Category Archives: art as spiritual practice

Vision boards: Guidance on Creating Your Vision for Your Recovery, Your Life, and You

Twenty years ago, I vision-ed what it would be like to no longer have an eating disorder. I wasn’t sure it would be possible for me. But I was ready to vision the possibility.  I discovered, by visioning the possibility, and then taking the actions steps into that vision, that it was possible. Every year since then I have made a vision board. Fifteen years ago, I started facilitating others in this process.  

What is a Vision board?
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Vision boards (also called vision collages or treasure maps) are just what they sound like: a collage of your vision!  The word “board” is used when you make it on cardboard or other thick material for backing. You can also use paper or posterboard. When making this collage, you can be very specific with putting what you want 1-year-from-now as well as choosing images that make you appeal to you without knowing why. You can make sections of your collage for different areas of your life such as family, health, career, and spirituality. You can also have a “theme” for the year. For example, the theme of the year for the collage on the left was “Flow.” My most favorite option is to just glue your images on the paper as you go. As one client of mine stated “you can just slap images on the paper and trust that it’s going to mean something.” Here are some more specific suggestions. 

Pick the right images (only you know what they are)

You do not need to know why an image speaks to you. Listen to your gut. Trust what wants to stay on your vision board and what doesn’t make the cut. Years ago, I had an image of a sacred family and a pregnant woman on my vision board. At that point, I was still in the “no kids” camp, and it was a metaphor for other aspects of my life wanting and needing to be born. In addition, it was an image of family healing that I needed.

However, the beauty of images is that they can hold multiple meanings. A newborn baby can mean taking good care of yourself and your new recovery, giving birth to a new business/creative endeavor, grieving the loss of a child, the desire to have a baby, or all  of these. IMG_3166

I have had people come back, year after year, again and again, saying “I don’t know why I put that image (of Italy, or a Balinese woman, or a Hawaiian flower, or…) on my collage last year but guess what happened?” and then telling me about the synchronicities that emerged.

The person who made this collage went to Hawaii and got engaged after image-ing this on her vision board.

Make it In Real Life. With Real Supplies

For your vision collage, use actual paper, actual scissors, and actual images. Pinterest is great, but it is not a vision board. You need to be a be able to move things around, use your hands, and decide what feels right on your collage. The boundaries of your paper/board collageare important. You want your vision to be clear. Some things will not make the cut to being on your vision board this year. That is important to honor. Holding those boundaries for your board, (and in your life), will create the space you need for your vision. (Also, notice if you have trouble leaving any space on your board- is this true in your life? There is usually a parallel process with how you make your board and how you live your life.) Post your vision board on your actual wall, so you can see it in your actual life. Look at it throughout the year, so your body and mind can take in your vision. This will help you make it real!

Make it with Other People.

IMG_2727In my experience, vision boards are best made with other people. Just like recovery and motherhood, you don’t have to do it alone, and it is easier if you do it together. When you do it with other like-minded people, the experience has the opportunity to become much more ease-full and meaningful. When you run into obstacles (as happens in recovery, motherhood, and vision board making), it can be helpful to have support around you. When I facilitate the process for groups, we give each other feedback on what we see in their vision collages. Often, you are so in-the-thicket-of-your-own-trees (or your collage/life), you can’t see the beautiful forest you are in!  Having other people reflect back to you what they see can be eye-opening. Ten people looking at the same images see ten different things. That can feel abundant! Remember, you as the artist of your vision board and of your life always get to decide what it means to you.

Include specific goals and intentions

(AND surrender the timeline and the way these come to fruition)

It is ok, even fabulous, to have specific goals and intentions for the year ahead. A goal is a realistic, tangible and measurable outcome. An intention is a desire and a deep orientingimg_1241.jpg of the self toward a direction. Both are important.  When I was pregnant and approaching my first year of motherhood, I had a “comfy, dry and sleeping like a champion” baby displayed largely on my vision collage. This was an intention. This didn’t happen for either myself or my baby very frequently the first year.

