Whether it was a career choice or past criticism that steered us away from a creative mindset, almost all of us have experienced obstacles to creativity at some point. Know that these obstacles need not hold you back any longer. It’s worth the risk to channel your inborn artist. You can let go of any insecurities or inhibitions. The risk of keeping an illness, depression, or lack of meaning in your life far outweighs your fear. This is an opportunity to let go of your fear. What was worrisome before is not important now.
We all face the Inner Critic, that voice that tells us we’re too clumsy to dance, too tone deaf to sing, too immature to write, and so forth. The Inner Critic has an opinion about more than just your creations: it’s the same voice that tells us we’re not good or talented enough to follow our dreams.
Worried About What Other People Think...
Terry, a class participant in the Shands Arts in Medicine program at the University of Florida, was worried what other people thought about his artwork. Terry, at first, was like a lot of students in the program: in many people’s lives, barriers and obstacles have prevented them from doing art or being creative. But, as he told us,
“First, I let go of my Inner Critic. As I made more and more art, I was not concerned about what anyone thought of my art. The honest, judgment-free spirit gave me courage.”
Now is the time in your life to tell the Critic to take a rest and let you be who you are. This is a crucial step to creativity in general, basic in the art and healing process — a judgment-free, loving, and supportive process. You do it to heal yourself, others, and the earth, and this is what makes it truly beautiful.
Guided Imagery: Meeting Your Inner Artist and Releasing Your Inner Critic
From our experience, healing art is most powerful when it is made in sacred space. When we do this process with our classes, we begin each week with a meditation to ask for help from religious figures or energies. Then, we make a space that is protective, safe, and loving to make Medicine Art.
Go to the quiet space you’ve designated as your art-healing space. Relax and let your breathing slow down. Take the time to sit in silence for a moment. Ask a higher consciousness to come to you. It can be a religious figure you believe in, a Higher Power, nature, an ancestor, guide, or anything that helps you see deeper into your life. Ask it to bless you in your art and healing work. Give thanks and gratitude.
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Ask the higher consciousness to guide your hands and to send you images to make art that will heal yourself, others, your community, and the earth.
You are ready to begin to make art to heal.
Meet The Artist Within
Close your eyes, rest, and relax.
Let the tension in your life escape as you take slow, deep breaths. Feel your abdomen rise several inches as you breathe in and fall several inches as you breathe out. With each breath, let yourself get larger and larger in your mind’s eye, expanding beyond your body. As you expand, imagine the spaces between your cells also getting larger as you breathe in. Allow the spaces in between your cells to fill with light and energy as you breathe in. The light can be white, blue, green — any color you see fit.
Now that you are saturated with light, relax even more. Let your breathing get deeper. Your abdomen rises and falls as you breathe, taking you deeper. Let your mind take you back to a point in your childhood or in your life, a moment of making art that was full of happiness and joy, where you felt the free of constraint and fully expressive artistically in your life — whether it was dancing, playing music, drawing painting, writing poetry, or play-acting. Go back to the time when you allowed yourself to be truly creative and satisfied.
Go back to that artful moment and enter your body. Recall how it felt. Remember the world around you, be in the situation where you were making art, the way you experienced it. Look at your hands and feel the materials you held, remember your thoughts, and experience how excited you felt — be with this memory in totality. Rest in its innocence and beauty. Feel how wonderful it was. See the art you loved to make. Meet your Inner Artist, a spirit you may have not encountered for a while.
Meet The Inner Critic
Was there a dream you had before life became so formed? What did you desire, when you were uninhibited and still thought anything was possible? Was there a moment when you were told you could not do something? Perhaps someone told you that you could not draw a straight line or to stay between the lines as you colored. Perhaps someone told you that you were too ugly or clumsy to dance, that you could not sing on key or play piano, or that you were lazy and did not practice enough.
Maybe this person was a parent, teacher, or another student whose criticism made you shut down as you drew, danced, sang, or spoke from your heart. Maybe the critic was not another person, but yourself: you may have felt embarrassed in class, comparing yourself with others.
Picture moments in your life when you did something beautiful and were told it was not the right thing to do. Did someone say that your music would never make money? Maybe they said that you should not be an artist, but a lawyer, banker, or doctor instead. In your mind’s eye, picture the person who told you these things. Hear and see them criticize you. How did you feel in your body? See, smell, and sense the scene clearly.
If you went to art school or took art classes, you can also picture moments you made something you believed in and loved and were told it was “not art,” would not sell, or was not what people were doing now.
Whatever your past, go into that moment and picture it unfolding. See the person who told you that you can’t make art. Remember what they said, what happened, and how you felt in that moment. Search your senses and memory until it’s real.
This voice you hear is the voice of the Inner Critic, which keeps you from being free, creative, and authentically you, without the constraints of society.
Release The Inner Critic. Let It Go.
Now, we will release the Inner Critic. Let it go.
Imagine that you can put the Inner Critic in a room, a box, a sound-proof closet, or on another planet — anywhere but where you’re making art. Keep them quiet and away from you as you make art to heal.
Thank them for the help they give you in keeping you safe, if you wish, but tell them you are making art to heal and you don’t need that voice now. You are doing exactly what you need to do, confronting your fears and exposing your suffering. The Inner Critic can leave and let you be. Watch them leave, watch them go far away or in the box or room now until they disappear.
Pause a moment. Let this image go. Relax and take a long, deep breath.
Now, come back to where you are. Feel your body, its denseness. Feel the chair, floor, or bed. Bring with you your feelings and impressions of the guided imagery.
*subtitles by InnerSelf
©2013 by Michael Samuels and Mary Rockwood Lane.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from
Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing. beyondword.com
This article was adapted with permission from Part 1 of the book:
Healing with the Arts: A 12-Week Program to Heal Yourself and Your Community
by Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane Ph.D.
Through art projects — including visual arts, dance, writing, and music — along with spiritual practices and guided imagery, Healing With the Arts gives readers the tools to heal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ailments. Acclaimed by hospitals and caretakers from around the world, Healing With the Arts brings a proven 12-week program out of the medical community and into your home and neighborhood. Internationally known leaders in the arts in medicine movement, authors Michael Samuels, MD, and Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD, use creativity and self-expression to pave a path to healing. Whether using it to improve your personal health or the health of your community, join the thousands of people who have already awoken their innate healing ability through art.
About the Authors
Michael Samuels, MD, is the co-founder and director of Arts as a Healing Force. He teaches at San Francisco State University's Institute of Holistic Studies and is the author of more than 20 books including the bestsellers The Well Body Book, Seeing with the Mind's Eye, and The Well Baby Book.
Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD, is co-founder and co-director emeritis of Shands Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida, Gainseville, where she teaches creativity and spirituality in health care. She is currently conducting research on creativity and spiritaulity at end of life. She is the co-author of five books including Creative Healing and Spirit Body Healing.