The Festival for Healthy Living- A Melbourne Children Hospital Inititiave
I was extremely grateful to be recommended for the Festival for Healthy Living by a wonderful lady in my local community Centre. In 2014 I was employed as assistant artist and the focus was divided between well being and Arts assistant facilitation all rounder one could say. 2015 I was more engaged as an Artist per say in community Arts facilitation.
The Festival For Healthy Living program is a 3 year program that visits regions identified as having special need at community level. In this case it just happened to be my home town, an area of low socio economic status with ample community issues. The focus is for Children and also includes the larger community in capacity building.
We worked as a majority of the schools in the local region with thousands of students all up over two years of work shopping, and it may just continue next year.
The Workshops are held at both Primary school level and High school in a mix of art modalities. The focus is arts health engagement, how the arts can serve as preventive mental health mediums and to increase the general well being in the community, by assisting (intentionally) enhanced peer, family and social relations, more inclusiveness, affect on self esteem/ self worth and dealing with a range of identified issues. We worked with issues such as racism and bullying, literacy and so on.
The children were given the opportunity where possible to choose art form. They got to sample drama, performance, dance, rap, song, music, writing, visual arts, circus with a range of contracted professional practising artists. Even Hoola hooping!
River of Life as Closing Ritual at Staughton college - with community issues and identified personal resources
Engagement levels varied with artform, school and artist teams and the activity its' self. I was engaged across the board assisting with circus stuff, The Sisters and Brothers Project, Visual Arts, Drama and Music. At Melton South Primary school we made masks first as paper mache then as an extended cardboard and mache process which ended up as our wonderful bird heads in the opening parade for the stilt walkers at the Dream Big festival culmination day.
Coburns had all the artists teams. I also worked with Sisters and Brothers, Circus and running an Improvised drama session.
At Melton Secondary we worked in the gym which was a bit of a challenge with sound. Marnie made the wonderful big Wedge tailed eagles with her group, that are a feature animal out on the western plains and of course connected to the Aboriginal creator dreaming story -Bunjil.
Melton South Primary Mask making
It is the opportunity that is important for the children. Sport is a well publicised and supported part of long term health care but the arts, as yet, are not widely understood for their long term health benefits. Whether a person chooses to become a professional artist or just to express themselves, as hobbyist crafts person etc, engagement is the key, self discovery, promoting a sense of joy, risk taking, promoting positive self worth and esteem. It is not about producing finished products of high art, even though we worked towards a grand finale in the second year as the festival event in the big tent, where all schools came together and contributed. See pictures below.
The Day the Circus tent came to town to Dream Big- featuring Shadow play, Melton Secondary college Wedgetailed eagles made by Marnie and co and Kris' tree made with Staughton college kids
The best part for me was not only getting paid, meeting new artists and having the perfect job that was an intersection of my skills, but seeing the kids have a go, learn new skills, make new friends, discover things they did not know before, about themselves, and the arts. Everyone in the community was very proud on our big day and I am so proud of all the kids for their fantastic work, we hope that in some small way or maybe a big way, their encounters with these art forms in ways which are not prescribed curricula, my enrich their lives. It is about having fun, trying and being engaged promoting positive mental health in the process. Who knows maybe we sprouted a few life long arts practitioners in the process, or at least encouraged them on their journey?
Thank you to the amazing and inspirational John Lane, The Royal Childrens Hospital, Linking Melton South, Regional Schools, teachers, Education department and Health workers, and all the fantastic artist teams, what an wonderful project to be involved in, I learnt heaps!
A REFLECTIVE AND PARTICIPATORY COMMENTARY ON MELBOURNE CREATIVE ARTS THERAPIES EVENTS OCTOBER 2012-1013
A REFLECTIVE AND PARTIPATORY COMMENTARY ON MELBOURNE CREATIVE ARTS THERAPIES EVENTS OCTOBER 2012- 2013
Photo- Festival of Ideas Panel
The following conference reports, center around the happenings of the days that I attended with some reflection and commentary. Please note there are some direct quotes, and some quotes which I may not be able to fully qualify( as to the original speaker) that were part of a group discussion or experiential exercise. Attempts have been made to reference accordingly. Some dialogue has been paraphrased with some current reflections. It concludes with a practitioner journal entry inspired by the various events and the questions raised. Apologies in advance if any of the following information regarding titles names etc is incorrect, please advise via contact form.
EVENTS I ATTENDED
Music Therapy Research and Mental Health Symposium - Melbourne University- “Harnessing Directions for the Future”- 19th- 21st October 2012
“Birds of A feather “– Creative Arts Therapies Conference Abbotsford Convent- Saturday 6th July, 2013
“Festival Of Ideas- Healing through Art and the Power of Music” Melbourne University, Sat Oct 5 2013
Music Therapy Research and Mental Health Symposium- Melbourne University – ‘Harnessing Directions for the future’- 19th- 21st October 2012
The Melbourne University event came prior to beginning an Arts based research Honours degree. The drawcard for me was of course music therapeutics. Saturday was open to the public and I attended one of the short presentations of 30 minutes each. Presenting were some of the leading people in the field.