If you, like me, have a left-brain that is a bit obsessed with accomplishing goals, by all means put them on your vision board. (Important side note: Diets are not allowed in any of my vision board workshops. Diets don’t work. Diets suck your energy away from your real visions. This is not a die-t. This is a live-it.) If you struggle with impatience or perfectionism, you may need to give your self more time than originally planned to accomplish your goals and intentions. I had the goal completing the doctorate and getting licensed as a Psychologist on my vision boards for many years.  It was important to keep setting the goal, again and again, with patience and perseverance.

In addition, vision boards often manifest your visions in Soul-time, which can be nonlinear and surprising in how they come to fruition. Sometimes an image you originally thought meant one thing when you put it on your collage, becomes something else entirely. That is part of the magic. Which leads to a question I often get asked:

Isn’t it magical thinking to make a collage and then expect these visions to happen in your life? 

No. Let yourself dream big. And then, TAKE ACTION on it!

There is a famous quote attributed to Goethe, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” I like how the words dream and do are both here. Dream, and then DO. Obviously you have to take action to make your visions come true. But image-in-ing it is often the first step. What is most threatening, fearful and truly exciting to imagine yourself accomplishing, having, being? You have to imagine it is possible before you walk your way into it.

IMG_2043Because the truth is, it’s not about the collage. It’s about you letting your vision turn into the imperfectly beautiful surprise of your life. YOU are the vision you are creating.

What’s your vision? If you haven’t made your 2018 Vision Board yet, now is the time!

Dr Linda will  be facilitating a Vision Collage workshop in San Francisco on January 7, 2018. For more information, go to DrLindaShanti.com or email Linda@DrLindaShanti.com

 

5 Ways to Have Fun in Recovery and Motherhood (with free Halloween ideas)

Like many recovering women and moms, “fun” often falls to the bottom of the to do list for me (if it’s even on there). Who has time for fun? I’m WORKING! I’m working being a mom, I’m working being a Psychologist, I’m working running a household!

However, all work and no fun makes … NO FUN! And when there is no fun, this is a set up: for burn-out, depression, relapse, cross addiction, cynicism, unhappy marriages, cranky kids, and wistful fantasizing about times when play included things other than matchbox cars and dressing up like Elsa for the five hundredth time.

Here are some FUN ideas that have worked in our house:

  1. Get Creative in Your Child’s Play by Being Silly Yourself.

(And create a Halloween costume other than Elsa or Star Wars)

If your child likes to dress up like Elsa, and you feel like you are going to throw up if you have to be her sister, Anna, one more time, be something YOU want to be! Put on black clothes, cut out little green dots and be a Black-Eyed Pea! (That is a free Halloween costume idea. You’re welcome. You can now have fun being something-other-than- yet-another-Star-Wars-Princess-Zombie-Superhero walking down the block on October 31st). You can now dance around singing “I’ve Got a Feeling…”

If YOU are having fun, your child will, as well. If they are laughing, that is the goal. Little ones laughing are the equivalent of liquid gold. And who says Elsa can’t play with a singing, hipster vegetable?

2. Have Fun with Literal and Non Literal

My husband came up with this one when he couldn’t take another 2 hours of matchbox cars racing around:11411714_10153358823245120_6846648671725484537_o

It’s a Traffic Jam 🙂

Another thing my little one and I have done is put letters around the house on things that start with that letter. You can play with puns like the letter “T” on the Tea box, and the letter “P” on the potty where your little one goes “Pee.” This can be fun for a few minutes during the witching hours. Every little bit helps.

3. Create a Weekly Ritual 

Our family has movie night every friday. I know some moms that have actually created theme-meals to go with the movie: “poison” (caramel) apples with Snow White or Pumpkin cake with Cinderella. Olaf eggs for Frozen. (More ideas. You’re welcome.) olaf

I myself am too f-ing tired by friday to do this. We order out and have it delivered. Permission to do this. And if you are in recovery and not a Mom, if you have a fabulous (or good enough) babysitter, then by all means go OUT to a movie!

4. Find a Special Place to Visit Regularly.
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It could be a redwood forest or a tree near your house. Whatever this place is, visit it regularly to connect with the-part-of-you-that-knows. This may not be fun in the traditional “Hey, let’s have some fun!” light-hearted kind of way. However, it is the ground from which all creative and fun energy arises. Your Soul/Wise-Mind/Intuition will appreciate having a regular place where you breathe, rest, and reflect. Find a Grandmother tree or create an altar in your home where you can be still. This is that quiet place that is under all the noise of Busy-ness. It is the ocean that all the waves crash back into. Let your mind rest there.

