I promised to write about my experience in the Art therapy class that I took up at Lesley University last week, but every time I sat down to write about the experience, I found myself unable to completely articulate the experience. I am still integrating it I suppose. But I have written a three part reflection for the class and thought I might share that here, one part at a time. So here it is!
I think there were three main ideas that I took away from this class, three things that are still churning around in my mind. So I broke the three ideas down into three parts.
The first was this idea about "embracing struggle". Our professor, Shaun McNiff, told us again and again that struggle was good and could be used as fuel for our work. I have to admit that, at first, I struggled with the idea of struggle. My struggle with “struggle” came from my seemingly contradictive resolve that I make art for the joy of it (not for the struggle of it). I make art because it feels good, because it feeds me. Not to say that I don't sometimes struggle with it, or get frustrated or defeated by it...because I do sometimes. But for the most part, I want the experience of art making for myself to be joyful, playful, fun and uplifting.
I struggle in so many ways in my life and want to come to art not to struggle more, but as a refuge. I don’t want to struggle in my art making. I keep making art, keep coming back to it, not because it causes me struggle (not to say that there is’nt discomfort, because there certainly is sometimes), but I don’t want to let it drag me down. I want to let go of the struggle when I sit down to create. I try to go into it with the intention to be uplifted and affirmed, not to be dragged down by the struggle of it. This is not to deny struggle’s place in our lives, or ignore it when it appears. I fully recognize that we need this shadow part of ourselves in order to get back into the light (maybe this is the point that Shaun was making about struggle). But what I am saying is that I don’t want to dwell in it or stew in it, especially when I am making art. I have the most fun making art when I intentionally Let Go of the struggle. When I have conflicts in my mind, or am feeling down, I want to feel better…that’s natural, right? I recognize the shadowy places and the presence of darkness. I recognize that we need both the dark and light, and love how Deepak Chopra puts it: “if you do not see your shadow, you must not be standing in the light”. So I recognize, I acknowledge it when it exists within me, but ultimately, I want to feel good. Don’t we all? Art making, when I approach it with the intention of having more joy, more fun and celebration becomes joyful, fun and celebratory. When I approach it as a struggle (in other words, when I can’t let go of the outcome of what I am doing), then I suffer and struggle more. And my question is: why do that? And it’s a question I am still playing with (especially since I still do cling to outcomes and approach things from a struggling place). However contradictorily, I feel it is important to empower myself and others to find the joy, the celebration, the goodness in art-making and essentially in life. Not by ignoring the shadow, but by standing fully in the light.
So for now…I will do my best to hold this contradicting contrast.