BUILDING BRIDGES WITH ARTS ECO THERAPY ENHANCING ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS of PERSON AND PLACE RELATIONS
By.Catherine Meeson © 17.12.2013 All Rights Reserved
What is meant by Arts Eco Therapy? Creative Therapeutic Encounters use this term (it may have been used before, the author is not certain), to describe Arts Therapy based practises with a focus on Environment; - relation with and to the natural world. So it is essentially any process engaged in or engaging with natural world systems, in an artistic, or creative capacity. It can include site specific work, going out into nature and assembling found object sculptures, that are temporal or permanent. It can include stone, wood, earth, water, fire, air elements. There is an awareness of the objects one uses and leaves, with respect to the ability to bio-degrade . One often works in a semi ritualised context, ever mindful of the present and the focus of the moment. It can also be bridging elements of nature into spaces where it does not feature, such as the growing of seeds and tending of small community gardens, plants in nursing homes, or the incorporation of objects into artwork and education in cross curricula in schools, with tactile learning and sensing, and stimulating imagination and metaphoric thought.
By engaging with and the sounds, smells, feeling and tastes of the natural world, we learn by vibrational affinity and experience aspects of our own nature that may be dormant or little used, those often silenced by mental activity, cultural conditioning, and choice. The dominant state of consciousness and activity of the forty hour work week in the urban domain often inhibits access to subtler states of awareness, intuition and empathy. It is important we connect in to deeper instinctual and ancestral forms of knowing, to experience kinship with all life.
Tactile sensing is often a neglected area of learning and knowing, one that once upon a time was much more the norm. Learning by doing, the way of action, of body/ mind unity. Being and experiencing, rather than ingesting words and data from outside of one’s own localized consciousness. Nature based Creative Art Therapy processes are also a way of tapping the collective indigenous roots of a person’s heritage. All cultures have sacred practises and relationship with the earth, and all people cannot exist in health unless our environment, our earth, our air, fire, and water is pure. By interacting with nature and natural themes, we reinforce our positive animal nature, our instincts, our corporeality, whilst safely giving form to the inner worlds of soul. This does not mean regressing into primitive states, but sharpening our sensory apparatus and our instinctual wisdom, our body wisdom. This deep wisdom of the body and matter is often deliberately ignored at a conscious mental level, sometimes as a form of practise as in meditation and training, but often as a form of denial and ignorance.
The primary therapeutic element is always expression; expression in relation. Expression mobilizes the psycho spiritual force (also known as chi, subtle energy, life force, orgone, etc) which in ill health, trauma, or disease and distress often indicates a blockage in the human energy field. There are no quick fixes in such work, there is only process. Patterns need to be mobilized and released, assisting them to shift and be re-patterned into a more desired state, or feeling outcome. Sometimes the trauma one works on is not localised but can have its origin in other life lifetimes.
This year I have been able to learn about a field called Acoustic Ecology, which has some similar philosophical leanings to Deep Ecology, another field I am also learning about, due to the fact that many authors are saying similar things to my own writing in these fields. Whilst we are considering the use of all the senses in learning and knowing, I feel it apt to mention Acoustic Ecology. Acoustic Ecology is the study of the sound of place, from all domains, geophony, biophony and anthrophony (earth sounds, animal, sounds, manmade sounds). It explores the health of place by examining the acoustic profile, which reveals a great deal about relationship and local ecology. Combining Art Therapy with Acoustic Ecology notions is a particular passion for me. This focus is not new however, indigenous cultures have what is called Deep listening practises whereby, listening is a highly active meditative and contemplative practise whereby we learn via sound about relation, to other. If we do not listen deeply we are only on the surface. One involves the listening to and perception of the health of local ecologies and earthly environments, the other involves the listening to and voicing of the persons creative response to health, healing and expression, in relation to all else. So sound can be used as a doorway into greater realms of knowing, carrying immense archetypal and relational information.
As genetic and ancestral light bearers, we enter and stand for all people in our timelines and can heal the pain of our ancestors as expressed and carried forth in the dna by evoking our I am presence, our higher Self, also known as the Overself , the forces of greater light and love, compassion and forgiveness, then we can bring about great change and healing.
At the Platypus festival this year I decided to host the making of a Community Mural. It was themed “Celebrate the River of Life”, ‘join in the making of a community mural to celebrate water, life, and the relationship between persons and the place they live. Also learn about the Earth charter & Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, and ways you can make a difference to your local environment. This was held on Saturday October 12th 12-4pm, at Big Red Reserve, Melton South. It was a free community give away.
