to live through
to live beyond
in spite of a danger, adversity or hardship
Frankly, haven’t we all dealt with survivorship in some form or another? Although the word is usually associated with cancer survivorship issues, the residue from a life altering event can cling to us, becoming chronic if not addressed. Underlying issues can lie dormant. Unexpressed fears or anxieties can quietly erode our capacity to feel joy. Stress can undermine our well-being. We can become masters at hiding what we are truly feeling.
For over 20 years, I have witnessed how art-making has been a pathway into moving beyond suffering and embracing survivorship. Hundreds and hundreds of cancer survivors, their families and friends and caregivers have experienced this resiliency of the human spirit. Last year, I realized the issues of cancer survivorship are universal and we needed to expand our mission.
My Eureka Moment: Cultivating Creativity for All
In 2015, Healing Icons celebrated 20 of service to the cancer community, mostly right here in South Carolina. The year was filled with teaching our popular Seasonal Saturday Retreats and our monthly series of Lunch & Learns hosted by Lexington Medical Center in Columbia, SC. In late October, we celebrated our 20th birthday with an art-as-healing Communities of Hope Exhibition and by sponsoring a group of Tibetan monks to create a sand mandala of community healing. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds attended daily to watch the monks create, to view our exhibition and to contribute to our Tibetan-inspired community art activities. We had more publicity than we had ever had, and people from all walks of life had a direct personal experience of Art As Healing.
Survivors of Many Things
Visitors to our exhibition told me about the conflicts in their lives. They were survivors, and they wanted to participate in our offering, but most were not cancer survivors. But they were survivors of many things!
Cancer. Loss of a Job. Heart Disease. Divorce. Death of a Loved One. Care-giving. Diabetes. Introverts Living in an Extroverted World. Perfectionism.
There was an unspoken, palpable hunger for healing.
Life-changing, life-disruptive events have the potential to add layers of stress, anxiety and worry into our lives. Instead of pushing through and ignoring the natural side effects that come with change, creativity practices can help usher us through these difficult times with grace and calm.
I realized that stress is stress. When it comes to addressing it, the source doesn’t really matter. What does matter is learning a creative practice that helps us acknowledge it and then let it go. I developed “Mindful Mandalas” as one of those practices. These methods are suitable for all chronic diseases and life-disrupting events, as well as for those who might just need a bit of time all to themselves.
What is Creating Brave®?
Healing Icons has a solid mission with a global vision: to teach art-making as a form of stress reduction and healing. By providing relief and reducing suffering, we make positive change in cancer survivors’ lives!
Now through the cyber-world, Creating Brave’s eCourses are designed from my 20 years of teaching art as healing and are now open to everyone. How cool is that?
Creating – To bring something into existence, to make, to produce new, original things
Brave – Having the courage to face or deal with something uncomfortable
Whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, dealing with medical protocol issues, caregiver issues or survivorship issues…
Whether it’s a chronic illness – cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, arthritis…
Whether it’s a depression or a grief or any kind of life-disrupting event…
Whether it’s reshaping or fine-tuning our lives…
Any one of these can leave us feeling
Overwhelmed. Shocked. Sad. Angry. Hopeless. Stressed. Terrified. Alone. Betrayed. Depressed. Confused.
Drowning in emotions and feelings that are hard to express is a very common side effect of any sort of trauma. When life’s unexpected twists and turns confront us, the existential questions of life swirl around in our minds and usually wind up as a tangled jumble of confusing thoughts. Why am I here? What is my true purpose? What really matters? What happens when we die? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why isn’t life fair? How do I live my life now? How do I make sense of what has happened?
Sometimes Words Are Not Enough
When things are not quite speech-ready, we need another language. A silent, powerful, soul-filled language of color and texture and pattern and form and line and shape. A visual language.
We need a creative practice that can help form our thoughts and usher us forward into survivorship.