I recently returned from an incredibly transformative week with my newest group of teacher training students.
And was once again struck by the power of this work to make significant changes in people’s lives.
Through this Wild Heart Expressive Arts Process people become more open to exploring their inner experiences and more profoundly accepting of themselves.
There is a greater willingness to take risks and to try new behaviors, new ways of being and new more expanded identities.
There is a marked increase in the capacity to be courageous and a decrease in self judgment and self criticism.
There is a sense of liberation and being released from ancient stories of lack and limitation.
Joy and playfulness abounds.
Laughter is in the air.
Tears are always welcome.
Anger is celebrated as power.
And love is the currency of the realm.
But then there is the dreaded Post Retreat Crash.
Folks come to a retreat or workshop and get a taste of how magical and amazing their lives can be and then go home and very shortly lose connection to that magic.
I always remind people that one of the MAIN things that makes our time together on retreat so potent is that we engage in powerful daily practices and rituals that are designed to keep the energy moving and flowing and to encourage more openness and a deeper sense of aliveness.
For example, every morning we go to the studio and move our bodies. We have daily dance parties, where we play and connect with each other on a non-verbal level, expressing ourselves fully through movement and sound and music.
Then we form a sacred witnessing circle and morning council where we hold the space to hear each other speak their truth without interruption or judgment. We make room for everyone in the circle to be seen and heard with love, respect and our full attention.
Then we go back to the studio where we practice being present and listening to ourselves through the intutive painting process. Again, making space to express fully but this time with image, shape and color.
There is study and downtime in the early afternoon. And since I always hold my retreats in gorgeous natural environments, there is always the potential to hang out in nature.
In the later afternoon, there is a new teaching presented and the chance to learn and practice a new skill. And then back to the studio to paint.
In the evening there is time set aside to share in partners what you have been learning that day. And space created to ask questions and have discussions about various aspects of the work.
And then we do it all again the next day.
For students in my training these practices are non-negotiable. Folks are expected to show up to them and for them no matter what. They don’t get to pass on them because they’re tired or cranky or just don’t feel like it.
Which is the definition of a practice.
This daily schedule is FULL of practices that are designed to help people feel safe and valued, to step into their power, to go to their creative edges and take creative risks, to form deeper relationships with themselves and each other, to develop a deeper trust in the wisdom of their life force, their intuition and their own creative process, to connect with their spirituality on their own terms.
And it all feels REALLY good. Even when it’s hard or challenging or difficult.
At the end of each retreat, I encourage people to try and maintain their connection to the practices when they go back to their lives. Because the practices DO work.
But the reality is that doing them on your own is often very challenging and difficult.
Because in addition to the daily practices the other thing that gets created at a retreat or workshop is a culture that supports those practices. And these practices are reflective of certain values that are part and parcel of this new culture.
In this expressive arts culture, there is value placed on creativity and making art and expressing yourself fully without worrying about the outcome.
There is the value of kindness and compassion and listening to each other without the need for fixing or problem solving.
There is the value of trusting each others inner wisdom.
There is the value of taking responsibility for yourself around expressing your needs and desires.
There is the value of doing your own inner work.
There is the value of embracing your own power and the value of courageously speaking your truth.
There is the value of allowing yourself to feel ALL of your emotions. And to share them openly in the circle.
There is the value of clearly saying yes and no.
And the value of holding space for each other to be exactly wherever you are.
And then people go home to a whole different culture that does NOT share those values and does not support those practices.
And wonder why they can’t maintain the practices. And blame THEMSELVES because they can’t maintain the practices. Neglecting to recognize that the practices are both an outgrowth of cultural values and are nourished by those same values.
In the dominant culture one of the main messages we all receive is that everything is up to us. As individulas we are supposedly responsible for the totality of our experience and for our sense of well being. So if, for example, we are having a hard time being creative in a culture that doesn’t support creativity that is OUR problem. And if we can’t be creative in the face of a cultural system that actively denigrates our desires and capacity to express our creativity then it is our PERSONAL failure.
Which leaves us feeling terribly disempowered and wondering what is wrong with US.
I started doing this healing work was because I was dissatisfied with the dominant culture.
I never felt at home there or like I belonged. Because MY values and what I deemed important were most often not reflected there.
So I made up my mind at an early age that I wanted to create worlds that DID reflect my values. Which is one of the main reasons why I continually offer my expressive arts retreats.
These worlds that I create are incredibly powerful and healing and life changing. And I am grateful for the brave people who come and join me in co-creating these new cultures based on the values of respect, self expression, freedom, justice and love.
Because these new cultures that embody the values of connection and compassion and fairness are what are going to save us as we navigate our way through the major transitions that we are facing right now AS a culture.
And I am excited and honored to have all of you creative wonders there with me as we remake this new world together.