Dr Cheryl Dileo of Temple University Philadelphia 10.45-11.15am
Dr Dileo presented “reflections on biological, psychological, and social relatedness and causes of illness”. Her perspectives were based within the medical model; clinical Music Therapy and included an overview of the evolution of the field since the 1980’s.
11.15- 11.45am Carmen Cheong Clinch- Research in Adolescent Mental Health- PhD candidate
Carmen spoke about the use of music as a form of “self generated therapy, [such as listening, which allowed the] “identity, expression and management of emotions” to occur. Among the issues she voiced, was a concern over the choice of music selection and the debate over some musical styles and genres being a “resource or detriment” to specific populations. She has observed how some people use “music to match mood” and as a form of “escapism, causing detrimental effects”.
11.30-12pm- Dr Helen Shoemark- Honorary Fellow, MCM Inter-subjective Musicality and the link to Mental Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
Dr Shoemark presented on “Inter-subjective musicality in the mother infant dyad”. A program which encourages bonding between mother and baby, via the mother singing. As I understood, the program teaches mothers the value of “contingent singing- voice, gesture, facial expressions”, which assists the babies within the I.C.U ward, through closeness and nurture via the human voice.
1.30-2pm Professor Helen Odell Miller- Anglia Surkin University (Cambridge and Chelmsford). Director Of Music Therapy. “The Ranges of Approaches to Music Therapy in Mental health Care in the 21st Century”.
Dr Odell- Miller discussed Improvisation methods, composed and pre recorded methodology and various approaches to music therapy. She discussed the results of Group Music Therapy sessions of people with Bi polar/ Personality disorder who were four years into therapy. She presented various case study materials with examples of audio visual material. A range of instrumentation was used, with specific goals/ outcomes for the participants. Her study looked at how the music performed, changes over the duration of the study and how these changes filtered into the lives of the participants with how they “feel about themselves”.
Other studies mentioned, looked at Music therapy and PTSD, “an exploratory randomized controlled trial, with mixed methods evaluation”. Forensic Music Therapy- “treatment of men and women in secure hospital settings, with Group cognitive analytic music therapy” and Looking at Music Therapy and changes in Self concept- Research in a women’s prison, in which “songs dealing with grief and loss” were explored by women on small custodial sentences for minor offences, such as “drugs and petty crime”.
2- 2.15pm Cherry Hense, PhD candidate, Melb Uni “The Musical Identities of People Recovering from Mental Illness”. Cherry’s study was conducted with ORYGEN Youth Health and Outpatient Recovery Programs for youth, with “diminished psycho social functioning”. Her work centred around a Collaborative Participatory approach, in which “reconstruction of identity (post diagnosis and illness) out of roles that define illness/ dysfunction-understanding musical identities in recovery from mental illness” is the goal. Her study looks at “What do they need afterwards- helping them to connect and establish”.
2.15-2.45 Dr Inge Nygaard Pederson, Prof Aalborg University, Scandinavia Head of Music Therapy Clinic Aalborg Psychiatric Hospital. “Psychiatric Music Therapy- A phase specific treatment model”.
Dr Pederson presented a case study of a 26 year old male with Schizophrenia hospitalized three times for suicide attempts .Various improvisation methods were used to engage him, “with percussion, and later clapping, vocalising, movement”. She mentioned three phases in the recovery process.
1. Therapist containing
2. Therapist empathic , exploring and challenging
3. Therapist encouraging and confirming
She also made reference to four categories of therapeutic principles. I understood the aim was to establish common understandings between client/ patient and therapist and then seek descriptors of their state what they know and understand.
2.45-3.15 Assoc Professor Felicity Baker Director Uni of Qld. “Song writing for Mental Health”
Dr Baker spoke on the clinical uses of and contexts of song writing. Her presentation looked at the field broadly and reflected on what study was already done and which areas were ripe for further study. She presented a chart which depicted
What we don’t know about the following:
a) Importance of music,
c) Features of creative thought,
d) Impact of therapists’ orientation,
e) Factors that impact process- with environmental, socio- cultural, individual, music technology, and group processes.
According to Dr Baker, much research has been done in environmental factors, individual factors, group, and socio cultural factors but the lesser researched areas were Music Therapist relationship, and Music Therapist orientation and outcomes and the role of Music Technology.
Dr Baker spoke about the importance of these areas of Musical Research from a clinician’s perspective. She presented a study on Comparative Lyric Writing , in which 26 participants from 3 random groups explored both positive and negative lyrical themes, as I understood it through “original song writing, lyric creation and song parody”. The group was followed up on post study to gauge levels of “ownership, satisfaction, achievement and sense of self”. This was of particular interest to me with Song writing and composition as a primary therapeutic medium for persons , including myself over the years (self directed).
