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Drawing Out My Inner Wisdom...with Crayons

December 06, 2010 (11:57) by Carolyn Romano
A simply profound exercise reveals the self.
In early October 2010, I attended the Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s Professional Training Program. The training is designed to teach participants how to run mind-body skills groups. Over the course of five days, I sat through fascinating lectures on health and healing, participated in mind-body exercises, and attended an accelerated version of the same mind-body skills groups I was learning to run. As Dr. Jim Gordon, Director of the Center, stated, “This work begins with us and continues with us.”

At my first mind-body group experience, our facilitator Toni led ten of us through a simple drawing activity that would prove to be almost too profound. She handed each of us a few crayons and three sheets of paper which she tore out of a spiral notebook. She then gave us our marching orders which were, “Draw yourself (1) as you see yourself now; (2) with your biggest problem; and (3) as you’d like to be.”  It seemed easy enough.

Drawing 1. I placed the first sheet of paper on my lap and wrote a quick NOW in the upper right hand corner. Then, I closed my eyes to “listen” for a vision. The first thing that popped into my head was a person wearing too many hats making her way up a large mountain. So, I drew myself as a little stick figure body with a giant head wearing a beanie, a baseball cap, and a big ol’ brown cowboy hat/fedora thingie. With little deliberation, I placed myself partway up the mountain and added a knit cap and a small pillbox hat at my feet. I felt this represented the progress I had made in shedding some unwanted responsibilities as well as achieving some goals this past year. At the same time, it reflected my feeling that there was still such a long way to go. Sigh. I then drew dark circles under my eyes because, for reasons too many to enumerate, I was just SO tired.

Drawing 2.
After scrawling the words BIGGEST PROBLEM on the next sheet of paper, I closed my eyes once again. Three images came to me in quick succession. In the center of the page, I drew myself crawling on the ground, an enormous clock on my back. A garbage can filled with clocks soon filled the space to the left of my desperate little stick figure. Over to the right, I added a tombstone with a clockface on it and the letters RIP. Clearly, this drawing reflected with few words my feelings about time: I was its slave, I wasted it, and I was running out of it. Yet, if you had asked me before the group activity to describe my biggest problem or problems, the word “time” would not have crossed my lips. Not even close.

Drawing 3. I labeled the last sheet of paper LIKE TO BE. Examining the inside of my eyelids a third time revealed an image of my stick-figure self sitting in a canoe flowing effortlessly downriver. This time, I was wearing just one colorful, fun hat (it had a large pom-pom on the end); the right people, my new dogs, and a few supplies were in the boat alongside me. A huge smile on my now correctly proportioned head completed the picture.  

After the ten of us shared our drawings, Toni collected them and tucked them into her notebook. They quickly became a distant memory as we immersed ourselves in the rest of the training. Five days and nearly 20 hours of group experiences and support later, Toni again asked us to put crayon to paper. This time, Toni requested, “Draw yourself:

(1) as you are now;
(2) as you’d like to be; and
(3) getting there.”

Drawing 1. Immediately, I set to work. Now, I drew myself as a AAA battery (no more meager stick figure!). I added a big smile, blonde curly hair, and pink hearts for hands. Light bulbs framed my head and a long cord connected to a giant plug in an outlet on the wall. Needless to say, the entire experience – the lectures, the group meetings, the people – had energized me, filled me with ideas, and left me feeling “plugged in” to a reservoir of information and contacts that I knew would nourish and sustain me long after I returned home.

Drawing 2. Again, I scribbled LIKE TO BE on my paper. In no time, I drew my blonde, still-smiling self balanced on a see-saw, the words “work” on one side and “play” on the other. A group of “my people” flanked either side. I wrote the letters “MBS” down my torso to represent (1) a core that was recommitted to mind, body, and spirit, and (2) a deep knowing that “MBS” was central to my achieving and maintaining the balance I craved.

Drawing 3.
HOW GET THERE labels the bottom of my final drawing. In it, I’m behind the wheel, sitting straight-backed on a large, clock-shaped vehicle. The clock itself is divided into four equal and colorful segments – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. I’m smiling, in control, and eager to get wherever it is I’m going. My two dogs sit enthusiastically in a little side car. This drawing, like the others, seems straightforward enough in its metaphors, and I am pleased.

After the second round of drawings, Toni handed us back the ones we completed during our first session. We had time to compare, reflect, share. It was eye-opening then but now, two months later, I stumble upon my crude little scribbles and am struck by what I notice. In many ways, I have arrived! Without realizing it, I have become the person in my “LIKE TO BE” drawings – in the flow and maintaining balance. I marvel at this discovery.

HOW did I GET THERE? I ponder. Truly, with what resembles ease much more than effort, these last several weeks have brought about a tremendous shift in my relationship to time. I look forward to each day; I affirm that there both is and there isn’t enough time to do what needs to be done and that’s ok; I learn about time as a way to “contain” the work (and play!) I need to accomplish in the day stretched out before me. I’m no longer crawling along the ground, a slave to the time that was my BIGGEST PROBLEM. Instead, I’m in the driver’s seat, pedal to the metal. And it feels great.

In another month or two, I plan to grab my Burnt Umber, my Jazzberry Jam, and my Jungle Green. I will pull some paper out of the recycle bin, and I will Crayola my way to the next level of understanding about myself. I can’t help but suggest that you do the same. What your drawings of Neon Carrot NOW, Blizzard Blue BIGGEST PROBLEM, Laser Lemon LIKE TO BE, and GETTING THERE with Goldenrod will reveal I cannot say. What I do know is that you will be surprised, gratified, maybe even alarmed for a moment, by the simple yet profound way your drawings will reveal you and support you to become the fullest expression of who you are.  

**The drawing exercise described in this article is part of the mind-body skills group work  happening now at BLISS Healing Arts. If you are interested in participating, please contact Carolyn at blisscenter@comcast.net or 508-481-2547 (blis). The most recent schedule is at www.blisshealingarts.com.