Tag Archive | Zen

Creative Medicine for Pain Relief

One of my Colorful Manadalas

One of my Colorful Manadalas

I have discovered that some of the best medicine for pain relief is creativity!  There are so many benefits to engaging in Creative Therapy.  For me, the number one benefit is: distraction.  My mind becomes immersed in the activity at hand and before I know it I am no longer focused solely on my pain. It’s like the physical pain has transferred from my body to the page.  This technique is also extremely helpful in combating emotional and mental pain.  It can help one express the deep, painful feelings that can overwhelm without an outlet for release.  It can help one move towards healing.  Creative Therapy can help reduce stress, anxiety and tension.  I also find this approach deeply meditative; it can lead me into almost a trance state where my calm spirit is separated from my hurting body.  The pain becomes a distant entity.  It allows me to literally take a break from my pain. 

And the best thing is that you can do Creativity Therapy on your own or with a group, for no or little money, and at any time in almost any place (don’t know if I’d try it in the elevator, but you never know!).  If you are more comfortable learning techniques from someone else, there are certified Art Therapists and many cities offer Creative Wellness Centers with classes and open sessions.   Another option is to find a group of like-minded people on Meetup.com or to look into classes available at local churches, community centers or adult-ed classes at local high schools.

But, I want to take a time to explore all the options for doing Creative Therapy in your home.  Don’t get stuck up by saying, “but, I’m not an artist!”  This isn’t about creating “sellable art,” this is about free expression through creative outlets.  There is something for everyone and no one ever has to see your creation if you don’t want them to!  Here are some ideas to get you started…

  • Coloring Books!!… I find these extremely soothing.  My favorite are Mandala coloring books from Dover (found for <$5 on Amazon, etc.).  Mandalas have been used for centuries as meditation tools.  After mine are colored, I keep them to stare into when I am feeling stressed or in pain (sample above).

    "Sacred Place"  Collage

    “Sacred Place”
    Collage

  • Collaging… rip up pictures in old magazines and glue them onto a larger sheet of craft paper.  I love to collage “vision boards” ofthings I hope to achieve in my future, of things that make me happy (sunsets, babies, waterfalls) or of placesI’d like to visit.  You can make “word boards,” random collages, or collages that form a larger picture (like my “Sacred Place” ex.)
  • Knitting or crocheting… there are even weaving circles (at craft stores) for beginners that create a finished scarf!
  • Cross-Stitch or Latch Hook… with so many ready-made designs to choose from.
  • My Tasty Gluten Free Fruit Tart

    My Tasty Gluten Free Fruit Tart

    Cooking or Baking… yes, this is a creative activity, too!  Make something just for the heck of it.  I find this option very Zen; I spend thoughtful, purposeful time creating a visually appealing dish only to have it devoured soon after. Talk about a lesson on impermanence!

  • Gardening… create a pretty combo pot for your deck, porch or sunny window.
  • “Scratch-Off Books”… you can find these at the craft store; there are images hidden beneath black that you scratch away with the provided tool to uncover scenes beneath.
  • Zen-Tangles!… an awesome, new take on doodling.  Look for books online or in the library to get you started. Once you pick up a few different patterns, all you need is a sharpie and a notepad to create interesting, engaging, repetitive pieces anywhere.
  • Card Making… make cards with any of the techniques above and then spend a little time writing a personal note to a friend, loved one, or even yourself!
  • Photography… a great way to get you out in nature and become mindful about your surroundings.
  • Simple Beading… string a pattern of beads on elastic or “memory wire” to create a meditation mala/bracelet (say a mantra for each bead as you “travel” around your wrist).
  • FiMo… PlayDough for adults!  Roll and shape into abstract or formed designs and then bake them.
  • Decoupage… buy a cheapy cardboard trinket box at the craft store and use ModPodge to paste on collage pictures. Coat with an extra layer of ModPodge to seal.
  • Origami… I love trying to reach my life long goal of a “1000 Cranes for Peace”

PHEW!!!! Now pick just one and indulge your creative self today!  Then let me know how it felt and if you have any other ideas to share!