All of these approaches were centred within the current Medical model, the bio psycho social model and the psychiatric model, highly engaged within the health field. There was minimal reference to any Transpersonal methods or research. There was some brief reference to shamanic and older cultural methods, but only in passing, and of those referenced it was in relation to integrating practises. I was interested to discover the fields of study, the terminology, the paradigmatic approaches and the usage of instrumentation, words, types of music, cultures, conditions, use of technology, and the type of expression fostered with the lens of interpretation or orientation being crucial to how the findings were presented etc. Saturdays presentations were from the rich of field of study as it is today, with seeds for much further work. I was very much interested in the research methodologies and what constituted research within these fields, prior to committing to and focusing on my own Arts Based research degree exploring music therapeutics in composition.
Later in this blog I will come back to the notion of Song writing and lyrics/ musical genre with commentary on their place in healing, from a transpersonal perspective, in relation to questions asked by an audience member at the Festival of Ideas.
‘Birds of A Feather’ – Creative Arts Therapies Conference: Abbotsford Convent- Saturday 6th July, 2013
The Birds of a Feather is a fledgling event which brings together the main Arts Therapies governing bodies to encourage cross disciplinary dialogue, networking and appreciation. In its second year the participatory bodies include members from Dance movement Therapy Association, Australian, Music Therapy Association, Australian Creative arts Therapies Association and Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association and others including fields such as Drama therapy and Play therapy or ‘other’ interested other parties.
The day included presentations, and body based experiential work . Presenting members from each organisation gave an overview of the field which they practise and represent.
Dance Movement Therapy Association- Jane Guthrie. The DMTA had it’s genesis in the 1960’s and DMTA became incorporated in Australia in 1994. Some of the members greeted us with a dance presentation to oral narration with a sequence of evocative words, . Most work is done within the adjunct health field, in wellness positions integrated into more mainstream fields. Dance movement therapy works with “mirroring and kinaesthetic awareness” ,and explores body attitudes, expressions and polarities”. The essence includes “spontaneity, improvisation and playfulness”.
AUSTRALIAN MUSIC THERAPY ASSOCAITION Lucy O Grady and Meaghan Hunt-
This presentation was delightful in that it covered the origins of the field and association in song and lyric, with substitution to “From Little things big things grow”. Conveyed was the essence of getting people involved, accessing improvisation, , an musicality, with song writing, mirroring. This presentation included a brief consideration of How music therapy is different to common education and common music?”, with reference to music as therapy and music in therapy. There is consideration of both the difference and the relation between them. “Music Therapy as a profession is research and practise based, to improve health and wellbeing”. It is intentional in usage and one has to be a registered practitioner. It incorporates music making methods, receptive methods and Helen Bonny’s Guided Imagery and Music”.
ANZATA/ ACATA/CTAA- Jacqueline
CTAA Is a governing body of all modalities offering membership and professional development for members in different modalities. It is based in New Zealand and works with “the N.Z Association of Councilloors “ .
Covers the wider Pacific region open to members in the Sth East Asian region. Minimum requirements are Masters Level qualification with extensive training, clinical practise and supervision hours. It offers professional development, and a Peer Reviewed journal .
ACATA- Carla Van Laar
For multi modal arts based practise, emerged out of RMIT graduate research presentations/ collective circa in 1998/2000. Is mainly volunteer, and has a policy of” inclusivity and diversity”. As a body it is open to different levels of membership, with trainee, associative and professional levels. ACATA offers professional development , E-news, and CATS in conversation , a peer supervisory get together focusing on the creative arts, therapy and health.
NECTA- Network Exploration Creativity through Art- an internet group for Drama Therapy.
A timeline was constructed on the stories and histories of the Arts Therapies , with sticky notes placed on a large scroll like timeline on the floor, all main events and occurrences known to the participants were included. We then engaged in a informal Movement and Gesture based introduction, with questions of relevance to practise, goals, and experience etc.
The day was further divided into preferred experiential ‘ Break Out Sessions’ over four rooms. Cross disciplinary teams had been established to present group work on a theme. I attended the following.
‘Responding to social cultural and relational diversity through arts therapy’- Kevin Jeynes and Kim Dunlop. The leaders have worked within culturally and socially diverse settings.
This was a fun playful session, involving mirroring, and dancing to old time music, we were asked to “ think about diversity and difference issues for you today- Professionally”. We did a movement based exercise and drawing of 6 pictures, with a group offering of 1 word each in turn. We considered what do we know now that we did not before . With time given for reflection.
‘Trauma and resilience; the body as expressive tool and musical instrument’- Kirsten Meyer and Meagn Hunt.
