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Posts Tagged ‘Expressive Therapies’

Coming back from a 6 week trip is a lot to unpack from, emotionally and physically. Today as I sit at my desk back at home, watching the snow fly outside my office window, I am thinking a lot about all the connections, places, people and events of all kinds that have happened in the last month and a half. I am aware that in being back in quiet Vermont, I miss the rich social connections that exist in Asia.

There have been many threads of conversations on this trip that have entered and been woven through most if not all the trainings.  I think the largest conversation was about gender issues, sparked  in part by the killing of a 23 year old physiology student in Delhi last November. What it did do was provide the  overdue and much needed catalyst for a world wide protest(one billion rising was born in the midst of the initial protests) and demonstration for Women’s rights and for holding all accountable for the ways in which women are not equal -in pay, work and social stature and safe from constant harassment and violence-domestic and otherwise. This theme was a constant- In all the trainings in both countries. In the process of teaching technique and form, we told stories, created art that looked at and witnessed the deep needs of both men and women, and allowed women the much needed space to state what it is that they need from their relationships, and their lives. What was palpable and important for me was the fact that while I was visiting another culture, there were so many similarities for us. The trainings were made richer by this as well as understanding the differences within our countries. In one session,  during the Introduction to Art Therapy training through the  East/West Center for Counselling, the women in my group, after  seeing an intense documentary of women’s rights (or the lack of them) in India,  pounded, cajoled and nurtured the clay as a group creating stunning art and talking about what their needs were, what they wanted for their lives, and in what ways they could go after their dreams.

Other discussions were just as important. Climate change is on the list of high concern. Water shortages are everywhere. People are terrified by the prospects, and trying to make sense of it in real terms.   Having enough water and being able to survive climate change is on the high priority list no matter which gender you are. Clinicians are aware of  all of this.  Right now clinicians, teachers, artists and others are all trying to find the right kind of tools to support people, to support themselves and to find a better way to approach being in our bitter and often challenging world. The tools themselves can be challenging to understand  for cultural or other reasons. Helping people become grounded is the key in my work- To understand how to help others, one has to help themselves first. Diving down and deep, while at the same time creating an important toolkit to take to others supports this process. Teaching in an experiential  way that makes sense, and makes the most impact is the basis of my style.

In Hong Kong, through the Arts for the Disabled Association, the focus of the workshop centered around providing expressive arts to those with disabilities.  My first question to those who participated was:  How does one define disability? What does this really mean? How are we impacted or not by disability in our lives? Our culture?  Climate change, gender disparity all entered the conversations. Cultural issues around caring for aging parents was also part of the deeper conversations.Before we could go further and talk about ways to approach working with those with disabilities, we had to break down the commonly held constructs of how we think about disability to begin with. For many this was a eye opening experience. Grounding the conversation with role plays, Playback Theatre, Art s based therapeutic techniques, students chewed on this over the week. They also experienced understanding stepping into the shoes of one with “disability”, painting with blindfolds, creating adapting tools to work with, exploring using these tools first for themselves and then to be able to translate it for using in their work.

There is a lot to work through.  In the end, I hope that somehow, people feel empowered in India and Hong Kong with enough tools to keep going.

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Since I last wrote, we have been traveling and working in chennai, India and Hong Kong. I taught 4 workshops or trainings in India, while Michael taught 2 and presented two other shorter presentations at the Aparreo Galleries in Chennai. Its been amazing, often intense, complex and very often very rewarding. Michael has been great about writing regularly- I not so much, as at the end of the day, I am tired enough that my brain can not organize thoughts to write. To see Michael’s blogs go to Dreaming the world  to see about our trip from his perspective.