5. Connect with a Friend to Do the Fun Thing You Never Let Yourself Do

Take a moment to ask yourself what you really like doing, but never allow yourself to do. Now: create a date with a friend to do that. Whether it be collage-ing, making art, painting, dancing, yoga, or getting a pedicure, making a date with a friend will make you more likely to actually do it. This accountability can help give you both permission to take having fun more seriously 🙂 Do it before you reach this place, because when you reach this place, you are no fun:

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Many Blessings and Have Fun!

 

Adults must be accompanied by a child

Here is an art therapy exercise that I learned years ago which is FABULOUS to do with your little one. It only takes 5-10 minutes, but can have a profound effect of your child feeling seen and mirrored:

  • 1.Get a piece of paper and drawing stuff (markers, crayons, pastels, whatever you have).
  • 2. Divide the paper in half.
  • 3. Sit across from your child  with half the paper in front of you and half the paper in front of them.
  • 4. Mirror draw everything that they draw on their side on your side as they draw it. If you are a “good” drawer and want to level the playing field, use your nondominant hand.

Do Not comment (“I really like those scribbles/sun/house”), draw something else, judge (“This is BAD ART,” “I suck at creativity”), or interpret (“My child is a genius”).

Just mirror and be in their world for a few minutes. Don’t worry about what it means. Just be a mirror. Reflect their light back to them.

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“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

-Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

 

 

 

Why I Love Expressive arts in therapy (and in life)

Creativity is the original anti-depressant.  -Andrew Brink, Creativity as repair: Bipolarity and Its Closure

It is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.  -D. W. Winnicott

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  –Pablo Picasso

 1. Art (re)connects with the authentic self.

 The well-respected psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined the terms “True Self” and “False Self” that children develop as a result of their attachment to early caregivers.

As adults, the false self, the one that needed to be compliant as a child, can become maladaptive, stunting the power of the true self. One woman, recovering from an eating disorder that had her acting pleasing towards other people in her life while stuffing down her anger with food made the following images titled “The good girl” and “What’s underneath”:

mask

unmask

To see full article, click here:

http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/love-expressive-art-therapy-life/

“You must give birth to your visions…”

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“You must give birth to your visions. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity. ” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Vision:

1. the act or power of seeing something with the eyes
2. the act or power of seeing or anticipating that which will or may come to be “prophetic vision, the vision of an entrepreneur”

     Every year I make, and then facilitate others making, vision collages. What is a vision collage? It is just as it sounds- a collage of your vision. It is a visual representation of what you would like to live your way into.  It can be as literal and/or non literal as you would like. It may include very specific items (a new car or job) or how you would like to feel (safe, loved, free from anxiety). I usually focus on the year ahead to ground it: What is your vision for the next year? However, the Soul works in its own way and its own timeline. There is a 12-step saying about spirituality, which goes like this: God has three answers: Yes; Yes, but not now; and No, I have something better in mind.

Yes:

Although this may sound easy, it isn’t always easy to live your way into the yes of your vision. I often think of vision collages as a map of where-you-will-arrive-after-clearing-the-obstacles-to-where-and-who-you-already-are. For example, four years ago, I put on my vipriussion collage a brand new prius. That year, when my toyota corolla, (which had been going and going and going), died, I went to the car dealer and looked at possibilities. I looked at many cars, including brand new prius-es and another used toyota corolla. That night, when went home to think about it, sleep on it, and talk with financial advisors, I still couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, my husband who who had been talking about how much more long term financially feasible it would be to get the new prius when I was whining about “maybe I should just get another used corolla,” brought me over to my vision collage and said “IS THAT A COROLLA UP THERE OR A PRIUS?!” Suddenly, I realized it was my own fear of stepping into my vision that was the obstacle. The next day I got my prius.
Many years prior to the prius, I put a pregnant woman on my vision collage. At the time I was not in a romantic relationship and was a No-or-ambivalent-at-best on the question of having children.  I didn’t even know if I could have children due to having an eating disorder and the possibility of damaging my fertility earlier in my life. I wasn’t sure why the pregnant lady appealed to me and appeared on my collage, but I went with the intuitive process of putting the image on there without needing to know what it meant. I thought this was more about birthing myself in recovery and my career, which was true at the time and did occur that year.