Here’s another blogger’s take on Creativity and Emotional Expression : http://myfibrotasticlife.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/the-importance-of-outlets-to-express-emotions/

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“I Have Arrived. I Am Home.”

white lotus by Tamara P.These three simple words have changed my life dramatically.  I first came across this straightforward mantra: “I have arrived” in a novel by Paulo Coelho.  In this compelling text, he discusses using it daily as a reminder that each of us, in each moment of our day, is exactly where we belong.  “Let go of the idea that the path will lead you to the goal. The truth is that with each step we take, we arrive. Repeat that to yourself every morning: ‘I’ve arrived.’” (The Witch of Portobello).  I followed this suggestion and now use it as a tool at the end of my morning prayers-reflection-meditation.  I pause, take a deep breath, open up my arms to the world, palms up and say, “I’ve Arrived!”  I say it with gusto.  I say it with conviction.

I didn’t begin this practice feeling overly confident about these three words.  Could they really make that much of a difference?  But, at the same time, I realized that it couldn’t harm anything by trying.  Now, after some 40 odd days of this daily practice, I can see that it has clearly made a difference.  It is a not so subtle reminder that my only “job” is to be fully present in each moment.  We’ve all heard this before, in one form or another.  But it’s an abstract concept, one that’s difficult to grasp in the rush of everyday living.  They are words that can easily be said, but are not often truly felt.  I have now crossed this barrier and in doing so, have developed a deep desire to share this technique with others.  I encourage you to try it, even if you feel silly or cynical.  What do you have to lose by giving it a go?

The concept behind the mantra “I’ve arrived” is a deceptively simple one.  By stating these words, you bring yourself, mind, body and spirit back to the present.  It’s almost impossible not to.  In the beginning, it may only be for that one moment after the words leave your lips.  But after repetition, those moments become minutes and then hours, until this thought fills your days.  I now find myself walking through life with an inner smile; I feel like I have my own little secret.   And when I find my mind drifting into the future (which it naturally will do) I remind myself to repeat the mantra, “I have arrived.”  I think there is a key in repetition; in not changing the words or the format, always repeating the same mantra until it becomes your own calling card.

As I was sharing my “revelation” with a friend, she said she was familiar with this practice, but from a different source: Thich Nhat Hanh.  I researched this and discovered he takes this process a little deeper and incorporates it into the daily activity of walking.  He speaks of walking meditation as a way to connect body and soul with the here and now. Through intentional, mindful walking, “We generate peace within our body, our consciousness. We embrace and heal the pain, the sorrow, the fear in us, and that is the ground for helping peace to be a reality in the world.”  He takes two natural processes; walking and breathing and adds a third element, the mindful mantra.  His suggestion is to measure your breaths to your gait, pacing as such; breathe in, take three steps; breathe out, take three steps.   As you get the rhythm going, add these two mantras:  on the inhale: “I… Have… Arrived.”  And on exhale:  “I… Am… Home.”  But what does this all mean you may be wondering.  By saying “I’ve arrived,” you are reminding yourself that you have arrived in the here and now, the only time where life is fully available to you, which is you one true home.  I like to think of it as bring my soul home.  And whenever I think of the word “home”, I think of solace, peace, comfort, and love.  This is the gift you are giving yourself.

This practice, in just over one month, has helped me with my fears and anxiety with my physical pain and mental burdens.  If I have already arrived, then I have nothing to worry about!  The future doesn’t matter, as long as with each step, or each breath I take on this earth, I arrive.  I am naturally going in the direction I am meant to be.  I am keeping my focus and attention ”where my feet are.”  And my feet are always right there, in my present space and time.   The Buddha said, “the past is already gone and the future is not yet here.”  Thich Nhat Hanh likes to remind us that we have an appointment to keep with our life and that appointment takes place in the present.  When we separate ourselves from the present, by either dwelling in the past or projecting into the future, we create a space (a chasm, really) between ourselves and the here and now.  This “space” fills up with fear, pain, anger, grieving, and despair.  But when we bring ourselves back, to live fully in the now, we fill up that space with peace.

“I have arrived.  I am home.”

As these words become practice, you may want to add more lines to the mantra, just one line at a time.   There is no hurry.  We’ve all spent many years far away from “home,” now that you’ve arrived and come back to your Soul Home, there is no rush.  Time is endless.

I have arrived. I am home.
In the here. In the now.
I am solid. I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh