Palma Sunday

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The Paper Parrot

As promised, here is the follow-up to Friday’s article on mandalas. The above is my response to the exercise. I thought that, seeing as I was asking and encouraging you to mine deep and to share, I should at least reciprocate or risk sounding like a hypocrite. I have called the piece ‘The Paper Parrot’.

A Tail of Three Parts

The Circle of Life
This piece consists of one circle, sliced. The pieces fall into three parts: one large, the other two small.

The sides of the main circle, the shape occupying the centre, have either fallen off or been removed – to let the ladybugs and the mice out? Or perhaps to keep them in?

What Lies Beneath
The circle itself sits within the embrace of the earth, just above the core. Is this its heart centre, or is it Hell? And what does each one represent to me?

Are the ladybirds looking to fly away home, like in the nursery rhyme? Is their house in danger? Or are they hiding or homeless like me?

The circle that contains them is fringed with white: teeth or ice?

Above them are three rows of mice, reminiscent of the board game ‘Snakes and Ladders’. Three is also a potent number, representing femininity and change and triangles and choices. It is full of ambiguity. Looking at them, I feel agitated. They echo my current restlessness, my desire to move, my search for a better somewhere else because right here is never quite right.

Two winged figures help to hold the circle in place, floating not just in the air but also at the edge of/or actually in the water. Fairies? Angels? Cupids? A calm sea. It is bereft of fish, empty of life. What lies within it? And what is the earth circle beneath saying about it? Is it a reflection?

Ground Zero
Two toad stalls grow on either side, suggesting a wood or forrest, as well as the presence of something faye or magical. Above them, inside the main circle, a rainbow seeks to brighten the space. Fringed by ice, it is a beacon of light and positivity, or hope, strung across the centre. It holds autumn within it. Does this signify the end to the falling, the letting go, the saying good bye to, the dying and the ending? Does it suggest the time has come for all of that to be over, for tomorrow to shine more brightly? What lies over the rainbow? Is it the land that I dream of?

The Inner Circle
Raising the focus to the main feature, the picture’s namesake, the parrot, I find the words ‘fractured sky’ and ‘shepherds delight’ filling my mind. The pink ribbon rips across the blue, like a tear, a cut, a gash. But is it tearing the bad away to reveal the good, or cutting what remains, eating further into it? And why the bird, tethered by numerous chords? And what of the carousel horses hanging beneath? Where are these ‘wild horses’ attempting to canter off to? And why are they tied up and who has tied them: me, someone else? And why is the bird attempting to flee in the opposite direction? In fact, why is everything in the drawing trying to move to the left, anticlockwise, when the bird wants to go right, in a clockwise direction? Which direction am I currently heading in? And in what direction ought I to go? Where does the future lie: east or west?

Another theory is that the circle is a clock ad, while everything within it is turning one way, attempting to move forwards; everything outside of it and around is turning anticlockwise, resisting, fighting, standing in my way, winding me back to a time before that was empty of mistakes.

Red Sky
Meanwhile, above, in the heavens things look hopeful, happy and positive. The creatures there look calm, concentrated and certain. I feel less anxiety when staring at them. Maybe that is the message here: turn around, head back, not to the beginning or the behind but down the opposite path, one that leads to an entirely different ending?

Questions
Am I walking the wrong way? Am I lost? Am I stuck on a dead end path? Am I tethered and tangled, tied down? In heaven the ice or snow looks soft, the mice and ladybirds calm, the angels buoyant, flying happy and high rather than weighed down. And the lace doilies to either side remind me of celebrations and cakes and marriage, of tea parties and gatherings, of groups of women and deep and meaningful conversations, of warmth and love and wisdom and insight. They make me wish for something that is absent.

In a Nutshell
The drawing is both cold and warm, happy and sad. There are beginnings and endings. There are circles and riddles. There is a complex message to be revealed.

What is it?
How do I find it?

It is all contrasts and contradictions, opposing sides, things pressing up against one another and things being trapped inside and turned inside out.

I guess, like my life, it is in a state of flux. Like an snow glass, I am all shaken up and like its inhabitants I am waiting for the dust or the snow or the stars to settle. I cannot make my move until I can see clearly again, until I can remove the grit that has lodged in my eyes.

So I guess the message I can lift out and take away is one of mystery and magic, and of the elements and the universe and my place within it. Like the stars shining bright, in the grass, in the sky, in the circle, I will continue to stay lit, watching and waiting…

Pulling it all Apart and Pining it Down

  • Heart: compassion/emotions
  • Hell: imprisonment/fear; a seemingly inescapable situation; the decision, direction or course of action being in someone else’s hand
  • Ladybird: beauty and good luck; something bugging you, numbers of representing the number of problems
  • Circle, fringed with teeth or ice: a broken circle symbolised imperfection, incompleteness, illness and death; going around in circles in some situation; monotony, endless repetition; obstacles and setbacks
  • Snakes and Ladders: journeys, challenges, virtues and vices, heaven and hell
  • The number three: life, vitality, inner strength, completion, imagination, creativity, energy, self-exploration and experience; a trilogy, as in the past, present, and future, or father, mother, and child, or body, mind, and soul; the message that the ‘third time is the charm’
  • The four winged figures: four denotes stability, physical limitations, hard labor and earthly things – as in the four corners of the earth or the four elements (earth, wind, fire and water); the winged figures symbolise child-like innocence, frailty, goodness, purity, protection, comfort and consolation
  • The sea: emotions and feelings, the subconscious and the transition between subconscious and conscious; perception of a situation “I see” or something I need to “see” more clearly; a need for reassurance, hope, a new perspective, a positive outlook
  • Toadstalls: hostility, a block, a necessary evil to overcome; fairy ring, magic circle, focus on the message inside the circle
  • A rainbow: hope, success and good fortune in the form of money, prestige, or fame; a bridge between the earthly, grounded self and the higher, spiritual self; joy and happiness in relationships; an end to life troubles, good winning out
  • Autumn leaves: an end and a beginning – to a project, relationship or situation; fallen hopes, despair, sadness and loss
  • The Parrot: a message being given in the form of gossip, someone mocking you or being obnoxious; a desire for freedom that is constrained or feels trapped
  • Red sky: an ending or a beginning to a relationship; hope, love, possible danger
  • Ropes, chains, ties: relationships and love, suggests you are letting your heart guide you and ignoring your head; unjust burdens, restrictions and constraints
  • Horses: strength, power, endurance, virility and sexual prowess; if the horse has two heads (or if there are two horses attached and bound), then it implies being pulled in two different directions as well as tied down, of strength and power being divided or of confusion over some sexual matter
  • Clock: anxiety of not being on top of things, preoccupation with a deadline or some other time-sensitive issue; the ticking of the heart, ageing, life ticking away, illness, death
  • Counter Clockwise: things moving in the wrong direction, contrary to the heart or true life path, fear of life passing too quickly, of standing still, of time running out too quickly
  • Heaven: freedom from suffering, peace, happiness, relief from physical and/or emotional pain, from sadness in real life; hinting at a need, a desire for all of this and a need to be more optimistic about the future, or the encouragement to have more faith in myself and in my loved ones, a reminder not to give up – on myself, on them, on hope
  • Paper Doily: sensuality and femininity, tradition and old fashioned ideals; being overly practical in some area of life; purity, ideas, patterns, ideals and the desire to conform to them
  • A Long Story:

    In brief, this image seems to be saying many things and could be read in many ways. Regardless, whatever the chosen interpretation, it serves as a stark reminder (gently told) that I am in the midst of a transition, a time of turbulence, and that things are changing. There is a reluctance within me (as ever, familiar as a dear friend) to embrace the new, to let go of the old. There is fear and anxiety, anger and frustration, sadness and intense heartache. I sense illness and death, whether as a result of my own age and ageing and a sudden realisation that I am not so very young anymore, that I am no longer invincible, or as a result of a period of extended ill health. Circles suggest loops, a sense of repetition, a feeling of being trapped. There is hope against the despair, and the underlying message is that of better things to come with perseverance and patience. I feel like the ugly duckling waiting to become a swan, or Cinderella waiting to meet her prince. I am running. I am exhausted. But I don’t feel like I am moving anywhere. It’s more like I’m on a treadmill, covering the same ground, over and over.

