5 Types of Meditative Art for Anxiety

5 Types of Meditative Art for Anxiety

Before I list my favorite types of meditative art, we really should have a mutual understanding of what it is.

My working definition is this: meditative art is anything creative that brings you into the present moment and keeps you from focusing on past trauma or future worries. (The stuff that makes us anxious.)

For this post I will be discussing visual art.

divine dove Zentangle with colored pencil on kraft notebook paper

What are the benefits of meditative art? Well, I’m glad you asked. In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, meditative art can bring clarity and help you examine your emotions, express yourself, and find a sense of freedom and empowerment. However, anxiety is something I know really well.

Zentangle Art

As a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) it should come as no surprise that the Zentangle Method is my favorite form of meditative art. It involves drawing repetitive patterns on small tiles. The folks at Zentangle Inc. have a great YouTube channel if you’d like to give it a try. They are currently doing a 21-day series focused on mental health. You can also learn more about ‘tangling in my guide for beginners.

Neurographic Art

Neurographic art is another meditative art form that can reduce anxiety. In many ways it is similar to Zentangle, but there aren’t patterns to learn, just rounded intuition-guided lines and shapes. Creating neurographic art emphasizes intuition, actually. For a great introduction and turorial, I recommend this video by Jules White.

Mandala Art

In ancient Sanskrit, mandala means “circle.” In art, a mandala is a geometric design or radial pattern that grows symmetrically from the center. The Zentangle Zendala is loosely based on the Mandala, though Zendalas may or may not be symmetrical like a Mandala. The repetition is what makes it meditative. To try your hand at making Mandala art, explore Mandala Drawing for Beginners from Tombow.

Abstract Art

Not all abstract art is meditative, but it has the potential to be because it doesn’t attempt to represent reality. The goal with abstract art is to reach people through forms, shape, color, and texture. But if you’re thinking about what you want to create, you might be missing out on the meditative qualities of making art. Like with neurographic techniques, relying on your intuition will serve you well. Try this video tutorial from Deco Art.

Adult Coloring

Before I became a CZT, I colored. Then, after my dad died, I found it was easier to get to sleep if I watched ZucchiniKitty’s coloring tutorials. From filling abstract shapes with marker to coloring intricate lineart with professional pencils, there’s something truly enjoyable, meditative, and liberating about leaving the drawing to someone else and focusing on the art of color. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite ZucchiniKitty tutorials.

Media Swatching

The first thing I want to do when I get new supplies is swatch them. Professional artists swatch everything for obvious reasons, but the act of swatching is itself meditative, and—to me at least—it’s one of the most satisfying forms of art I can think of. You don’t need a tutorial for this one. Just take the art supplies you already have lying around and have at it!

Meditative art can benefit everyone. I hope you’ll explore and find something that brings you joy, sparks your creativity, and gives you peace in this present moment.

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Don’t Protect Yourself

Don’t Protect Yourself

It’s pretty basic, but it felt like an epiphany Saturday night: Don’t protect yourself.

Those were the words spoken by Megan, a yoga instructor on YouTube. She meant for us all to relax our muscles and lean into the ball for a little myofascial release, which I couldn’t do—at least not yet—because it required lying supine on the floor.

(I might be able to get there, but I am too weak to get myself up and too unimaginative to figure out what Dan’s help could even look like in that situation.)

But for me there was a psychological element to the yoga lady’s instruction too. Closely related to my anxiety. Stop anticipating pain. Stop bracing for a fall every time you stand up. Stop sleeping in the fetal position. Stop overexplaining.

STOP PROTECTING YOURSELF.

Or, framed more positively: Notice what’s acceptable. Let the room pretend to spin. Trust the mattress to hold you. Ask for what you need without apology.

LIVE.

I learned this philosophy before, this “don’t protect yourself.” I will learn it again.

I’m not being too hard on myself or even admonishing myself a little. I’m recognizimg that I learned knew ways of dealing with adversities, mostly to survive some yucky stuff. They only served me for a little while but became habits anyway. Now they are things I need to undo.