Basic working backgrounds were given for each leader. With context for our session which included Royal Childrens trauma ward and Sth African working with “children and adolescents [where] brutality & trauma is a way of life”. We began with a lovely circular breathing exercise. We engaged with body sculpting, breath, voice, embodying words and group work. The discussion afterwards reminded us to be mindful of client boundaries and comfort zones. What is easy for us can be very confronting for the client. Kim spoke about dance and drama and how people working with the body need to step in and out of role. The importance of de-rolling was emphasized. We were advised not to ask for words in trauma, due to re traumatizing, though they may come up, to assist them to stay with the body. We also discussed if within diverse settings if mirroring is ever regarded as confrontational, and what suggested boundaries may need to be considered. Practitioner discernment was urged with client awareness, as some can “perceive mirroring negatively “if they are not ready. In cultural contexts where words may be an issue, one is encouraged to go straight into movement. A story was told whereby in an African village, they began with dance due to communication issues and the whole village followed bringing out drums , and the practitioners then followed. In movement therapy “ challenge to work without instruments just using voice, body, rhythm”. Kevin spoke about multimodal approaches and pre reflection/ reflectivity, taking time for immersion and meaning making. Movement, drawing words, are the portals for exploring “what we now know”, and how we “can take it into our lives”. Different modalities as offerings, choosing a mode that is less explored can facilitate new approaches, appeal and challenge for the client. We were encouraged to remember the “different ways and reasons to use or invite different modes”. In response to this I wrote“ modes – as musical, imbued with different feeling types, multi modal – from different aspects and potentialities, offering a capacity to express” as my thoughts.
In the general discussions we were reminded to trust the not knowing and client leadings by Kirsten Meyer. The experience of “levels of trauma being both physical and emotional, internal and external” needs to be kept in mind. We discussed the strengths of modalities/ tools, and the need for taking small steps in appreciation.
Dr Patricia Fenner and Dr Jan Allen concluded the day facilitating a fishbowl discussion, with postcards as openers with the theme for discussion an ‘ Experiential felt sense focus’. “Calling it a mutual appreciation society” of “similarity and difference”. We were encouraged to “take risks to facilitate process and progress in the field”.
There were a few hundred people in attendance
Festival of ideas- The art and Science of Wellbeing “Healing through Art and the Power of Music” Melbourne University 5th October 2013
This presentation was part of the large Festival of Ideas which ran over five days, with public lectures and forums discussing Environments, food and nutrition, Families, Brains and Minds, and Democracy, with an overarching question “Is it possible to sustain a healthy society and a healthy planet by 2050?. Healing through Art and the Power of Music was held on day four , as part of Brains and Minds, chaired by Dr Norman Swan, with speakers, Assoc Prof Sarah Wilson ( Melb Uni), Assoc Prof, Neil Mc Lachlan ( Melb Uni), Dr Eugene Coh, Dax Centre and Assoc Prof Robyn Slogett, Director of Cultural materials Conservation. Sade Carrington, Guja Women, of Warum community. N.T.
Prior to entering the auditorium attention was drawn to an interactive display , a collection of sticks open for participants commentary for the future, to be part of Bunjils Nest. My contribution was “May future vision be guided by eye and ear, aligned with the hearts of all humanity”. Bunjil in Aboriginal lore is a creator being and guiding spirit of the region, held in positive regard. The presentation was in the form of propositions with discussions.
Proposition 1. Singing and Music
Community choir and sing song was presented as a documented inner need, known cross culturally as a form of expression which nurture belonging, community, health etc.
We engaged with a group experiential mantra and movement exercise, with the following “ music can heal body, soul, brain, all you go to do is sing”. We began with a brief mindfulness sensing and breathing of the body, both before and concluding with the same exercise to notice the differences. The audience participants were questioned re body activation / energy and mood, and feeling state. This was challenging neurologically, engaging both hemispheres with song, and movement, activating both sides of the body, , engaging rhythm, timing, voice, observation, memory, so in essence it was a highly stimulating exercise and demanding neurologically. The audience entrained well to each other’s pitch and movement. Personally I felt very uncoordinated, and made lots of mistakes, highlighting the reality of unfamiliarity and the building of neural pathways through the repetition of movement and song. A highly amusing and integrative ritual for the group.
Afterwards Dr Wilson presented some of the latest findings on neural plasticity and singing with a visual display of why it is important. “Singing increases brain efficiency and activates pleasure networks” stimulating endorphins. Singing is both meta-plasticity promoting and neuro-protective according to Dr Wilson. It stimulates autoimmunity, cognitive function, emotional and physical functions. She briefly discussed the role of music in “social cohesion, sharing, community, evolutionary development and transcendence (both religious and cosmological)” And we concluded with an African tribal chant in waves “ am ee booo eeh ehh” or some such! Which apparently is “chanted before meetings for social cohesion” and one could say entraining the whole group mind / field, an exercise in coherence.
Art- with Sade Cunningham , Indigenous Art and Community School Giju community N.T
The panel discussed the “far reaching scope of indigenous art, in purpose, and cultural relevance- purpose, tradition, cultural continuity, income, work tourism and expression”. We were introduced to the history of the Bow School in the 1970’s which explores history, culture, learning and dreamtime. It was at a request of the Elders that the school came into being, “it teaches people two ways, people can go which way”. Warmun is the gallery. It contains work from the local artists of the land and history, done in ochre, which celebrates place and relationship. We were told how a flood damaged the gallery and how Melbourne University helped to restore the work via state of the art preservation and restoration processes. Sade shared how she loved to paint Pink Floyd dreaming- which got a big chuckle from the audience. Prof Slogett said “we must nurture culture to keep people strong and life meaningful”.
