Calls to awakening aren’t always indictments.
Calls to awakening can come as invitations that stir the sleeping self into curiosity…
Red Thread Letter #910
Medicine Painting is an Ancient & Futuristic Approach to Healing
You can read this letter or listen to me read it to you on my Podcast here.
Today I want to share with you about creativity as a tool for healing. I call it Medicine Painting because creating in this way is curative, powerful, and absolutely revolutionary. It isn’t a new idea, it’s an old one. But it becomes new in our hands when we are eager for transformation and access to our own innate power.
What is Medicine Painting?
Medicine Painting is painting with the intent to heal, move or transform. The chosen area of focus for the painting process could be healing something physical, emotional, energetic, ancestral, or imaginal. Medicine Painting is an ancient practice woven throughout human history and seen in most cultures in one form or another.
Consider it for yourself, where have you seen the most moving artifacts in our common ancestry or in your own ancestry?
A woven rug with encoded symbols. A burial garment with a story about that person’s life and destiny. A woman’s hair combed in bone carved with the symbols of her family. A hand-made drum with a story of that person’s unique medicine. An image of the goddess encoded with the food of her people. An ancient temple carved with symbols of protection. A cradle-board for a baby woven with the natural fibers of the tribe. A cave wall studded with stars.
Cosmic Hand – a painting of my hand created
by Sue Hoya Sellars in 2000, Sonoma
Creativity is an ancient and futuristic medicine.
We have evidence that we have always been creative – of course, we had to be creative to survive. Yet because of the artifacts we KNOW that we were intentionally creative with an eye on beauty, design, and story. Art communicated the internal world of the artist. We can practice this way of being in the present by honoring our own creativity and our inner voice. And in the future? If we do not begin to be intentional about what we create, we will continue to see the collapse of systems of all kinds. Ecosystems, financial systems, bio-systems…all systems need creativity and intention, and awareness in order to move toward a more sustainable way of life. This sustainability – although a buzzword of the now – begins with navigating our own sustainability as a well-being, and our interconnectivity with community, the greater collective, and the earth. Intention is where to begin. And medicine painting invites an increased level of awareness about what is possible for us through exploring our healing journey as a species.
Artifacts like the ones I mention are both sacred and ordinary, beautiful, and have utility. These creations demonstrate a clear cognitive awareness of art, design, myth, and beauty as a part of both the individual and the collective story of that tribe and that specific sense of place. I say ‘sense of place’ in reference to geography because all the materials were natural, drawn from the environment, and reflective of nature, food, elements, cycles, and seasons. Until industrialization and colonization, our ancestors had an awareness of the finiteness and a respect for the way they live in their environment and everything was in essence, intentional and natural. Of note, in the field of archeology, findings are only considered ‘art’ if it has been determined that it was created with intention.
Art is for everyone. Art-making has nothing to do with talent. Creativity activates inherent life force and can be put into practice as a powerful tool to summon the inner healer. Medicine Painting can be a choice for anyone to spark healing, not just artists, the talented, or those who feel they are creative. Creativity cannot be relegated to those with skill alone. The distinction that – art is for everyone – cannot be emphasized enough. I work in a gallery where I see hundreds of people – and MOST of the people who come in still say things like: I wish I was creative. My mom was an artist. I could never do something like this and the list goes on…
That means that this misconception – that art-making is about talent is keeping people from accessing the healing power of creativity. We are here to change that misconception in our culture. Talent is when someone develops their creativity or has an innate gift, but it is not creativity. Creativity is life force flowing from the heart and mind of the person into whatever it is they set themselves to bring forth.
EVERYONE IS INHERENTLY CREATIVE. Until we realize this and activate the minds, hearts, and bodies of our species we will continue to sleepwalk the way many of us are. I don’t want to be sleepwalking. I want to be medicine walking.
The fabric I grew up with has shaped the fabric of who I am as a person. As I write this my eyes fill with tears thinking of a time when intentional creativity was the way we walked the earth. A deep well inside of me seems to remember that way of living in relatedness with people, plants, animals, spirits, and the sacred cycle of time.
I grew up wearing handmade clothing from my Grandmother Eden, scraps of fabric from the dresses she made, were brought into my patchwork dresses. I slept under the blanket she made, soft heavy printed velvet hand-stitched into patterns. I am certain that it is because of the imprint of this fabric, created with so much love, that I do what I do today, which is to call each of us to remember that we are intentionally creative beings. I am the one on the left in my handmade dress. This is a photo from around 1975 in Sonoma, a gathering of women who came together when Lenore Thomas Straus, the guardian to Sue Hoya Sellars came to visit us from Maryland, she is the tall Nordic woman in the center.
I believe the survival of the species and our time here on the planet is dependent on our capacity to live our lives with intention. The earth is requesting our attention, will we listen? Let’s listen with a brush, a pen, or a drum in our hands…
With love, and always hope at the tip of my paintbrush
In a research project within our community in 2017 with over 500 people…
93% said they experience creativity as a mindfulness practice 86% felt that their creative practice positively impacted those closest to them 92% feel that creativity influences their compassion for themselves 90% said they experienced compassion for others near them through creativity 80% said they would suggest creative process to others who experience depression 87% consider themselves self expressed as compared to before they were creating 86% said they have experienced breakthroughs and aha’s during painting 77% said they choose painting specifically to work through a chosen breakthrough 90% said they have experienced a shift in their default thinking 88% said they experienced a shift in their personal story through creating with intention 89% said they bring insights into their life discovered while painting 85% said they experienced an expanded sense of self 79% noticed an ease of physical symptoms while creating 93% experience creating as a relief/break that benefits their overall well being 90% have experienced a shift in recurring emotional pain through creative process 90% said that creativity helped them maintain a healthy outlook