Usually, during the days surrounding the New Year, my mind turns to reflection. I tend to be pretty serious about this - I fill my journal with aspirations for the upcoming year, I seek out conversations about the highlights of the past year and hopes and dreams about the next, and I usually plan some quiet time to reflect and seal my intentions for the next cycle around the sun. But for some reason this year, things felt different. These reflections did not emerge the way they often do. I’m not sure why, but I did not seem to have the focus or the patience to introspect to the extent that I often do - I could not find the words.
This did not feel right. New Year’s came and went, and I started to feel like this glorious opportunity was slipping away. What was happening? Was I really going to let the cusp of 2019 come and go without my customary ritual? I knew I would need to try something different this year. My mind then turned to expressive arts - this is what I share with clients at Redwood Counseling when we are sitting with a difficult idea, and words are not forthcoming. Then it seemed clear - why not dip into some Expressive Arts for myself around the idea of the New Year, and see what would emerge!
What followed was a beautiful, intuitive, and illustrative process that I really loved, and that I would like to share in the remainder of this blog. May this serve as inspiration to you, either as an additional reflection for New Year, or for use with any other topic that is rocking around in your mind, needing to get out, but not lending itself to words.
Gather Supplies - AND Music!
Gather whatever art supplies you think you may like to have. For me, this was magazines, scissors, paper, colored pencils, and glitter glue. Something I know about myself is that I love to do art while listening to music that fits the “feel” of the project. To this end, I created a playlist of songs that that loosely fit the theme of new beginnings.
Deep Breathing and Opening Introspective Space
I needed to help my mind and body switch gears from “go-mode” to “curiously create” mode. I sat comfortably, placed my hands over my heart, and took 19 slow, deep breaths. (Ooh, get it - 19 breaths for 2019!). Over the course of these breaths, I let my mind loosely roll around the idea of the New Year, trying to keep my mind and heart curious and open, as opposed to striving or judging.
Receive / Notice Images and Words
I then flowed from this meditative space into my exploration of words and images in the magazines. I tried to maintain the energy of openness and curiosity, and just noticed which images or words I felt drawn to, without trying to analyze why. Through this process, I then had a pile of words and images that spoke to me from the emotional space of the New Year.
Arrange and Be Curious
Next, I started to arrange my images and words, and at this point, allowed the analytical part of my mind to come back on line, though in a spirit of deep curiosity. I pondered why I felt drawn to these images, and what meaning that may hold for me. I started to arrange things on my page (which was page from my 2018 calendar), and tried to stay open to what would emerge, and think about why different things felt right.
Ponder and Explore
When I felt satisfied with my arrangement, I started gluing, and allowed myself to ponder more extensively about what I had created, asking myself things like:
What stands out to me about this collage?
What emotions or thoughts do I notice as I take in each area of the collage?
What meaning, questions, or advice might different words or images (or combinations thereof) have for me?
Solidify with Sharing or Writing
As a final step, I wanted to solidify this process to truly understand what my collage was telling me. I began to put some of the ideas into words. This can take many forms, but my favorites are to either share the ideas with another person (which could be a friend, family member, or therapist!), or to “take it to the page,” as my Expressive Arts mentor, Jamie Marich, would say, which means to do some writing that serves to transfer the ideas suspended in the visual medium to the written word.
Through this process, I was able to truly acknowledge what has been stuck in my heart during this New Year’s holiday - that there are things coming up this year that I am feeling unsure, but that there are also resources and and strategies I can call on for help. I also identified some of my aspirations for the year ahead, including building time in for stillness and being open to new experiences. There are more ideas in the collage that I am continuing to notice, and I look forward to returning to it over the course of the year to see what else I might find. All-in-all, I’d say it was definitely one of my more meaningful New Year’s introspective processes. I’m very grateful that Expressive Arts was there for me when I could not initially find the words.
Here is wishing you a wonderful 2019 - Happy New Year! May you find a wonderful way to explore and express all that is in your mind and heart.
Rose Kormanyos, MA, IMFT, is a Licensed Independent Marriage and Family Therapist, and the owner of Redwood Counseling in Sharonville, Ohio. She uses Expressive Arts Therapy, among other therapy techniques, to help her clients heal, grow, and thrive. If you believe this may be a good approach for you, feel free to contact her at www.redwoodcounselingcincinnati.com