Meditation for Anxiety

Meditation for Anxiety

I want to be clear when I talk about meditation for anxiety, I’m talking about MY anxiety. Your mileage may vary.

The greatest perk of meditation is that it is so completely disruptive. It seems counterintuitive that something I think of as calming is actually disruptive, but it’s true. It puts a stick in the spokes of my worry wheel. 

It has been especially helpful at bedtime when I am most likely to be going round and round with my anxious thoughts.

What will I wear tomorrow? What if I have to pee, and there aren’t any grab bars? How hard will it be to get to the car? Will the doctors judge me for my lack of makeup, dishevelled hair, and hairy armpits? Will I break Dan? Will my support network abandon me?

But for two nights before my last doctor appointment, I slept fine. Without melatonin or weed or Xanax. Like, holy shit, y’all!

There are definitely some things others would classify as spiritual elements of meditation that do not mean much to me, but I don’t need them to mean much. It’s a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny situation. I leave a lot of coins in the tray by the cash register. Someone else can use them.

My worries over money continue as the bills mount again, but I’ve decided not to make a GoFundMe for now. GFM campaigns are effective but a huge energy suck, and I’m already running on fumes. 

Instead I remind myself that Mom’s house is paid for, and I will not be homeless because I need surgery or treatment. I will just copy and paste my support links from time to time and let what happens happen.

I will be OK.

My Meditation Stats: 2016

My Meditation Stats: 2016

I’ve never been very interested in team competition or even competing against other people. It’s all about being better than myself. With that in mind, I’m posting my 2016 meditation stats from Calm with the hopes that I’ll have a longer streak, log more hours, and complete more sessions in 2017—the year my health improves instead of declines. Right? Right.

Happy New Year!

calm-app-stats
Relieving Resting Pain Face with Meditation

Relieving Resting Pain Face with Meditation

resting-pain-face

You’ve heard of resting bitch face, right? Well, I’m launching an awareness campaign for Resting Pain Face™ (RPF) because September is Pain Awareness Month.

One of the truly suck-ass things about having fibromyalgia and other chronic-pain-causing illnesses is that they increase your risk of unwittingly displaying pinched facial expressions. I catch myself doing this all the time.

I’ll lie down at night and realize that instead of letting my eyelids gently fall, I’m squinting with my eyes already forced shut — that’s like double squinting.

Or something.

Anyway, it’s bad because I’m giving myself headaches or exacerbating existing headaches on top of whatever pain I’m feeling in the rest of my body.

One of the most effective tools I have for combating RPF is meditation. But if you’ve ever tried meditating (even while healthy) you know it sounds a whole lot easier in theory than it is to actually practice.

A key concept of using meditation for pain management is leaning in or accepting or welcoming pain. I know. It sounds insane, but the idea is that when we fight or react to our chronic pain, we actually intensify the pain sensations. I 100% and wholeheartedly subscribe to this theory.

But let my give the pain-free folks out there a little analogy, lest someone start saying nonchalantly to The Pained “Have you tried meditating?”

Imagine that you’re experiencing pain because you burned your finger on the inside of a 450-degree oven door. The laws of meditation for pain relief state that in order to free your finger from the pain, you need to lean in, accept, or welcome the pain. It’s a bit like holding your finger to the oven door instead of pulling away. It’s next to impossible to do because it’s not fucking natural.

You see, the body instinctively winces, pinches, and fights to pull away from all kinds of pain. And when those reflexes become chronic because the pain is chronic, plenty of muscles tense and flex. And then the muscles just fucking stay that way because the pain is internal and there’s nothing to jerk away from, causing more pain and extreme fatigue. (Don’t believe me? Try flexing your bicep for two years without a break and let me know how things go for you. Next try flexing every muscle in your body for two years.)

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer about the whole thing though. As I said, meditation is one of the most effective tools I can currently access for pain relief. If you’re a fellow sufferer, I recommend guided meditation. Someone gently whispering in your ear to exhale, relax your toes, or sink into your bed makes for a pleasant distraction that kind of tricks you into becoming more accepting of the primary source of your pain. The more you meditate, the better.

I recommend the Calm app, and nobody paid me to say so. You can also try Calm in your browser.

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