Mindfulness at Play

Have you ever felt the axis of your life shifting? Last year I was deeply focused on my artwork, with art therapy a bit out of focus.

As the year has turned, however, so has my attention. For many years, I relied on observations of my own children's developmental stages to help me understand the children with whom I worked.

Now, with my own children navigating the waters of young adulthood, I no longer have that framework to depend on. While the memories are there, I need to stay fresh in my art therapy practice.

With that in mind, I've been re-infusing my knowledge of art therapy and child development by lots of reading, particularly on the Art Therapy Alliance group threads on LinkedIn.

I've been particularly intrigued by the development of Cathy Malchiodi's "Trauma Informed Practices Institute." In her recent newsletter, she lays out some of the core foundations for integrating mindfulness practice and positive psychology into art therapy.

"Making art can help us become mindful in the moment, just like when one learns to be present in the moment through the practice of mindfulness meditation. In art therapy, we often speak of that moment in art making when "flow" occurs-- an experience of losing oneself in the experience, but at the same time being present and engaged in the process. Being in the flow state can help you become more relaxed and begin to observe yourself in new ways. Art expression itself is a way of creating something new from what you already have, but may not have fully recognized within yourself."

Observing the children on the unit, I would say that the flow state has more and more been relegated  to the world of Wii, Playstation 3 and Nintendo. While there is value in learning to control the actions of characters on screen, I have a personal bias. I think it is just as exciting and possibly more so to be able to affect actions with one's own hands in our three dimensional world.

In other words, how do we help children find their way into the flow state with art, music, dance and other forms of creative expression? That's the question I'll be asking of myself in the next few months as I craft art activities which stimulate that sense of flow. I'll also be looking forward to attending Cathy's class this March in San Francisco: Enhancing Resilience Through Trauma Informed Practices: Positive Psychology and Mindfulness Based Art Approaches.

For a treat, if you click here, you will find a podcast containing a wonderful talk with Oxford psychologist, Mark Williams and a short 3 minute mindfulness meditation that made my day.