Caregiver Corner: Art as a Means of Mindfulness

Caregiver Corner: Art as a Means of Mindfulness

 

By Ian Hebeisen

Mindfulness comes in many shapes and forms. It doesn’t have to be hardcore meditation for a solid hour once a day – that’s simply not realistic for everybody. For some people it might be a simple prayer and reflection at the end of the day, for others it might be doodling in an adult coloring book. For my mom, it’s both.

Mom always felt a strong connection to her religion. She attends church, sends out prayer requests, and credits her faith in her recovery journey. If she didn’t have the support and guidance from some of her pastors and friends, she would not have made it this far.

A few years back, she attended a class at our church on “Praying in Color”, a technique developed by Sybil MacBeth. This practice involves coloring, sketching, or painting while praying. When praying in color, the artist focuses primarily on the prayer while letting their hands move freely – no predetermined outcome, no desired goal or ending image. The prayer guides the artwork, often resulting in beautiful, abstract expressionist pieces of art.

Already an incredibly artsy person, Mom adopted the practice and began producing colorful pieces almost daily. At the end of the day, she would sit at her crafting table with her colored pencils, markers, and a plethora of other utensils. She prayed for recovery and clarity, doodling all the while.

Her praying in color became a means of daily reflection. She would meditate on the events of the day – things that went well, particular challenges, her physical pain and muscle spasms – and the art would mirror them. On especially painful days, her art looked murky and black, with lots of intersecting lines and jumbled masses of ink. But on days with notable improvement (finding a new treatment that worked, hearing back from a functional neurologist, etc.), the art featured beautiful colors and crosses.

The more she prayed in color, the more experimental her art became. She branched off into collage, pasting snippets from articles onto the page and painting around the paper. Mom even began making physical crosses out of materials she gathered on hikes or found while cleaning. Each artwork captured a triumph or struggle, documenting her path to recovery in watercolors and ink.

These crafting sessions accomplished a few things for my mom. First, they served as time to decompress after a day of work and social interactions. Her mind could wander while still working on something creative. Second, they helped Mom get in touch with how she felt, physically and emotionally. She could reflect on the artwork, see what she highlighted, and share it with us when an exciting revelation came through. Third, it gives her something to do. “It gives me purpose when I’m incapable of doing more,” said mom. When she’s completely exhausted but doesn’t want to lie around, it fills her time and makes her feel productive.

Whether she was aware of it or not, Mom became a master of mindfulness, practicing every day. Finding a method of mindfulness that’s right for you can greatly improve your mental health and quality of life – it certainly has for my mom.

For caregivers, its equally as important to practice mindfulness. Take time to reassess how you’re feeling to avoid overexertion and burnout. Find time in your day to breathe and check in with yourself. Reflecting on your mental state can let you know if you need to reevaluate boundaries, or if you’re ready to take on even more for your loved one.

Ian Hebeisen is a writer based in the Twin Cities. Graduating in 2020 with a degree in Literature with a Writing Emphasis, Ian spends his time writing for The Brain Health Magazine and JUVEN Press. He also writes comics, zines, short stories, and poetry. He lives with his partner and two cats, and enjoys playing board games and reading. 

This post was previously published on The Brain Health Magazine.

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