    To End
    I am thankful to this drawing for providing me with an insight into a possible present and both a desired and a feared future. I intend to take this information and to use in in conjunction with my other therapies in order to get the best out of it, in order to take the lessons and positive messages contained and put them to use. I will use EFT, Hypnosis and Guided Meditation to do this.

    I hope you enjoyed your own drawings and, with the help of the above, can work to reveal your own insight. Remember, the translation is unique to you. Try searching a dream or a symbol dictionary. See what it reveals. And then take from it what feels right, dismissing what feels wrong. You should be able to piece something together that reflects what you already know deep down inside. And hopefully take away some fresh insight in order to move on past current life issues and blocks.

    Feel free to share your art work and interpretations. I would love to read them and to post them here in order that others might benefit from them.

    Good Friday

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    A Little Reframe
    Today is Good Friday and, while I know that means a wealth of religious things – into which I have very consciously chosen not to meddle, despite being tempted – I would like to present you with a little reframe of my own in the hope that you might get something of additional benefit and insight out of it. After all: variety and experience are the spice of life.

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    In Situ…
    I am sitting in a sunny cafe in Palma, Mallorca as I write this. It is a healthy 20 degrees. My backdrop is a beautiful old building – gothic in structure; part of an old palace, I think. In front of me, standing proud, is the cathedral proper. To the right, gathered around a small, manicured roundabout filled with shrubs and trees are three carriages, each with two horses and a driver. It is a long weekend and tourists spill everywhere, filling the streets.

    My ears pick up a variety of languages, most of which mean nothing to me. Every so often, I hear a word, a phrase, and am impressed with my brain for being able to pick something out of the noise . I feel peaceful, positive, inspired. March, for me, has been much more of a fresh start, a new beginning, than January was and I find myself emerging as if from a dark shell, a place crowded with thought but pitiful in its lack of action. I am excited about the future. I am planning multiple changes. I see a new path and am eager to get up and tread it.

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    My heart goes out to those of you in England, with your arctic conditions and endless winter. I wish you sunshine and warmth. I wish you spring. I wish you flowers and colour. I shudder to think that that used to be me and I am careful not to be complacent about how it used to affect me. I am not here by chance. It was a very conscious decision to escape winter and it was hard to win.

    For all of you – near and far, in sickness and in health, in sadness and in happiness, in warmth and in cold, I would like to highlight the ‘Good’ in this particular Friday and present a little exercise of my own.

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    Yesterday I co-hosted a weekly knitting group. In attendance were women of all ages and several different nationalities. Some came with babies and young children. One came with her sister. Another with a friend. a. Third in the company of a strong stick. We sat. We talked. We shared. And as we did we learned from one another. It was beautiful and peaceful, as it always is, and every one of us gave and took away something of worth. It is that special, precious something that keeps us each returning week after week. Yes, we knit. And, yes: we are productive. But it is the conversation and the nature of that conversation and the opening up and reaching out that is important. It is also a chance for the young to learn from the old and the old to teach the young and a sense of family and community to be kindled.

    A relative stranger here, I am honoured and touched by the warmth and generosity of these women and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for embracing me and for pulling me in and for reducing the enormity of my sense of isolation. It is hard to predict how finding yourself in a new country will feel. Even harder when you have failed to take into consideration the different tongue and your current ignorance of its song and dance. While I study hard at school and do my best to master this new language, practicing it at every opportunity that I get, I gain strength from this grounding which gives me an insight into a possible future if I choose to keep at it and keep trying as hard and as genuinely as I currently am.

    However, what I wanted to share wasn’t about me but about one of the gifts I was given yesterday: an idea, a reminder, of a beautiful temporary preoccupation which, with a little concentrated effort, can deliver great things.

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    Creative Exercise
    So, on this ‘good’ Friday, I propose you take yourself to one side and borrow for yourself an hour in which to focus on no one else but yourself.

  • Take a sheet of paper
  • Take a circular object – one that you can draw around and one that fits onto the piece of paper you have chosen
  • Find a pencil
  • Find a collection of coloured pencils or crayons or felt tips or paints
  • Sit in a peaceful place in a chair and at a table that are comfortable
  • Trace around the circular object, placing it in the centre of your page
  • Then go ahead and fill the circle with whatever imagery you like
  • Concentrate
  • Draw on your subconscious
  • Let out what has been suppressed, ignored or trapped inside
  • Think deep
  • Think about the past, the present and the future
  • Split the circle, if you like, into halves or quarters
  • Let your images fill the space around it
  • Focus and draw for a complete hour and do not judge or try to overly think until you are satisfied that you have finished
  • Then get up and stretch and go and boil the kettle. Make yourself a cup of tea. Return to your seat and take several minutes to observe what you have drawn and what that might be saying to you.

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    On a separate sheet of paper or on the back of the one in front of you, write some notes.

    Ask yourself:

  • What insight can you gain?
  • What lessons are there to be learned?
  • What learning can you take away from this exercise in order to improve upon the nature and quality of your future?
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    If this is hard: step away, leave it for a few hours, leave it for a day. No hurry. No pressure. The meaning will come when you are ready for it. It may appear to you as a sudden flash of insight, a voice in your head, a vivid dream. Or perhaps the simple process of sitting in quiet contemplation, a meditative state, was gift enough and adequately cathartic? We all take and receive in different ways. There is no right or wrong way.

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    Taking the Baby from the Bath Water
    In my next post I will present to you another exercise, taking what you have gathered here and working it into a tapping script so that the ‘Good’ of this special Friday can be put to use.

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    Further Education
    In the meantime, here is a little extra information about the drawing exercise above:

    Mandalas are circles used for meditation and vehicles for change. They are spiritual teaching tools, and a sacred space. Geometric patterns, they represent the cosmos, or a harmonious system.They can be used as a metaphor for ongoing healing and empowerment over trauma.

    The word mandala means completion in Tibetan and appears in the Rig Veda, an Indian collection of hymns.

    Mandalas can be used to represent a personal journey into the centre, revealing the wholeness and stillness that lies at the core. No matter what storms surround us in the external environment, their creation can provide us with a temporary peace.

    Here are some examples:

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    A Journey of a Thousand Miles….

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    A Spiritual Journey

    And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
    no matter how long,
    but only by a spiritual journey,
    a journey of one inch,
    very arduous and humbling and joyful,
    by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
    and learn to be at home.

    ~ Wendell Berry ~

    Continued Education

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    Imagination Summed Up

    An image (from Latin: imago) is an artefact that depicts or records visual perception. For example: a two-dimensional picture that has a similar appearance to some subject (usually a physical object or a person), thus providing a depiction of it.

    Imagination (also called the faculty of imagining) is the ability to form new images and sensations that are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and to the learning process.

    “My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”

    Ursula Le Guin, Winged: The Creatures on My Mind

    As developed by Carl Jung between 1913 and 1916, active imagination is a meditation technique wherein the contents of one’s unconscious are translated into images, narrative, or personified as separate entities providing a bridge between the conscious ‘ego’ and the unconscious. It is a technique used by many natural or alternative medicine practitioners, as well as some physicians and psychologists, for aiding clients and patients and includes working with dreams and the creative self via imagination or fantasy. It can be used to help with anything, from healing the body to solving problems or reducing stress.

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    What does this tell us?

    From the brief exploration above, we can see that the imagination is a very powerful tool, which holds within it the potential to do a great deal of good. If properly harnessed, it can cure all manner of physical ailments and bring healing to much of our mental dis-ease. It can also, however, cause great harm. For this reason, maintenance is not just an important habit to adopt, it is a vital task and should be incorporated as regularly as is permissible.

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    Confused?

