body. Listening to music bypasses the thinking mind and goes right to the part of the brain where the emotions reside.

 

Expressive Arts at AOLRC
The Art of Living Retreat Center and Spa welcomes its newest artist-in-residence: Thomas Koole, master pottery teacher and world-renowned artist. Thomas reminds us that the visual image can be used “not only as shared communication but also as a tool for self-realization.” Thomas’s work can be seen at thomaskoole.com.

     
Thomas Koole, AOLC artist in residence
Thomas Koole, AOLC Artist in Residence

At AOLRC, creating art is perhaps the most fun way to cultivate present moment awareness.  You can express your Self today by making an appointment at the Art of Living Retreat Center pottery studio.

Art can heal us. It can fill us with inspiration and love. Those of us who lived like artists as children have the ability to bring back this powerful form of expression and self-healing. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy putting paint on a canvas or creating a pottery bowl. Let your pleasure centers light up like those of a child.

Today we are surrounded by billboards and bombarded with ads which utilize art to persuade us to buy things — things we often don’t need. Imagine how we might create a more uplifting and colorful world by surrounding ourselves with beautiful and meaningful art — the art of consciousness, the art of higher awareness.

 

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC