Letting Go! (Art Therapy and the Circle Walk Activity)
What is presently in your life that you’d like to let go?
Your unconscious knows where you get too attached. The mindfulness practice of walking in a circle, for instance, allows you to observe what’s going through your mind and what’s emerging from a deeper place.
So again, what is currently holding you back in your life that requires letting go?
It’s likely that you’ve held onto this “thing” for too long. It may suddenly pop up, an idea that enters your mind that is making you emotional. Playfully go into it. Notice your body responses. Enter a dialogue within yourself or with the natural world around you and open up to the idea of ‘letting go’.
Wonder to yourself: “What in my life would I like to let go? Has too much news every night affected my well-being? Am I perhaps a little too self-involved at present? What is coming up from my past that’s drawing too much attention? What has been an unwelcome guest in my life for too long?”
Reflect on your life and see what it tells you.
The Circle Walk Activity
Walking in a repetitive, restricted way can facilitate deeper thoughts and meaningful reflection.
Choose a path that allows you to walk in a circular manner, one that has boundaries to keep you contained. Walk clockwise.
Be grounded while you walk. Walk at least 10-20 minutes.
While you walk, ‘sit’ with whatever pops up. Allow it to emerge in your mind and observe it. Don’t prioritise. Try to be non-judgemental but be clear about what comes up and name it. Explore it with a spiritual distance. See what part it plays or takes in your life.
Allow things to come in and see what they do to your mind and body in a non-judgement way. It doesn’t have to be anything special. It is what it is. Honour that. Appreciate that it’s your moment and cherish its uniqueness.
In art therapy, we need to learn to see things clearly without judging them. Only in this way can we understand them. Once understood, we can then discern when to allow them to find a place in our life where they can dwell … or when we need to let go.
Interconnect different levels of awareness. While thinking, you might start to wonder what you are seeing or hearing. You might stop for a minute and start a dialogue with a bird. You might remember events from the past that deeply move you. Take notice how your body responds to these thoughts: are you tensing up or relaxing in response?
In this mindfulness activity, you can reach further down into your subconscious. While it may not achieve the depths reached through your artwork, it is a powerful activity. Whatever is knocking at your door of awareness from a deeper place should be taken seriously.
Application for the Art Therapist
As an Art Therapist, you travel with the client through all the different levels of awareness and unconsciousness. The metaphor of the iceberg is a good image for this where you go below the surface, deeper and deeper and come up again.
The Art Therapist needs to stay in tune with the client, not restricting them to any one particular issue. Being attentive is critical and promotes healing.
Use the question, “What is it in your life that you want to let go of?”
Allow the client to express it and trust that whatever is important will emerge in the artwork. Remember, what’s important will always surface when you work with the subconscious. Trust in this process.
Now, back to you: What would you like to let go of?
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Robert GrayDirector and Senior Lecturer at CECAT
Registered Art Therapist and Psychologist
MA A. Th., AThR; B. Soc. Sc. (Psych.) (Hons.), MAPS.; BA. Theol. (Hons), MA Theol.
A highly regarded art therapy lecturer from Germany, Robert Gray has become a much sought-after art therapy lecturer and practising art therapist in Australia. His unique approach spanning psychodynamic, humanistic, spiritual and cognitive behavioural frameworks has distinguished him as a thought leader who is frequently invited to present at conferences in Australia and abroad.
Trained overseas and multilingual, German-born Robert shares the benefits of his international affiliations and access to cutting-edge research published in various languages with his students and readers. Robert is a professional member of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).