This brings us back to the title of the blog, ‘Building Bridges with Arts Eco Therapy’. The time in which we live means that many children often do not have a garden to play in, parents present to take them out into natural spaces due to the demands of living. Not many have access to local waterways and places of beauty or wildness. We must build bridges. Parks often only have play equipment and it is often synthetic, indigenous environments being re-visioned to our liking and resulting in loss of species.. There are fewer and fewer wild untainted spaces where children can explore as they once did, the wilds of nature getting to know the world around them and observe the cycles of nature, and the ways of birth and death in the animal and plant kingdoms. Fences and walls everywhere prevent clear unobstructed views. Walking is now a sacrificed pass time for many. Often where we walk the air is not clean, and there can be many sounds which drive us crazy. We must build bridges. Often the natural spaces are littered with human waste and contamination, which must not be turned away from, it is becoming epidemic and systemic to industrialised living. The sights available to us are not necessarily life enhancing, not are the materials of our living structures and the habits of our day. Therefore it is crucial to provide experiences where people can connect to this ancient instinctual part of self. We are bridging the selves of the past (historical epochs), the instinctual being, to the selves of the present with all the levels of sophisticated knowledge and technology we have adopted and developed. Both levels of self exist yet one dominates, increasingly the technological self, the mental self. We are becoming so abstracted into mind that we are not questioning our creations, and their ability to serve all life. Are they life enhancing of life detracting? For whom ? We are forgetting the earth as we aspire to colonize other planets. These questions need to be asked. We should not embrace everything without question or challenge. We all have to find our own way and establish our own boundaries. And if we are not being taught in school and at home, these important life fundamentals we must teach ourselves. We must find our way, for the Way is no longer clear. Prohibition prevents passage, legislation restricts access, land is something one must have the rights to, being a human being does not necessarily give you these rights. The United Nations declarations are ideals not practised in full .We must build bridges, bridges of understanding, of access, rights, potential, knowing, knowledge and compassion.
The symbology of the river of life is a perfect way to incorporate group experiential process and art therapy methods into community based action and festivities. By celebrating the connection between persons and where they live through engagement with imagery, physical objects/symbols ( wood, rocks, nests, feathers etc), pastel, crayon, paint, and pencil, seeds can be planted which can set a bench mark in the psyche, in the soul of perspective and vision that one can come back to. Such a seed was planted for me plating trees in year 6 of school (age 12), and picking up rubbish as a house captain. Having lost my country of origin and migrated to another country I am acutely aware of some of the issues faced by lack of roots and connection to place. Statistically many of the world’s people are migrants, all facing the dissolution of roots, as we move and shift for many reasons, it takes time to adapt to new places on all levels. We see the wanton destruction of our lands and resources and feel a collective despair and helplessness. This well of feeling needs to be mobilized for healing and rehabilitation.
Platypus festival is environmentally themed, run by a small Friends community group which has worked steadily over the last 6 years on local environment waterway conservation and rehabilitation. It is all volunteer. Through community generated action, local government, and water bodies have become more active in conservation. If you plant it they will come. We need to be mindful of what we are planting. The Toolern is becoming a vital green wedge for the species that remain whom are affected by continued urbanisation and Industrialisation i.e., loss of habitat. They cannot speak, and yet they do through lack of voice. They fade into memory. We can speak, we must care enough to care for them, and for the circle of life. Art Therapy activities can help nurture this caring and reverence for life, and for our precious planet.
By creating a platform of shared visioning of a community ‘River of life mural’, people participate and reflect on what they know, of their relation to. It may be a subjective reflection or overtly expressed, in conversation and imagery. The important thing is mobilising consciousness and awareness. They choose the plants and animals they want to include, bring them to life and give them a home. This subtle act may appear as only an art activity, to some, but requires a degree of presence, awareness and focus, reflection and exploration. It is held site specifically so people are engaged with all senses in the theme. Motor control skill is needed for the activity, and there is no judgement of skill levels and capacity. It draws on a person’s capacity to synthesize and integrate and find a sense of place for their individual offering.
We had adults and children, working together and the end result pictured below is a vibrant mural which grew from one sheet, to twice the height, and was created by many contributors. I thank each person for their effort and hope it some small way it may be a pleasant memory of the Celebration of the River of Life. It may grow in awareness in the heart and mind to flower in some distant decade into many things. This is my hope, the mural is a starting activity but also a seed. It is both seed and fruit of the day.
The great sadness for me is to even call something Eco, as if it was something new, but it highlights the division in the mind and being state. Being is intrinsic and inclusive, is knows self and other yet does not see them as separate but as inter related in mutuality, we nurture the great awakening and realise we are the planters of seeds no matter our station in life. And that what we plant now matters for all time.
Warm regards for Ailsa Gaia for her assistance on the day and being part of this event.
I am a girl from the North who lives in the South...a Minstrel of melody, a wordsmith, creatrix extraordinaire! I Compose sonic tapestries and create visual delights, and tantalize with tales from other times! Multi modal Artist/ Creator with Words, Pictures & Sounds. Ambient Music composer & singer songwriter. Artist/ therapist/ healer.