Yes, but not now:

However, many years later, the pregnancy became literal. I am now happily a mom when I thought I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be.
Another Yes,-but-not-now expeIMG_2066rience was putting “Licensure as a Clinical Psychologist” on my vision collages. All through working at substance abuse rehabs, eating disorder rehabs, hospitals, graduate school, pre-doc, finishing the dissertation process, post-doc, post-baby, post postponing the first licensure exam, post passing the first licensure exam, post starting a private practice, and FINALLY passing the second exam, this was on my vision collages. There were many times I lost faith in the process, but just kept putting 1 foot in front of the other toward the vision and finally manifested it.

I have something better (or different) in mind:

Even before the pregnant woman, a blue-eyed “ideal partner” was on my vision collage. This never came true. I was ok with that. My husband has crinkly brown eyes full of depth. I had actually forgotten this was even part of my vision until a friend and colleague pointed out years later that my child has beautiful blue eyes. When I realized that, tears came to mine because of the mysterious ways that spirit brings our visions true. I never would have imagined that I was to become a mom, nor that my “blue eyed partner” was going to be created inside of me from two brown eyed parents.
Just in case you think visions always come true in exactly the way you wish they would, here is what I had on my vision collage the year I was pregnant:
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Well, he was comfy and dry for the most part, but “like a champion”is most definitely not how I would describe my baby’s sleep patterns the first year!
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The next year I was a bit more realistic about affirming the shadow side, difficulties, and imperfections of mothering (while still loving the miracle and privilege of it).
I didn’t go to Hawaii that first year, but this year we are going as a family.

     For 2014,  I had “Recovery Mama’s” vision statement on my collage. It included guest blogging, creating affirmation cards for new moms, writing my book, and supporting moms recovering from eating disorders in my psychotherapy practice.
The book proposal is being edited, and stay tuned for my newly coming guest blog next month!
Here are the affirmation cards: www.drlindashanti.com
I feel truly blessed to work with the clients I see and witness their growth in recovery and motherhood. It is literally a labor of love and the work I feel called and honored to do.

What are your visions for 2015? There is no wrong way to make a vision collage. Sometimes people I work with use all words, sometimes they use all pictures, sometimes they use a board and sometimes colored paper. Often they will choose magazine images that speak to them intuitively that they don’t necessarily know why. And sometimes they will choose very specific images. One of my favorite quotes is from Meister Eckart and says:

“When the Soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” 
That is my wish for you!
To learn more about vision collage workshops, go to:

Using Soulcollage to Re-find Wisdom in Your Body

The body has been made so problematic… that it has often seemed easier to shrug it off and travel as a disembodied spirit.

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born

Who among us in this culture of busy-ness to get-things-done, has not consciously or unconsciously thought life would be so much easier  if we didn’t need to tend to this human body with all of its needs, desires, and dis/comforts?

A Mother’s Body, The Earth’s Body

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I am the small, furry animal in your heart. Please slow down and listen to me. Get down on my level. Listen to the drumbeat that I follow.

Yet the body, our human bodies, the earth body on which we live, are what give us life and sustain us. We all come from, grew in, a body, a mother’s body and we all return to a body, this planet’s body, when we die. Coming back to this body, these bodies, are essential to fully living the original duality of life: we are all born, we will all die. The body remembers the past and creates the future. The body, every person’s body, your body, is actually made from the stars of the cosmos, starts that collapsed in the past:

Every single cell in our bodies contains elements created in the burning center of a collapsing star — from the iron in our blood to every bit of calcium in our bones and keratin in our hair. That’s because in the very early days of the universe that followed the Big Bang, only the simplest elements existed, like hydrogen.

