Artful Practices for Well-Being

8 / 18


Zilia Sanchez. Antigone. 1970

Acrylic on stretched canvas, 30 × 36 × 10" (76.2 × 91.4 × 25.4 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Agnes Gund, María Luisa Ferré Rangel, Bertita and Guillermo L. Martínez, Luisa Rangel de Ferré, an anonymous donor, and the Latin American and Caribbean Fund. © Zilia Sánchez. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Rebecca Love: ​​Hi, my name is Rebecca Love. I’m a licensed dance/movement psychotherapist and certified yoga teacher. As a creative arts therapist, my work is centered around the integration of the mind and body working as one. As our bodies carry us through life, becoming curious about our relationship to ourselves, sensations and feelings that arise within us moment to moment, can help us become more aware of the information we hold internally. Dance was something that always resonated with me. Moving and being creative helped me process much of my life. Throughout the last year there has been collective trauma that has greatly impacted our everyday life, our ability to express and specifically our movement. Routines, normalcy, and connection have been altered in such a way that I feel there is a need for reconnection, starting with ourselves.

I’m going to invite you to join me in a reflective meditation, inspired by Zilia Sanchéz’s Antigone. I want you to take the next few moments and orient yourself to the space. Look around you, noticing what you can see. What about your current space is comforting? Notice any sounds you can hear—my voice, the music—maybe something outside. Now, notice anything you can feel. Maybe that’s the clothing as it falls on your body, maybe it’s the headphones in your ears, maybe it's the chair that's supporting you. And now notice the rhythm of your breathing. This is the most natural and unconscious form of movement that we have. Is there a quality to your breath that you’re aware of today? If it’s available, try taking long inhales in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowing down just for a few moments, allowing yourself to be completely present with yourself in this experience. And now, notice yourself in relation to the piece in front of you, Antigone.

Sánchez, born in Cuba in 1926, talks about the importance of bringing bodies into her work, stating, “I compose the balance of the body.” Much of her works are, in fact, abstractions of women's bodies, honoring women's lived experiences. The mythical character Antigone, the piece's namesake, to me, signifies and validates the strength and power that bodies have, which come in all forms, shapes, colors, and sizes, don't have to fit into a mold, look or move a certain way to be beautiful or express themselves.

I'm going to invite you right now, wherever you are, without thinking about it, to move your body. This can be a gesture, a small or big movement, expressing exactly how you feel in the present moment. What is it like for someone to actively provide you the space for pure expression?

Learning to attune to your body or what it’s telling you takes time and practice. Let's try together. Taking the image into your mind's eye, perhaps softening your gaze or finding a space within the piece itself to bring your focus. I can’t help but see the outline of a silhouette when looking at Antigone, a figure's head, neck, and shoulders, making me curious as to what is happening in my own body, at this moment. I’d like to invite you to bring your attention to the top of your head, slowly drawing an imaginary outline of your body, like when you were little, laying on your back on the sidewalk and someone used chalk to trace you. Going down your right side and all the way back up your left side. As you do this, what sensations come up? Maybe there’s tingling or vibrating you’re noticing. How does it feel to be aware of the edges of your being? As you make your way down the right side of your body and start to come back up the left side, can you notice a difference in feeling? Maybe one side feels heavier, lighter, longer, or more tense, breathing into the feelings and sensations, knowing that there is no right or wrong—only information.

As we complete the outline and make our way back to the top of our head I’m going to ask you to now go inward. As Sánchez stated, “I paint with feeling and the feeling is inside. That is how art is.” Bringing your intentional thought to your head space, let's invite whatever feeling is available into our consciousness. As the feeling becomes clearer, notice what happens in your body. Is there an inclination to move? Is it identifiable anywhere in your body? I'm going to ask you to store this feeling and movement away and we will come back to it later. As our thoughts naturally come up and drift through our mind, let’s take notice without judgement, gently bringing ourselves back to our breath, back to your mind's eye, or back to the focal point you’ve found in the piece. As we explore our headspace today, what color would embody the state of your being in this moment? Do you feel called to move your head? Touch your head? Maybe there is a word or phrase that is coming up. Whatever is there, allow it to wash over you, giving yourself permission to be with any impulses or sensations that might be present.

As we start to slowly shift down to our neck, perhaps you feel called to initiate some slight movement. What would feel good or what do you feel you need as we bring our intentional focus to our necks and the vertebrae that live there. Starting from the base of our neck can you breathe into and out of the space between each vertebrae, perhaps creating a little more space. That color, word, phrase or feeling may have shifted to something else in this part of your body. Perhaps it has a texture, a softness, a lightness to it now. Allowing whatever is happening to make its way out through our shoulders, maybe bringing them up as we inhale and down our back as we exhale.

I’m now going to ask that you allow this energy to now fill up your torso and chest, having it take up all the space it can, meeting the edges of your body. Allowing it to wash over your heart. If you allowed yourself to authentically respond to this energy what would happen? Honor your authentic response at this moment.

I’m going to ask you now wherever you are to come back to your breathing, long breaths in your nose and out of your mouth. Find that image in your mind's eye or on the piece itself. Notice anything you can feel, notice anything you can hear. And finally notice anything you can see. How do you feel now? Is it different than the feeling we found in the beginning of this reflection? Has anything changed for you? I'm going to ask you to embody this feeling, either within you or in relationship to Antigone, with a gesture or movement.

As we come to a close, my hope is that by participating in the brief movement meditation, you can continue to give yourself permission to go inward more often and to honor your body’s wisdom. Allowing yourself space and permission to respond and connect to your lived experiences in authentic ways, knowing that our bodies, movement, and sensations can be found everywhere in everything, if we give them the space and time to speak to us.

Connecting to art or artistic practices offers a way for us to learn more about ourselves, supporting us as we move through this world, but there are limitless paths to explore and so much knowledge within each one of us when we take care to pay attention and allow ourselves to feel.