What Would You Sacrifice to Keep Creating?

It may seem perplexing as to why I’m coupling sacrifice and creation, but I assure you there is documented history of the two walking arm and arm. One of the keynotes at the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health was Dr. C. Richard Stasney.    Dr. Stasney is part of a team of doctors that take care of the Houston Opera, Symphony, and Ballet.

Looking back in history there are prominent artists who experienced personal sacrifice for the sake of their art; Beethoven is one of those artists. Because of a medical problem that resulted in the accumulation of fluid in his abdomen, Beethoven had abdominocentesis (draining of the fluid in the abdomen) twice a week. We know from DNA testing that he didn’t use any opiates to deal with the pain of this frequent procedure. The absence of opiates/painkillers meant that Beethoven could continue creating without being in a state of altered consciousness.

What are the limits of sacrifice for art? How do these sacrifices impact our motivation to create art? What healing properties does art have that was the result of personal sacrifice in the mind-body-spirit arena. Although Beethoven didn’t use opiates keeping him present to create, we as artists know that being “in the zone” creates an altered state of consciousness. This altered state gives us uninterrupted time to in our creative spaces to dive into our process of making art.

Beethoven may have been an exception to the rule based on the level of sacrifice he exhibited to compose, but the idea of sacrifice is not uncommon to artists. What have you sacrificed or willing to sacrifice to continue making art? Is the sacrifice part of your art and healing process? How does sacrifice influence our creative process and in turn does it heighten or diminish the impact on our physical, emotional, or spiritual health?

For more information on living with chronic or life-threatening illness visit www.survivingstrong.com

Helping Soldiers Heal

The final keynote at the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health was Darden Smith. Smith is a talented singer/songwriter who has taken his talent and transformed it beyond the often ego driven life of a rock star. He has taken his gifts and talents and is sharing them in a way that impacts the men and women who protect our freedoms and safety in the United States.

After many years of singing and performing in venues across the country, Darden has found a higher calling; one that provides healing to men and women in the military. His current focus is not only inspiring, but serves as a reminder of the trauma many of our soldiers experience after being in combat. We’ve been living in turbulent times and now with Smith’s help, the road to healing through music is a new avenue, and an amazing one.

The program is called Songwriting With:Soldiers (www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org). The program brings soldiers on a retreat and during that retreat they co-write and record songs specific to their lives. They can discuss/write/sing about any aspect of their experience. The soldiers are teamed up with songwriters and then each song is professionally recorded. The soldier is given a CD of their song before leaving the retreat. Does this help heal?

Smith told us about a soldier who had been on the retreat and recorded a song. The song was on an iPod making it readily available. After the retreat the soldier experienced another place of darkness and despair leading him to consider committing suicide. He was set to take his own life when he passed his daughters room and heard her listening to his song. The song that was his creation, his experience, and a step on his own healing journey prevented him from committing suicide. When we hear a story this profound and impactful does it inspire you to include music/singing/songwriting in your own personal healing journey? Or those you work with?

One of the points Smith made along with performing some incredible songs was this, “What conversations have you been having with yourself your entire life?” He followed that with, “Have those conversations every day!” What are your conversations telling you? Are they the key to health and healing?

I encourage you to go to Darden Smith’s website and hear some of the music that is jaw dropping magnificent, www.dardensmith.com. I hope you gain some inspiration from his courage, perseverance, and desire to accompany others struggling to experience a sense of freedom from their own dark places.

The Traveling Bead Brings Hope and Encouragement to Kids!!!

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health. It was an amazing experience to be among so many providers, artists, and researchers all championing arts and health.

So how do we make it through tough times? Did you ever have a rabbit’s foot as a kid for good luck? Have you or family members hung a horseshoe for good luck? Do you wear that one particular shirt, shoes, and earrings when going to an interview or some other event where you’re hoping for good luck? I remember having a rabbit’s foot; they came in lots of colors (please don’t send PETA to my doorstep). So how do we honor the journey that children take when diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and provide them with a visual representation of the hurdles they’ve jumped? Well you give them a bead of course!!!!

“Beads of Courage helps children and families coping with serious illness RECORD, TELL and OWN their story of COURAGE”. Can you think of anything more beautiful than honoring every step along the child’s path in treatment. It’s interesting because if you were ever in scouting one of the key things was the “merit badge”. Beads of Courage are more than a merit badge. It’s a visual story. It’s like an archeological of treatment.

Jean Baruch, Executive Director, and Ashley Ethridge, Director of Communications and Encouragement, vivaciously shared how the program works and how widespread the program is in the United States and now heading globally. Beads are interesting because they are easy to carry and we can attribute significance and meaning to each and every bead. Beads are a great metaphor for storytelling because they are the oldest art form known to man. Beads have survived and evolved and Beads of Courage plays to that strength.

The kids are given a bead, a magnificent hand blown glass lamp bead, for each procedure or treatment they receive. An example given was that child would be given a red bead for a blood transfusion and a white bead for a chemotherapy treatment.

The community’s involvement, aside from financial support, is the ability to carry a bead. Carrying a bead allows you and I to carry a bead to an event, a destination, or anything else you can imagine infusing the bead with that experience. The bead is sent in to Beads of Courage with a story card and the child receives the bead and the story. Your story and the child’s story can come together creating a bonding experience.

During Ashley’s presentation she was wearing multiple strands of beads. She shared that this magnificent collection of beads belonged to a sixteen year old girl going through treatment. It wasn’t until a reception later in the day that Ashley explained that each of the nine strands had approximately 100 beads. You do the math; this young lady had acquired 900+ beads, what I learned in that moment is that these beads/stories had been acquired since this past December. I was in shock, awe, and relieved that she had an organization like Beads of Courage by her side.

You may be thinking that this sounds like Flat Stanley. It may have some similarities, but the notion that each and every bead has a story is amazing and scary. It’s life affirming and encouraging. The organization provides children and families a way to connect around story instead of sickness. Our stories are our legacy. These beads are a visual legacy of the journey these children and family take in the hopes of health and healing.

Let’s all grab a bead, infuse it with our own story and partner with this amazing organization.  Go to http://www.BeadsofCourage.org

Art, Health, More Art, More Health!

I just returned from the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health (soon to have a name change). It is one of the few places where art and health intersect and noncompetitive entities. It’s a sacred space where the providers, artists, medical personnel, spiritual advisers, and researchers intersect for a common goal; giving those with illnesses transform their experience through art.

The conference was inspiring, thought provoking, and a catalyst for what’s possible when fields of study come together with a common goal. There is an exponential outcome when we stop competing and combine our gifts and talents for a common cause.

Over the next few days I’ll share some amazing programs, projects, and people who make the field of art and health mystical and magical. These people, projects, and programs provide hope to the multitudes of patients, family members, and professional caregivers increase their competency and efficacy in the healing arena.

Although history has proven time and time again the importance of creativity in our lives; it’s only the past twenty-five years (give or take a few years) that we are engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the impact of art on health. The healing process, open to personal definition unless you’re a researcher, is opting to include creative experiences fortifying the healing properties in our minds, bodies, and souls.

I have to admit a condensed dose of inspiration was a bit daunting and over-stimulating. On the other hand, the reinforcement of the possibilities that art has on the healing experience was freeing. It clearly provided a framework for how everyone can have creative experiences; you don’t have to be an artist. Our souls make us artists and that’s should be the focal point of all our journeys.