    Think of it like a garden. Gardens need our attention and our loving care. They need our vigilance and our action. They need us to visit them regularly with our bag of tools in order to sow and to weed them. They also need us to sit and spend time in them, and to appreciate and enjoy them. In addition, they need us to take responsibility for how they are ordered and laid out or they will spread and grow at random. Given free reign, they will eventually take over, suffocating and destroying everything of value. It is important we understand that they are alive. That they have needs and wants. That they have minds, which (left unclaimed) they will take on as their own.

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    Once Upon a Time…

    Whether we have experience of a garden in real life – our own, a friend’s, our parent’s, a public park – I am sure we can all relate in some way to the above analogy. And, like gardens, our minds are the same.

    As a child we believed in monsters underneath the bed. As an adult most of us know that this is not true. Our childhood monsters were monsters of our imagination, fuelled by television and fiction and by the things we conjured up as a result of our immediate environment. Maybe we made monsters out of the events that we were unable to comprehend or properly process? Maybe we made monsters out of the people who scared us or who caused us harm? Maybe we were ill or injured and we made monsters out of what we were experiencing?

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    But what happens if these monsters remain? What is life like for those of us who have not managed to locate and clear out the bad things in our head?

    I’ll answer that one for you: tough, painful, terrible, impossible, a chore.

    Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have monsters living underneath our beds. The only difference between then and now is that we no longer believe them to be located outside of us, and the problem with this is that – unseen, private, individual – we have also stopped sharing them, having given up hope that they can be killed. We have grown out of calling in the aid of a parent. We have long since realised that checking and receiving confirmation that ‘said monsters’ are not present tonight or are gone for good is good enough. We know they are still there. We constantly feel and see them. And we know, without needing to be told, that they are inside and not outside of us.

    So, What Do We Do?

    The most common way of suppressing and silencing monsters is to attempt to deny their existence: drinking coffee and alcohol, smoking cigarettes and pot, taking and injecting drugs, bingeing on and abstaining from food…. We seek all manner of narcotic and harmful substance or behaviour, looking to suppress our discomfort and inner dis-ease in manifold external ways. And I won’t even try to deny that we are all fairly successful for a while. We must be to have developed the addiction (whether fixed or flexible, conscious or not) in the first place.

    Take me, for example: why do I drink coffee every day when I know that I mostly end up regretting it? Why do I continue to chase the temporary high it gives me even while I know the inevitable crash that will follow?

    We are all, in our own way, a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we all hold within us the power to cure or to confirm all of our ills.

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    If we can commit to the responsibility of regular practice, incorporating a process like Imagineering, Guided Visualisation, Meditation, Self-Hypnosis, Art or Writing Therapy, EFT or Matrix Reimprinting into our daily lives, taking time out to converse with our inner selves, committing to the work that needs to be done, we can dramatically improve upon the quality of our lives.

    So, although I have only touched on the surface of what we suffer and what can be done in aid of it, I urge you to take it upon yourselves to explore and investigate your imagination in full. The pictures and words in your mind are a gift. Harness them. Honour them. Let them out and play with them. Laugh and cry with them. Talk. Argue. Make up. With regular maintenance, that landscape can become your closest and your most loyal friend.

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    Anxiety, for instance, is often the result of unresolved traumas (events incurred in our close or distant past).

    Physical injuries usually have a story to tell.

    If we educate ourselves to the messages being presented by our bodies and take it upon ourselves to do regular monthly maintenance, clearing it all out, sweeping the bad and the useless and the detrimental away, we can (in theory and indeed in practice too) keep ourselves happy and healthy.

    The Power of Art

    Can art heal? And is it possible to measure how effective art as therapy really is? Let me take these two questions one at a time…

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    Birdcage Girl ~ Hsia-Ono Cheng

    1) Can art heal?

    I have believed in the power of art and art as therapy for many years – as (no doubt) have many of you. Art as therapy is not a new concept. It has been practiced for centuries, both consciously and unconsciously, by artists and hobbyists and a small number of clients and patients fortunate enough to have doctors and therapists of foresight.

    So why do they do it and what led them to it in the beginning?