After the sessions the Polling questions were presented which people could vote on, on twitter . Unfortunately i did not mange to get all the questions in my notebook. I did capture:
How do we convince Government and policy makers the importance of music for health?
Of the polling questions
We should sing every day and We must nurture culture to jeep people strong and life meaningful won the vote.
One of the audience asked Dr Wilson and the music therapists about Relevance of types of lyrics? Expression, in relation to mood. This is where I will give commentary.
What all the above have in common is the evolution of Creative arts Therapies in the 21st century as a valid method of enhancing personal and social wellbeing and as paths to healing. Such technologies ,methodologies and forms are nothing new however ,being part of our collective meaning making apparatus and as core elements of the transmission of culture, expression and identity of individuals and groups in all cultures. The arts always a have central role. Conventional therapies and methods can be limiting and the caring professions have diversified into many sub disciplines and specialities within the physical and psychological levels. Spiritual care is left to religious or cultural practitioners, or in some cases the remerging shamanic paradigm revitalised as part of expanded Transpersonal paradigms and methods. What of the social domain? Do we have Dr’s of society and community, or is it enough to assure we can do all we can to heal the community through the individual?
We are part of a larger social fabric which also has its flaws, shadows and underworld and how the interaction between the different strata of a society influences all aspects of personal and social functioning need to be considered. The understanding between rich and poor, the divisions of knowledge between the doctors and the patients, the specialists and the ignorant. How do we get the people who could benefit from the Creative Arts Therapies beyond prejudice and personal blockages and limiting belief systems? How do we help those whom have had negative experiences with conventional care to partake of its benefits, when many were wounded by the conventional systems and models like, schools, and other institutionalised forms, of social governance which do not always nurture the individual but rather suppress and try to normalise. Cultural conditioning has a huge influence on the psyche of people. How can they come to know themselves, if they cannot strip away the chains of dominant culture. One can not hope to re feather the nest without decent feathers!.
This raises questions about the role of art and about the place that the impulses have in the creation of and expression of culture? The culture that nurtures, the paradigm and practises that shape the mind and materials. The arts are intrinsic to human being. From our early years we mould and shape, we explore and express the creative impulse , we vocalise doodle, play. Our expressions become refined and habituated into patterns that conform to our culture, but the urge is primordial.
The inner connection needs to be made, as to what Art is. It has become monopolised, become a product, taken from being a process or craft to one that is subservient to an economic paradigm. The arts were skills, its practitioners; often medicine men, and women , shamans. We preserve and transmit out cultures via our art. It s is so esteemed we have the Reorich Pact ( founded by Nicholas Reorich in 1935) which is an International symbolic agreement and pact which honours the recognition of places of culture during times of war, that is supposed to protect such places that display its banner to preserve our common heritage. Maybe the discussion should shift not to the Arts as therapy but the fundamental nature of the creative drive as it manifests on all levels of civilisation, whether western, eastern or indigenous, to meet the needs of peoples both practical, emotional, and spiritual. It is an uprising from within, a light in the dark, the water in the well.
So what does this have to do with organisations and institutional events? The events are for practitioners, researchers, educators and those interested in exploration and dialogue and sharing information. The arts therapies are meeting with increased effectiveness from, the most cutting edge of sciences, neuroscience. Technology is now able to demonstrate aspects of the arts effect- as measured by neuro imaging, heart rate monitoring, brainwave monitoring, respiration, and galvanic skin response etc which highlight various physiological responses and mind body interfaces. We can quantify the effects to a degree of meditation and visualisation, we can see the brain light up like a light bulb from memory recall of a passage of music. With this data, practitioners are able to report on the effectiveness and usefulness of techniques and methods used during studies from within the scientific medical model, providing data and information that is both quantified and qualified. Yet not all effectiveness can be determined by objective measures. Subjective reporting is just as crucial and arts based research places equal credence on process and creative work itself. That which rests within the client centred, person centred mode is often more revealing than data and scans. Subjective responding captures the transients of experience, the blips on the radar. So ‘the experience’, the effect perceived by persons are a result of direct experience and perception. They are experiential, whether or not they can be articulated. We all have varying degrees of awareness of internal processes- emotional, energetic, and the transpersonal realms.
What has emerged is the clear demarcation between art as product and art as process which is often spoken about. Art as product is the result of creators whose work is then taken into the commercial domain and objectified, commoditized. But it can also just be the result of ones tangible effort in the tangible form. In therapeutics we are gaining increased perspective from multiple disciplines, which ‘make visible’ so to speak the process of and the subjective aspects of art making and participation. That is what is important to someone, what they experience, not what is put on them from outside. The arts therapies honour the primacy of experience.
