Acceptance and surrender...

I have learnt that any suffering I create now comes from some form of non-acceptance. An unconscious resistance to what is. This may come in the form of judgement from the ego which feeds negative emotions like resentment, hatred, self-pity, guilt or jealousy. From my own experience, I understand that the only way to find peace is to face, accept and surrender to what 'is'. To connect body, mind and spirit in holistic and deep healing.

When you continue to identify with and attach to your pain or negative emotions, your view of people, situations and memories become distorted as you see things through the lens of negativity. It becomes distorted by the old emotional pain you carry that has not been healed. The mind and body are inextricably linked, so these unresolved emotions get trapped in the body. Without healing, here they fester and grow to undermine our well-being.

When understanding thoughts and feelings it is important to also pay attention to the physical sensations felt in the body. This is called the somatic healing process.

For me, this is where mindful Art Therapy comes in.

When overwhelmed by an emotion I let it just 'be'. I accept what is. Pure awareness of the emotion, and the physical sensation that arises in the body. I create a gap between myself and the emotion by not judging or resisting it. Thoughts like "I should not be feeling this way, or "There must be something I should do to eliminate the emotion" only serve to feed the negativity. Instead be the watcher. Allow it to be, and feel the power of the bodily sensations it brings. Allow your body to speak, to express the emotion on the bodily level. Ask your body "Where does this emotion live and how does it feel within me?" What is the message?

A simple art therapy activity to do here is to map out the emotions and where they are felt in the body. On a large piece of paper draw the outline of yourself. Draw a symbolic mark where you are feeling the emotion. For example: a red flame on your neck to show the heat you can feel rising up through your upper body when angry, or a grey rock to symbolise a heavy dull ache in your chest when lonely. Then write next to the marks what the emotion attached to the physical sensation is. For example: you might write the words "The message is I am anger and I am here because I feel betrayed" next to the flame, or "The message is I am sadness and I am here because I feel alone" next to the grey rock.

In this way, Art therapy offers a great way to be watcher of your emotional pain, without verbal interpretation.

Another method I use is visualisation. Close your eyes to visualise the pain in form. I visualise my pain as a big red monster with sharp teeth. At times it can take over my whole body, other times it is centered in one area. I have developed a fondness for this monster as I know it only comes to protect me. In this way I honour it and allow it to be. And then I move that entity through my brush and on to the canvas. I allow the emotional energy to direct the colours, shapes and composition of my painting.

I have come to accept these emotions as part of my self, and in doing so I allow it to come and go as it needs to. I just do not invite them to stay. Pain has been my teacher. Allowing my pain to speak it's truth without resisting and without judgement has been integral to the healing process. I understand that it is not the pain that causes the most suffering, but the resistance I may have to it and the fear I feel towards it.

Next time you feel a negative emotion, identify where you are feeling it in your body. Map it out and then ask it what does it need? Do you need to cry, take a walk, create? Whatever feels cathartic in that moment do it.

Artwork is my own