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We are taking a much needed few days off to rest up for our long trip and intense time change back home. While we are doing that, we are processing all from the trainings ( 2 3 half day trainings with college students at Ethiraj College and Madras School of Social Work) a 5 day core training in Playback Theatre and a 5 day Introduction to Art therapy as part of the Expressive therapies certificate program – a collaboration between the East West Center for Counseling and Women’s Christian College. Then in Hong Kong, a 5 day workshop on using the Expressive arts with people with Disabilities.DSCF4856

 

 

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This is my last week, not only of class (we end Friday), but of my time here in India for this trip. I have been watching  my process: arriving and getting used to being In India; working and being with students,(and all) that means; getting to know more of where I am, and processing all the new things; visiting hospitals, and schools, and seeing the amazing work that is

I taught 4-5 year olds for an hour. Lots of fun!

being done here for those in need. Now, the letting go has begun. Letting go is being felt keenly in the classroom, where, as a group, the class has been watching the developmental aspects of our group, and witnessing each milestone.

Students created Mandalas as part of the course.

In class, hearts are connecting, and I am reminded that people are people no matter what our cultures are. We work for justice, raise our children, and connect. We  fall down, to pick ourselves up again and walk forward. Hopefully we open more doors than we close, and try to bear witness. With this group, it is clear that these are the goals. It is heartwarming to watch, experience, and be a part of.

Today, I took a walk behind where I am staying, on a calmer road, with nice homes. I was aware of trying to imprint my impressions. As I walked, I smelled the Jasmine in the air. Although it is winter,  there are may flowers out. I tried to breathe it in in such a way that I could  take the aromas home. How does one take impressions home? So many impressions: cows wandering in the midst of traffic, seemingly unconcerned and owner less; the smells (some very unpleasant and others not); the crazy traffic; the interactions that I’ve had in every day; women in saris;  fruit and vegetable vendors singing out what they are selling; the Kolam, freshly done each morning on door stoops; the genuine belief that what will be is meant to be; and hearing the ringing of bells through every neighborhood, as people pay homage to Shiva, Vishnu,and Gonesa in their homes, and in the many shrines throughout the city.

I use my camera to try to grab these impressions, but photos do not impart the smells of Indian spices, the sounds of all the horns, or the goats bleating, the roosters, and Muslims and Hindus all praying at the same time at 5 in the morning. The camera cannot capture the haggling and bartering, and genuine interest in people you may not know so well. And the crows.

Coming home is a mixed blessing. I’m coming home to family, and life as I am used to it.  Only, now I am seeing it through a different lens, one in which my two months in India (October and now) blend in with my life at home. I return home committed to learning how to cook Dosa and Roti, and to simplifying, letting go of what keeps me from being present and connected.

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Over all, except for the beginning (a major back up at JFK- that meant I missed my connecting flight – they say weather…. I’m wondering) the trip was smooth and fairly uneventful. Spending unexpected nights in hotels in New York and Jakarta allowed for rest (and a little sleep) which assist overcoming jet lag.

I found myself both calm, and flustered, by this experience. I was deeply aware of my internal world, which was working to process the changes. At the same time, I  was focused on just making sure I made it to my next flights. Regularly reminding myself to breathe, I thought,  “This too shall pass”, a mantra I teach my clients. It was time to practice what I preach! I bought a calling card and tried my coordinator in Semarang to no avail.  I kept dropping things, and left my sweater at security. (more…)

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In a few days I leave for Indonesia then, India. This is very exciting and also intensely challenging, as I am leaving everything that I know for a long period of time.  While much will be here when I come back, I am aware that there will be many changes when I do. My garden is full of veggies.  There are red tomatoes, leeks, broccoli, and lots of weirdly shaped (but great tasting!) carrots. We have basil, tarragon and oregano coming out of our ears.  And Mint! I am hopeful that people will help my husband eat much of it. I am also hoping to put up some more pasta sauce before I leave. (more…)

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Standing at the beach with Magdalene, my trip coordinator

Monday,

Here is a picture of Magdelene, my trip coordinator, and me standing on the beach. The Bay of Bengal is in the background.

I am writing from an internet cafe.  After much walking, I met  a wonderful young woman who helped me find it. This involved turning around and going in the opposite direction, then traveling on an open mini bus. After mangling my euros and ruppess in a rather embarrassing  manner, I managed to get on the bus and we rode to the internet cafe. The streets here in Chennai are noisy. I find I miss the bells of the rickshaws that I heard in Bangladesh, as they balanced the constant honking that goes on. I’m not sure what happened to rickshaws here, or even whether  rickshaws were ever such a big deal here. (more…)

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