I was fortunate enough to attend the Art and Spirituality retreat this weekend. It is a one-night retreat, and it is designed to focus on the self. There are no small groups and no collective discussions. Most of the time on this retreat is devoted to self-reflection, creativity and, of course, artwork. Although there was free time, most people spent that time completing or improving their pieces.
We began the day in the early afternoon with a trip to Lake Scranton, where we walked through the woods in search of the perfect “journey stick,” which would later be used for an activity.
The leaders were extremely prepared, and when we arrived at the lake house they had set up a room full of every type of art media and materials that any art lover could want. They had everything: acrylic paint, charcoal, canvas, magazines, oil and chalk pastels, stones, pieces of glass, wood, glue, modge podge, jewelry and more.
These were the tools that we would use for two days to express ourselves through our art.
There was only one rule for the weekend, and that was that nobody could comment on anyone else’s art, whether those comments were positive or negative. This allowed everyone to make whatever he or she wanted without worrying about what anyone else would think. We did not work to please others, but we worked to please ourselves and to let out all of our emotions.
Over the course of two days, we worked hard on many different activities and pieces. We created mandalas and crosses. We sculpted our emotions out of clay. Every activity we participated in allowed for self-expression. I had never been on a retreat like Art and Spirituality, and it was a nice change to be able to experience a retreat focused solely on myself. I did not have to worry about sharing stories or experiences with others. I did not have to think about what I would be able to bring to a group. Although these are aspects of retreats that can help build connections and can help us grow as people, it is nice to step back and concentrate just on my own feelings and emotions.
This retreat came during a very busy time of the semester, and I can honestly say I was more relaxed in the course of those two days than I had been in months. It was the best kind of relaxation, and we had nothing at all to worry about except demonstrating our personal creativity. I have always been passionate about art. I love drawing, painting, throwing pottery and any other kind of art that you can think of. However, after being on this retreat I realized that I used to do art to make pretty things.
This weekend was one of the first times that I created pieces in which I fully expressed myself. I put emotions into my work that I have never put into a piece of work. I let everything out into my art, and this release helped me in more ways than I can count.
In their book ‘Life, Paint, and Passion,’ Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley write, “But you say you have nothing to start with? Then start with nothing. When you start with nothing, you start with yourself. When nothing is planned you have only your own feeling with which to begin. Is that nothing or everything? If you want to explore, to move with your intuition, you must get used to not knowing where you are going. There is a great freedom there!”
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