The process began with a lot of hesitation, apprehension and fear amongst the 6 participants, all but one of whom had barely picked up a paintbrush before yet who had all committed themselves to a 5 day exploration of creativity retreat. It was clear from some of the faces as we gathered for our first conversation that they were questioning what on earth they’d done themselves to make this huge commitment of time and money. “…imagine, paying for the opportunity to potentially make yourself look very foolish” were the thoughts that seemed to be reflected back at me as we began that fateful Monday afternoon.
What each participant had heard me say at least once was that I hold a deep, abiding belief that each and every one of us is creative: the simple act of living our day-to-day lives requires enormous creativity, something most of have long ceased to notice. So I use these creativity workshops as an opportunity for people to use painting as a metaphor for how creative they are in the living of their lives, knowing full well that for the average person, they have been told repeatedly throughout their lives that they don’t have any artistic talents. I could hardly wait for these courageous folks to begin to discover just how talented they are and just how wrong countless teachers, parents, friends and bosses have been.
Artistic expression always begins somewhat tentatively in these experiences: strokes are small and tight; colors are often muted and kept separate; paintings are frequently small. And yet they are a beginning …a source of discovery and amazement. I work with a process that involves light, guided meditations that invite people to notice what is going on in their own bodies and then to paint what they notice in shades of a single color using nothing but color and form to express their discoveries. There is always skepticism that one can paint anything expressive using only tones in one color range …and yet, when they begin they discover that less is, indeed, more.
We actually use a progression following the body’s primary energy centres or chakras painting the color of each chakra (Root: red; 2nd: orange; Power: yellow; Heart: green; Throat: blue; 3rd Eye: indigo; Crown: lilac). As we move upwards an incredible thing begins to happen: people’s bodies begin to relax; their images become larger; their paint strokes become more bold and certain; they begin to experiment; they begin to enjoy themselves; they begin to like the pictures they are producing.
I paint along with everyone else, keeping one eye and ear open as the conversations swirl around me. It is always a magical moment when someone groans because they can’t get the result they are looking for and we chat about how they could approach the painting differently. Last week, for example, Domino was bemoaning that her 2nd chakra painting felt too pristine and lacked the oomph she wanted. I showed her how to switch to a house painting brush, well wetted down and then flicked at the paper to provide an overspray of random dots and drips. She was enchanted with the kinesthetics of the process as well as the depth and dimension it added to her creation.
What a delight it was when I heard the little girl giggle emerge as she got to play for the first time in decades.
By mid-week our retreat had many of the characteristics of a pre-school centre: colorful images hung from ‘clotheslines’ strung from the ceiling fans; music was playing as we painted; people danced and laughed and hummed as they created their works of art. For many, fun had returned to their lives while they weren’t looking!
One delightful treat we all had during our experience was that Carole’s 4-yr old grandson Milo joined us one afternoon as we painted. He was clearly thrilled to see all these adults making a grand mess and settled in very happily to fill a huge piece of paper with his creations. That told me that we’d really created a very child-like environment within which we could each explore our inner artist!
One additional extra bonus that we all got to experience was the presence of my dear friend and business partner Louise who is a Huna initiate. Huna is the body of knowledge the ancient Hawaiians used to guide and shape their experience of life. As practiced by Louise it is a gentle, nurturing and powerful process that helps to awaken the senses and evoke a more mindful way of experiencing Self and the world. Louise offered each person present several Huna ‘symbols’ at key points through the week. There is no doubt that as we moved into our explorations of the higher chakras her generosity escalated people’s capacity to be playful and more willing to explore their creative nature.
By week’s end each person had created many delightful images. And more importantly they had explored through our various debriefing conversations the many ways in which they were living creative lives without noticing it. Everyone was amazed at how much easier life felt and that they’d regained a sense of play they’d set aside earlier in life. Fun had returned not only to their vocabulary but to their bodies.
I know that I left this magical retreat experience firm in my resolution to bring an awareness of their innate creativity to as many people as possible. I was also reminded in a very visceral way that my capacity to play and have fun is infectious. How many children, whether they be nieces, nephews, grandchildren or friends will be impacted because those folks reclaimed their capacity for play last week? It gives me goosebumps to think about that small change rippling out through the universe.
Copyright Gwen McCauley, 2006
Gwen McCauley: educator, coach, artist, author, facilitator and ‘employee to entrepreneur’ veteran brings wit, wisdom and worldly experience to Self discovery as her clients explore expanded creativity, career and life transitions, and leadership. Co-founder of the WEL-Systems® Institute, Gwen is a CODE Model Coach™ and Quantum TLC™ Facilitator. She has a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Human Systems Intervention.
Gwen published “The Alchemy of Energy –Exploring The CODE Model™” in 2004. “Splish Splash -- Painting for Personal Discovery” a primer for budding artists is due Summer 2006. Gwen’s numerous workshops and articles are available at www.wel-systems.com.
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