Arts Therapies work as they are action based, body based, whether dance, music, visual arts or drama. They employ emotional and symbolic intelligence; they integrate archetype, the personal and collective and give shape and form to the worlds within. They can be indicators of concern for some things, but should not be judged. They can be purely symbolic and also literal. Some methods are analytical some appreciative. The Transpersonal approach and methodologies are appreciative in nature. Creative arts therapies have no place for judgement or process or product. They are about participation and connection. They involve all sensory mechanisms visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory elements. They allow us to qualify beyond prescriptions of form, and yet the type of prescribed form- visual sculptural, dramatic, social, dance, qualify in very unique ways.
This I understood inherently as a multi modalist or cross disciplinarian. Sometimes words on paper, poetry or prose or story are necessary, others dynamic and active methods, lyric or melody, or instrumental composition to give voice to things that are too difficult to express in words. Sometimes the rhythmic free form movement of the body from within, dancing, others the finesses of a pencil or brush, or the carving of hebel and scraping back, and smoothing of moulded clay. Recently my development explored the Performance arts, drama domain, which is able to qualify and integrate all other methods of the above with mixed media methodology. Art is not confined to tools of time, it always seeks to integrate all that has gone before and as we grow and evolve our ingenuity and desire to express grows with us. High tec can be used therapeutically, film making , documentary, etc. We are all inherently creative, to be creative is to be human. But some get bowled over along the way or chose to channel their energies, their consciousness and life force in other creative forms, landscaping, medicine, law, building engineering. All involve the creative process in some way shape or form. To be a human being is to be creative. So why not when we are troubled would we not turn to the arts? All people have a culture.
RESPONSE TO KEY QUESTIONS RAISED
One of the key questions that arose during the Festival of Ideas presentation I attended are “How do we convince policy makers and governments the importance of art and music for health?” By increasing innovation in application, by building bridges of method and practises within community, by nurturing creative thinking and responsiveness. By documenting the results, by researching and applying new insights to age old problems. By consolidating the knowledge and methods of the ages that is already in abundance in our cultural law and re-contextualising it for the 21st century. By collaboration work between Industries, the health sector, government, and arts organisations, and philanthropical and private practitioners. By encouraging the sharing of knowledge. By continuing to hold forums and educate. By being engaged in the discussion of new ways and paths and by being innovative. The kind of progress we need is at the consciousness level, at the relational level, where human being relates to human being, where human being relates to the world around them. As a fellow creative my assertion is that we need to encourage experiential methods directly to increase knowing. If we provide an experience, many flowers will bloom in the fields of human endeavour.
Another question that was asked , paraphrased was “What is the relevance of types of lyrics in healing and therapy?” For healing, any type of lyric can be therapeutic depending upon the desired result. Intentions is everything. If people are using music themselves, they will gravitate to whatever they need dependent upon their musical resources, stimulating calming, happy sad. If a person struggles to articulate sorrow listening go sorrowful lyrics may help them to feel sorrow, mobilise the energy centres and carry on in day to day affairs stemming off a deep depression in the process. If they get stuck and habituate it could be more about phase of life, global picture, character disposition, environment, pathology many things. All of this the global picture needs to take into account. Stuckness indicates blocked energy , consciousness trapped in a pattern of the past, that is constantly recycling. It can be productive or counterproductive, these are also the so called loops, which influence our sense of self immensely beyond our conscious awareness. It is how we express and contextualise and what structure we give to the experience that makes the difference. If a person is deeply suffering, troubled or distressed, it is not who they are, it is what they are experiencing. Underneath the experience is the human being. By recasting them in the human lens, not the psychiatric model, not the medical model, we can bring relief. Certain lyrics may act as triggers, and be counterproductive, certain lyrics may be just the medicine. The same can be said with many of the various parameters known to have significant effect on psycho spiritual functioning and biological functioning. As our temperament and vibrational make up differs, it is reflected in our choices, some music to enliven, some relax, some to inspire, some to grieve, some to vent anger, some to express power, some to express justice. They quantify our consciousness and the localisation of our psychic energies from an energetic viewpoint, they could be heart chakra based, solar plexus, crown based, base based. They are an expression of a transient state. All music is an emanation of energy and we must consider it as a physical force, effecting us on this level of vibration. It stirs, it moves us, energetically, and aesthetically, cognitively and spiritually, aesthetically, symbolically and archetypally. Lyrics talk about feelings, trauma, events, political critique, opinion,. Critique is not negative. To call it negative is to judge it. One may qualify by how it makes one feel, and this is where subjectivity comes in. I would draw the line at overt satanic lyrics or things inciting hatred and murder, or the taking up of any of the darker human impulses. If people are writing lyrics, it comes from a within place, but may also come from trying to please and being told what to do. To give license to be authentic is the most therapeutic thing one can give. For trusting all is transient and will pass, like the dao. Mobilizing energy is what is important and understanding what is potentially dangerous. Our fears often reveal more about us and our incapacity, than that which we fear. Not all of what I have articulate here I have been able to sing, that is where instrumental music is brilliant, each instrument acting like a voice for a different aspect of self, going beyond words into pure feeling states or levels of thought and imagery that can serve growth and expression in the moment. Words can be raw and instruments make good substitutes in such cases. In a therapy situation with groups the Iso principle would guide. And after the process with any lyric ensure a re- orientation to the everyday waking state, with adequate time to process experience and reflect. I speak from the point of view of a long time songwriter and composer. I speak from the perspective of one who has struggled with articulating and lyrics as part of my journey, not creating the words but singing them. I come from the perspective of one who has done her own research due to life experience and transpersonal experiences to find her own answers, finding validation all along the way, and going on to specialize in an honours degree in aspects of music therapeutics, cementing 16 years of private research/ readings.
