Reflecting and Discovering Eco-Art Therapy

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As I sit here in the park, my dog runs around to eventually do her business and I get a few minutes away from the business of life. What is it about nature that refreshes the soul? I am delighted to learn about Eco Art Therapy and of the many possibilities. Since this is an integrated approach, I first contemplate all of the benefits from art. Then I do the same with nature. How do benefits change when art and nature combine?

As I contemplate how I interact in nature, I have always experienced the elements as they are and what they want to say to me. What are the clouds saying or what is the wind saying? On this day, there is an overcast of light gray clouds that I welcome. They are like a blanket of comfort to remind me to really take the time rest and renew. While outside, I fill my lungs with the air that I need. Then, a breeze passes by and kisses my cheeks with peace.

While in class, I was grateful for the time and opportunity to interact pieces of nature around me. I was exhausted from an especially extended cold now turned sinus infection. So I found refuge against a statue and surrounded by bushes. The wind flew through these wild bushes and I could meditate on their movement. This method is “grounding” both literally and metaphorically.

Recently, I had a similar experience remembering how I did this as a child. A few weeks ago, I finished the book Up from Eden by Ken Wilbur and I wrote about the Typhonic developmental stage in the response process. As a child, I learned of the first time that I craved solace around the ages of 9-10. I found a mound at the edge of the yard that met the trees; it became “my mound.” In this early time, I learned to meditate in my own way while working my imagination.

Now I use this combination while making art. However, I find that the meditation can be therapeutic; but so is the art-making process. Over the last few years, I recall several trips to the Jemez Mountains in order to truly connect to the natural world. I still go for solace, but I have always had my professional camera with me. As a photographer, I study light and how it dances on the leaves and tree logs. This can be exhilarating, but is the camera helping or hurting the meditative process?

I have a particular image that is matted to preserve the textures of the trees. The process of taking a photo may not be as meditative as the image itself. Perhaps this is why I have been drawn to photography, due to its lasting impact of the image itself. I can bring up an image at any time and meditate on the forms, lines, shapes, and textures. In some ways, I am grateful to feel the trees again.

Every day, I go to the park and I take my dog but I never think about using artistic techniques like my classmates did; to experiment with the natural elements. I confess that it is still a reflex of mine to take a photo of an object, and change its composition within the frame. Then, I told myself to try to work with my hands with a few leaves. The shape and veins of each leaf make it unique; just like a snowflake. At this time, I didn’t want to change the parts of the leaf. I wanted to see what it looks like to combine each leaf in different ways. This process is somewhat cathartic as I am moving and turning the leaves to connect them with their cousin leaves.

As I leave the leaves now together, do I leave them alone or take a photo for a memory? Some folks are rather fond of a temporary art piece and the natural elements absorb it. Certainly a temporary art piece could be beneficial when a client needs to “let go” of something. However, this could be a learning experience to contribute to an art journal that I could come back to another time. Perhaps I will experiment with a balance of the two options.

Finally, I want to take some time to think of potential clients with meditation, art techniques, and eco therapy. I have always brought some natural objects inside to implement within art, but now I want to see different techniques of bringing a client to a natural environment. How does the environment change the therapeutic process? Plus, natural surroundings can help immensely to bring the person to the present moment; while working through a creative process.

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