by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC
What does it mean for a person to be centered? Physically, our bodies can be centered when we experience a state of balance from our core- our movements tend to align with our intentions and we are able to be aware of our bodies in motion or at rest. To be centered from a mental and emotional standpoint, may also be a process of achieving and working towards emotional stability, mental clarity, balance in our thoughts and presence. When we connect to our center, we have the ability to experience our emotions, our thoughts, our urges and make choices in a way that accounts for these sensations and perceptions. Often when we act out of our center, out of a state of balance, we may feel that our choices and actions are more aligned with our intentions, our values and our goals for ourselves and those around us.
When we feel off-centered, we may experience being off balance, unable to focus, distracted, caught up in our thoughts, experiencing intense feelings, such as dread, boredom or numbness to the moment and/or challenged to manage our impulses. When we act from a state of instability, high demand, high stress, and tension, often we experience disconnection, defensiveness, and challenging dilemmas when our values become at odds.
In order to reconnect with our bodies in the present moment, we may engage in an intentional process, activity, ritual or movement that engages our physical and non-physical aspects of our bodies, energy and mind. In a physical way, we may be focused on using our senses and engaging our physical energy through the kinesthetic experience of moving the body in space. In non-physical ways, we may be engaging our intuition, our imagination and our creativity to focus our minds on a vision, a dream, and/or an alternate reality.
The process of artmaking is a natural way to engage both aspects of our material and non-material realities and engage our physical senses with our creative energies. Sometimes we may even feel detached or disconnected from ourselves- disembodied, dissociated, and numb. Centering, although maybe a challenging process at first, through the artmaking process may provide a safe way to reconnect with difficult emotions and distance ourselves from harmful automatic thoughts.
So, let’s explore one way that we can practice centering ourselves at home or in an art therapy session. As stated in previous blogs, working alongside a credentialed and board certified art therapist is most effective when your goal is to be guided through difficult emotions, build deeper insights into your personal experiences, be heard or seen as you explore your past, present or future, and/or gain alternate perspectives. If your goal is to practice a skill to help you manage your emotions while you are alone, then artmaking can still achieve that and these skills can also be practiced in your art therapy sessions.
First, decide what materials you would like to work with. Pencil and paper is always a good idea to start with if you are wanting to add smaller elements and details, while oil or chalk pastels may be more effective if you are wanting to work more abstractly. Our intention for this activity is to create an image that reflects the idea of “centeredness”.
You may want to brainstorm and free associate to the term, asking yourself:
“What does it mean to be centered?”
“What symbol or image comes to mind when you hear the word centeredness?”
“What does it take to be centered?”
“When and where do you experience a state of being centered?”
“How would you physically describe what being centered looks like? Does it have a shape, a color, a texture, a line quality, a sound, a smell, a taste?”
Some may be attracted to creating a symmetrical drawing, such as a mandala, by starting from a central circle or shape on your paper and expanding outwards from the middle using varied designs, lines, shapes and patterns. Others may feel comfortable creating a large containing shape, such as a circle on their page (this can be freehanded or drawn with a compass or traced using a large object such as a coffee can). You decide based on your answers to the questions above what this image might look like. You might even create a painting where each brush stroke emanates from an established center point or revolves around a certain area on the canvas. There are infinite possibilities and the beauty of this activity is that it will continue to change as you engage in this activity over different periods of time.