So whether personal, as author of lyrics during a set therapeutic process, lyrics can be wonderful. I think there is a lot of fear around dark energies and litigation because not many people will truly face their shadow material and many who have not lived it do not know how to handle it. Practitioners and therapists fear people getting stuck, which is why one needs to trust the patient’s own inner healer and assist with personal sovereignty. If we clearly articulate the purpose of the work and hold the space according to therapeutic codes, we have covered our bases. Beyond roles as persons, this will always be the core. Persons trying to help other persons. Yes, we should trust the inner intelligence of others we meet. I am not a trained music therapist yet have used writing music and singing as a form of self expression and therapy since I was 12. I have completed my honours in composition with a focus on music therapeutic aspects and traditions and soundscapes, I am intimately acquainted with the healing aspects of music and sound. The arts have always been my therapy and it is not just a few years of higher education for me, it is a lifetimes of practise, and just because my work has not been commercially available or renowned does not mean I did not engage in the work or reap therapeutic benefit from it. If it were not for the arts, I would not be alive. I sought out formalised skills, to accredit what I knew intimately and contextualise it within the knowledge of the day, apart from my own spiritual journey along the wounded healer archetype. I have a deep interest in this work, and facilitating and educating, advocating for the arts as process and product. I do feel it is important to remove the veil of the ‘qualified art’ at times, as it can act as a barrier of separation , a lock of knowing that can create too great a power divide. Person to person, inner authenticity trusting the inner authority of one’s own lived experience is the way forward.
My current studies are affirming my own life experience. If I had music sight reading skills, I may have pursued an official Music Therapy road but I do not, and yet I do not think that is my path. I do feel it is also bound by too much convention and the transpersonal picture and perspectives of collective knowledge of all human kind through time about music and the healing arts and healers, role of healers is extensive. In times gone by, the storyteller was the healer, musician was the priest, dramaturge was shaman, visionary medicine women. It is an old archetype, an old tradition, putting on new skins, skins of the 21st century. The tools and methods are expanding into the technological, realm, but the essence remains. The arts are about our hearts, all of who we are, light dark and all shades in between, the most sacred and the most profane, the economically degraded to the esteemed and refined therapeutic ways. The arts are about who we are, they are the articulation of our beingness. With that statement I now close. I offer Workshops exploring the role of Music and Sound in health, healing and relation of person and place, and composition for therapeutic purposes, please feel welcome to enquire.
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.
ARTS ECO THERAPY HEALING OURSELVES AND THE PLANET AT FETE LA FROG
© Catherine Meeson Creative Therapeutic Encounters
On 23rd March I was able to contribute to a lovely grassroots festival called Fete La Frog, which was a collective celebration of Environment, culture, the arts, Healing and positive change. As always happens with small festivals , the atmosphere was warm, family friendly and pro active.
I held an Arts Eco Therapy themed workshop for Healing Ourselves and Healing the Planet. This is an area I am most passionate about, for healing cannot occur without considering the greater relations of which we are a part in the dynamic flux of life. The elements which make us all up, the Earth, the Air, the Fire the Water, are teachers in process. Artefacts of nature serve as tools of awareness, for resonant practise and reflection for persons own healing and also serve as doorway to invite action for reciprocity in the larger world. For , we seek healing for ourselves, but what of the world around us? We can’t stop with just ourselves, not once we gain understanding and a greater empathy for all beings. Not once we know how things are related. We are not talking about a level of scientific understanding of facts and statistics and clinical methods, but the intrinsic interwoven nature of the very fabric of existence, our relation to and with.
The workshop space was in a lovely progressive chapel, we worked on the floor in front of the Organ pipes . A while ago my son was given a globe light of The Earth, which was a beautiful centrepiece for the space, and we shared a collection of earthly artefacts, things from water, air, earth, and fire; we have to settle for a candle symbolic of the greater spirit indwelling; for fire. Through tactile sensing and reflective practise people are able to find the message in the moment on their journey, and express in given media . For me, holding the space , it is about creating openings for people, and awareness, providing the tools and prompts for exploration. I am thankful to the participants and hope the process was able to serve their journey and the prompts will continue to inspire thought and action about the reciprocal nature of healing and relating and how we might branch out into community to offer service for healing the Earth as well as Ourselves.
CREATIVE THERAPEUTIC ENCOUNTERS: ‘THE PAIN BODY- DEPRESSION P.T.S.D & MEDICAL STUFF’ ©Catherine Meeson 30.1.2013
Depression is a master thief; and trauma like a parasitic organism slowly consuming the host from within. Neither discriminate, they occupy inner space, our Psyche-scape like a company of grand Inquisitors. They render us ever guilty, enslaved to the tombs of the past, the body bound in a torturous momentary glimpse.