    Artists draw and paint to discover, to uncover, to make sense of, to unearth and to extract. They treat their minds like gardens and know that they need to be maintained and watched. They plant. They watch grow. They weed. And they pull out. All the while understanding that there is a wealth of potential there, lying just beneath the surface, waiting for them to find it.

    Simultaneously, they also understand that this is a place of demons and monsters, holding within it considerable harm and, while some are successful in their attempts to keep it clear and to make it beautiful, others (sadly) are not. Which is why there are as many victories out there as there are tragedies.

    Hobbyists, on the other hand, dabble: knitting, stitching, quilting, sketching and carding, etc. Turning their attention to the process of craft, they escape into a world of silence, entering into a meditative state where time passes without recognition and stress and anxiety are (if not permanently, then at least temporarily) alleviated.

    Clients and patients, participating in a structured and guided atmosphere, a space that is contained, channel their energies into their underlying problems, first uncovering and then exploring what comes to light.

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    Collaborative Art Therapy Project ~ Kelley Luckett

    Art therapy in the professional sense, however, is a relatively novel concept and, as such, still considered alternative and experimental when compared to other more familiar forms of treatment.

    It is much more likely, for example, that when visiting your doctor for depression you will be handed a prescription for a course of antidepressants as opposed to receiving the golden ticket of a referral for therapy.

    Even more unlikely that, were you referred, that therapy would be one specialising in creative expression.

    Therapy is expensive compared to pills and saving money trumps the nation’s health on the annual budget.

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    Invasion ~ Arabella Proffer

    Despite the evidence in journals and books and on the internet. And despite the testimonials of practitioners and artists and clients, art as therapy is still very much in its infancy and viewed with more scepticism than belief. So even though art can heal, both profoundly and powerfully, it is rarely given the credit it deserves and very few of the people who could really benefit from using and exploring it are given the chance.

    Those of us who are lucky happen upon it, discovering it by chance. We find our own way by listening to our inner selves and by following that self’s guidance. If we are closed to this or not yet fortunate enough to hear the cries as they are ushered from within, we may overlook them or pass them by in their entirety.

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    Art Therapy Class ~ London, 2012

    So what is art therapy and what are its aims?

    According to BAAT (British Association of Art Therapists) Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication. Art therapy, sometimes called creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy, encourages people to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and through the creative process.

    Art therapy aims to help people express themselves unconsciously and to process the meaning afterwards. Group sessions typically begin with the therapist giving a one or two word brief to inspire creativity before those attending are given a selection of materials for painting, modelling or writing. After 45 minutes of quick work, the group will then get together to talk about and describe what they’ve just created. After sessions, participants are encouraged to develop their initial artwork into fuller, finished pieces to further interpret and explore their feelings.

    For more information, see: Medical Dictionary

    2) That’s all very well in theory, but is it possible to measure how effective art therapy really is?

    Thanks to scientists, it appears it now is. New technology is making it possible for scientists to measure how the brain responds to art and could potentially open up new and more effective ways to harness its medical benefits.

    The American military has also long embraced art therapy, using it as a core treatment to help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. And it has been used experimentally with patients in a small number of hospitals, in particular in mental health and on terminal wards. But up until now it has lacked sufficient evidence to back this work and its findings up.

    Now, as Jane O’Brien reports in the second part of the BBC’s Power of Art series, mounting clinical evidence of art’s medical benefits could bring new and exciting ways to harness its power and research is being backed by top brass from leading institutions.

    This short clip illustrates just how: The Power of Art: Can Creativity Cure the Sick?

    What does this say?

    This is good news and it excites me. It is about time and long overdue. Yet again, however, science is celebrating a discovery that others have known about for a number of years. So, while we celebrate the scientists and their recently discovered light bulb (hip, hip, hurray!) we should also take note there are many more brilliant therapies out there just waiting to be discovered and utilised by each and everyone of us.

    I urge all of you who are currently suffering – from any form of life discomfort, whether large or small – to take advantage of the internet and to search until you find something that speaks to you in a way that you understand. We are all different and what works for one person may not be right for someone else. Which is why is it wonderful that the world of therapy and alternative therapies is steadily opening up and becoming increasingly mainstream.