There is a half-written memoir that has been sitting on the back burner too long. Creating blog posts to reignite the process and increase my online presence at the same time seems like an effective way to move past writer's block today.
This post intends to be a chapter in said memoir and shares my first experience of using process art in a facilitated workshop setting.
Learn more about Art•Body•Soul’s process art classes, Painting Out Loud.
I arrived at Omega Institute on the 4:30 shuttle and immediately ran into my friend Debbie, who worked in the Wellness Center. We had met on my first trip to Omega and bonded at a campus-wide dance. Debbie told me that the Akashic Record Reading was the new bestseller in the Wellness Center and a must try. Having no knowledge of the Akashic Record, I read the little blurb in a wellness brochure and was intrigued. It was described as containing all knowledge of human experience and all experiences including the history of the cosmos. The Akashic Record is a dimension of consciousness that contains a vibrational record of every soul and its journey.
I scheduled an appointment right away, and at the assigned time, met with the practitioner to learn more about the reading. She explained that she would access the record through a prayer and would need my permission to view my record. She also told me that when my record opened, she would share what she saw.
Reclining on a massage table with the practitioner seated out of my view, I listened intently as the reading began. I expected to hear about a past life experience or something mystical, but the story she shared was of a morning when I was six years old and stomped out of the house. I climbed up a chestnut tree in my family's front yard and was holding my breath and at the point of explosion. I remember it explicitly.
Belle, our nanny, had been sick for a good while, and we had been through a series of replacements that didn't stay for one reason or another. On this particular morning, I had come to realize that the new nanny, Betty, was going to stick. As far as I was concerned she was too skinny, ugly, and mean. If she were to stay, did that mean Belle would never come back to our house to take care of me?
That morning I believed that if I held my breath long enough, Belle would come back to me. But I could not hold my breath very long and ended up sitting in the lower branches of the tree, crying for a long time.
The Akashic Record practitioner’s voice brought me back to the room. “You look to be a young girl of five or six, and you are upset, sitting in a tree and holding your breath. It looks like you are quite angry about something that is going on in your life.”
My skeptic was also present. "Lots of kids climb trees."
"Oh, I see it was a chestnut tree,” she continued. “There are chestnut burrs on the ground beneath it."
Stunned and impressed by the degree of accuracy, I was awed by the mystery of the Universe once again and this record of every soul and its journey. The reading went by quickly, and she offered me an opportunity to ask questions. I was curious. "Why this record? Why this particular event in my life from so long ago?"
She told me that it was shown to her because it was still affecting the way I was living.
That was something for me to ponder. I had a lesson to learn from that day in the chestnut tree, but no idea what that lesson might be.
About six months later, I was meeting with Maryann Russell, a wonderful guide and mentor. During our 50-minute conversation, I asked her if she was familiar with the Akashic Record and explained that I’d had a reading last summer. My question for her was about the lesson. Was my experience as a six year old sitting in the chestnut tree still affecting my life? If so, how and why? Before sharing the content of my reading with Maryann, she leaned forward. "Let me look at the record now." She looked down, as if over the lip of a barrel. "You were sitting in a tree holding your breath?"
We spent a while talking about that memory. She explained that I believed that by holding my breath Belle would come back. It was a prayer scenario. "I will hold my breath and be quiet. Good children are quiet. Good children are seen and not heard."
I learned to be quiet in my family and believed that if I sat and was absolutely still, if I was a good little girl, God would allow Belle to return and care for me once more. I even held my breath to make sure.
Eventually Belle did come back to our family. She was either not able to work fulltime or we no longer needed her such long hours. She was there, however, for three afternoons a week when I returned home from school and on Saturdays. And she always babysat for us on Wednesday nights. Because Belle returned, my belief was reinforced below my conscious awareness--my belief that if I sat still and didn't move or breathe, something really good would happen for me. The way that belief played itself out in my life was that I was afraid to use my voice. I never said anything that mattered to me. I held my breath and was a good little girl for a very long time.
I attended The Painting Experience workshop with Stewart Cubley, who offered his well-known workshop to the DC area in a condensed version over a weekend. We started on a Friday evening with the ground rules that we could not talk about our paintings or make comments about other paintings. We were given privacy in this group setting to create free from others' opinions and judgements. That alone was freeing.
We used the supplies and paper made available to us. Paper was taped to the wall, and the paints were centrally located on long tables behind us. We were to leave our easels and walk to the table for paint. The idea was to be guided to a color. Many times, I left the table in pursuit of a particular color and was drawn to a different one once I’d left my painting behind. We only carried as much color to our canvas as our chosen paintbrush would hold, which forced us to turn our backs on our paintings, walk away from them, and return many, many times.
Some people painted quickly, filling up sheet after sheet. Others spent the weekend on one painting that continually grew in size by adding adjacent sheets of paper. The paintings produced in the workshop were amazing.
The only required interaction with Stewart and his assistant was when we believed that our painting was complete. Then we flagged Stewart over, and he talked to each of us about why we believed our paintings were finished.
And the most challenging question, "Is there anything in the water?"
“Hmmm, is there anything in the water? I don't know. Maybe fish?"
"Really?” He said, “You were thinking fish.”
"Well no,” I giggled. “I was actually thinking bodies."
Stewart nodded as if to say carry on and moved away. I stood there for at least 20 minutes, unable to paint a dead body.
Stewart happened by again and stopped. “What’s happening?”
"I don't know how to paint a dead body. I can't bring myself to try." Stewart picked up a pencil and made a tiny sketch of a small limber stick figure, then wandered away again.
So, there I was. I took a deep breath and started painting again. Within minutes of painting the first figure, the entire sea was filled with dead floating figures, body parts, and blood.
Paintings don't have to be lovely. Good girls don't have to be quiet. Those are myths that I believed for a very long time, myths that did not serve me well.
It was fun and exciting for me to have painted something "bad" or dark. It was one of the small steps in my transformation. It helped me to begin to undo the damaging messages and false beliefs that had been holding me back in my life.
If you'd like to have your own "painting experience", consider a Painting Out Loud class series at Art•Body•Soul. Madeleine has trained with Stewart Cubley through his coursework in the art of facilitation for professionals working in process-oriented learning environments.