As an arts therapist, I regularly invite art makers to engage with their artworks in a new way. Rather than following the old familiar route of judgement, I ask them to describe what they see, notice what stands out for them, and tend to what happens in their body in response to the artwork. Sometimes I invite them to have a dialogue with the artwork. This may seem strange at first, but awakens new possibilities through alternate perspectives. All this cultivates a deeper relationship with the artwork, and sometimes offers insight into ways of being that may or may not serve.
This process, or way of being in relationship, is not limited to artworks.
I have a personal practice of using the shamanic drum as a vehicle to shift my state of awareness and go within. Sometimes I connect with beings in the inner worlds. Sometimes I set an intention to connect with my womb wisdom. As I journey in the inner worlds, I describe what I notice, listening deeply and tracking my process. I usually journal what I have experienced afterwards.
On a vision fast last year, I decided to do a womb journey to gain some insight into a pain I was experiencing in my ovary. I settled myself on a mound of compacted dirt that a long-departed wombat had created in digging its hole, closed my eyes, and went within. To my surprise, the wise being in my womb said "No. This is not the time. The world is your womb right now".
So, I journeyed back to the surface, opened my eyes and brought my awareness to my surrounds with a soft and wide focus. I let my eyes cast across the landscape lightly, taking it all in. I noticed what stood out for me and what drew my curiosity. There were shapes in the tress and bush: A woman with a line across her heart, and shading over her genitals and belly; A person bowing in prayer. A tree trunk drew my attention more closely. I sharpened my focus, noting that the branches looked like Fallopian tubes reaching out from a uterus. Then I saw that another part of the tree looked like a frog. I wondered about the frog and what it might mean. As I sat with the frog-tree, a possibility opened up and I found the pain in my ovary was gone. I wonder what I might have learned if I had opened a deeper conversation with the frog-tree?
The landscape is alive. Artworks are alive. We are already always in relationship with all things. We can simply open our awareness and choose to cultivate that relationship.
I have a sense that I have barely dipped my toe into this way of relating with the world, and am deeply inspired by Bill Plotkin's stories in'Soulcraft.' I am feeling blessed to have the opportunity to dive into a five-day immersion in these Soulcraft practices of deepening relationship with the world through deep imagery, dreamwork, writing and conversations with the sacred other.
If you'd like to learn more, please visit Soulcraft Australia.
Plotkin, Bill (2003). 'Soulcraft: Crossing into the mysteries of nature and psyche'. California: New World Library
Chelle is a practicing art therapist, researcher, and multi-modal creative. She regularly dives into the unknown to discover what is ready to be born, deepening her trust in the abundantly creative source. For Chelle, art is a means to inquire, express, and transform. If offers the capacity to soothe, making space for new perspectives and ways of being.