IT is true what they say; the only way out is through. One must learn again what it is to be human, to walk amongst the land of the living.
The ‘Pain Body’ is a term I came by in my own healing journey, it is the total body of PAIN. All of it, across all levels, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. It is this that triggers, in acute and chronic P.T.S.D, the physiology of traumatic conditioning programming ones body, into a locked moment of time. We become entombed in this past repository and often even when we work hard and will it to be otherwise, it still ensnares us. The healing of the pain body takes time,- psychologically but the healing of the body is not to be underestimated in importance. This BODY needs to be rewired, reconditioned so that the pathways the trauma traversed become obsolete and the charge retained within the nervous system can slowly dwindle away as we reclaim our life and body. Physical therapies and activity are essential. We must equip people with the knowledge of what has happened to the body and why the symptoms can recur. Conventional talk therapy is not necessarily going to work. All talk no action, when action is needed, to allow the body to process what it never could at the time. Creative Arts Therapies, exercise regimes, massage, nutritional supplements, Chinese medicine, lots of water etc. These are just a few of the ways to support the body. The body needs a lot of support, just as much the as the psyche. Dance, swimming, tai chi, the gym, walking in the forest. It is our home after all, our dwelling in time, and we want to be at home in our bodies, not tangled in fear and trauma.
It can be extremely trying when the Pain Body is linked to medical conditions, chronic conditions, or incurable states, genetic states, the result of accident, or a decision. Especially when these endure. For anyone who battles bodily affliction, the repercussions can be lifelong, and exhaustive. The ripple effect goes through our lives. For some it is short term for others long term. It is ones experience that matters. Ones experience is important, If someone were to try and deprive you of valuable life experience you would feel robbed. Robbed of learning, of opportunity. Even within the pain. Medications can be like this, as can some forced interventions, robbing us of the wisdom of our depth potential due to a social incapacity to handle the condition in other ways. Sometimes the Pain one experiences just comes down to money. If one had more money one could get more help and our health systems could do with a lot more expansion. Many many people suffer alone because they don’t have the money or the knowledge of what they can access to help them. It is essential to know ones human rights and to assert these in the medical domain.
The following pictures are Art Therapy examples of work exploring the physical dimensions of literal pain related to Hepatitis C, and Fibromyalgia. Within these states sometimes all one can do is to find ways to cope, to sail through the stormy tempests when they arise. One day can be fine, the next day we can be plunged deep down, our boat sinking,. Do we succumb to the depths or be as a deep sea diver? I say yes, surrender to the depths , the truth of ones being, explore the murky bottom but make sure you have ways of coming back up for air. Know that others are out on the seas in Life rafts. Check your oxygen supplies- your fellow travellers of life can bring you back again, tug on that olde lifeline, whether friends, therapists, family, organisations, clubs, networks.
Storms pass, pain subsides. Pain can be managed in many ways. The trick is to adapt healthy patterns of pain relief, and therapeutically I believe it is our duty to empower with tools and knowledge so as to foster sovereignty, dignity and independence, not dependency which comes from power relations. The Pain body teaches us about how we respond. It teaches us deep humility and self compassion. For every perceived negative there is the counter weight on the scales, one sometimes needs a good mirror in the form of other, when stuck in the pain to feel the weight, the flipside. Why would we want to hurt ourselves more?
When pain is our norm, we are suffering deeply and suffering is part of the human condition. There is no magic pill, no genetic modification, no vaccine to prevent it. No matter what ones lot in life, pain visits us all; traumas occur; depressions strike or we fall into them. The only way out holistically is through. We may not be able to cure all medical affliction or disability but we can revision and review our world seeing what changes we can make and learn to better love ourselves within it. The key lay in the right tools to proceed on our healing journey. For some they may walk a lifetime with their affliction, or a decade, or it may come and go, the level of healing that occurs is individualistic. Can a person with terminal cancer still be healed? Yes, because healing is about the whole, body, mind, spirit. Through the cancer or other condition comes great teaching, and sometimes release of the pain body in the form of that major life transition called Death..
Artists have been using creative processes since the dawn of time therapeutically, to work out their own salvation , it is not a new practise. It was just a practise, an arts practise, a cultural practise, a personal paradigm of the perceptual art of being in the world. An extension of the self, into the realms of immortality. Being is our fundamental state, as creatures of planet Earth. Our minds may endow us with higher faculties and potentials in relation to other life forms, but they do not make us superior, their working is still dependent on our biological basis, our creature status, our animal-ness. We are not our mind. Mind is part of the greater energy field. Mind is one level of being. Animal instinct, when in pain, is to retreat to lick ones wounds, we must do this and have the support to lick our wounds, the support of our culture to journey through. Medicating is a temporary balm. Healing from suffering takes time and time we have whilst alive. Till next time.....choose in every moment to embrace the presence in the present...the possibility in the present, is the present!
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.