In the words of the celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson  “We are not just figuratively but literally made of star dust.” 1

And yet so many of us walk around thinking of our bodies as a slow burden to carry our minds around. As a Psychologist, I have compassionate awareness for people who have experienced trauma have a tendency to avoid felt-sense in their bodies. There is good reason for this: trauma is painful, we are not meant to experience that much pain, and to survive we often leave our bodies during the pain. Learning to re-enter the body and feel safe there is a journey that requires fiercely compassionate attention, often with a safe (therapist) guide assisting the process. Women and men recovering from eating disorders often have sensitive dispositions that, if not “leaving” or numbing feelings in the body through eating disorder behaviors, require building up the capacity to tolerate distress in the body. People who find themselves “living in their heads” can also find that re-entering the body actually brings a sense of peace that accomplishing “more” can never provide.

Finding Animals in Your Body

What? No, I’m not talking about parasites. I’m talking about a fun way to return to, explore and invite what your body has to say to you, without judgement. That is the beauty of expressive arts work- it uses the right brain to invite the body back in while bypassing the left brain’s “gatekeeping.” Expressive art can be a vehicle for you to come back to your body in a fun, playful and safe way.

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I am your headache in your third eye. I wan to fly away. Release me.

Soulcollage(R) is an expressive arts process developed by Seena Frost, MFT, in which you make a deck of collage-d cards, each card representing an aspect of your multifaceted self.  Finding an animal, in the soulcollage process, includes being guided in a meditation through the different energy centers in your body to see what animal being lives in each of them.

When doing the process of finding an animal in each of the chakras in the body, it is not a literal, but an imaginal process. Because of this, it can be a fun and inviting way to curiously explore wisdom in the body.

When I work with women recovering from disordered eating, who often hate their stomachs, they find wisdom and joy again when they find an animal in their solar plexus. “I hate my stomach,” after discovering a tiger, becomes “I own my power, hunt for what feeds me, and am  fiercely clear about my intentions.

I am a snake in your belly. If you listen to me, you will own your power. If you don't, you may destroy yourself.

I am a snake in your belly. If you listen to me, you will own your power. If you don’t, you may destroy yourself.

But what if I don’t find an animal, find more than one or find one that I don’t like?

There are no wrong ways to find or not find an animal. Because this is an imaginal process, it is in Rumi’s mystical field “beyond right doing and wrong doing.”  When I was guided through this meditation in the soulcollage facilitator training, we were directed to find an animal in our fifth chakra, the center of expression located in the throat. I found a horse in my throat. First there was a hummingbird, then it flew away, then a horse appeared. Now, I don’t have anything against horses per say, but I really didn’t WANT  to find a horse. I would have preferred the hummingbird. Hummingbirds are beautiful magical gems flying through the air and humming! Horses are clunky, big, and snort. But because this was an imaginal process that was fun, I was able to let go of baggage/judgement about a horse vs a hummingbird. I got curious and asked what the horse had to offer and why it appeared. Turns out that it had a wealth of wisdom to offer me about letting my intuition lead the way in my life. This horse told my anxiety-mind that was obsessing over a particular Psychological licensing obstacle at the time: “Let go and trust that I can get you there quicker.” It basically told my mind to get back onto and into the “horse” of my body and relax.

In my training as an Imaginal Psychologist, we learned that “psyche” comes from the Greek word meaning soul. And so psychology is actually about the soul, bringing the soul back. The soul lives in the body, as well as the mind. There is no mind-body split from this perspective. There is an invitation to return to the place where your mind, body and soul are aspects of a unified YOU. I love this quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her wisdom of what returning to your body can bring:

I saw again what I had been taught to ignore, the power in the body. The cultural power of the body is its beauty, but power in the body is rare, for most have chased it away with their torture of or embarrassment by the flesh… the wildish woman can inquire into the luminosity of her own body and understand it not as a dumbbell that we are sentenced to carry for life, not as a beast of burden, pampered or otherwise… but a series of doors and dreams and poems through which we can learn and know all manner of things. In the wild psyche, body is understood as a being in its own right, one who loves us, depends on us, one to whom we are sometimes mother and who sometimes is mother to us.                                             

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, Women Who Run with the Wolves

References:

1 “Every cell in your body is infused with the collapse of a star,”   May 21, 2014.

2  “The Seven Chakras for Beginners” Mind Body Green, October 28, 2009.

Resources:

Soulcollage.com

DrLindaShanti.com or email Linda@DrLindaShanti.com (for soulcollage workshops!)

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