Creating Stillness: Mindful Art Practices and Stories for Navigating Anxiety, Stress, and Fear
“Providing tools and inspiration to clients who may not respond to talk therapy is . . . an opening to provide creative modes of healing to clients and communities.”
Insightful and compassionately written, Creating Stillness: Mindful Art Practices and Stories for Navigating Anxiety, Stress, and Fear is a must-read for mental health professionals and readers interested in using the arts as a healing practice.
In her book, author Rachel Rose makes a powerful case for the use of the expressive arts in mental healthcare. She writes that each of us has “holes,” often created by painful experience. Creativity is a powerful tool for healing those hurts.
Much of the strength of psychotherapy is that the practice seeks to bring light to the dark places within us. Sharing our pain can sometimes halve it. Sometimes. As Rose so eloquently points out, not all of our psychotherapeutic tools work as we hope they will. Not everyone responds to talk therapy. “What if . . . ,” she asks, “we make new tools available?”
Creative expression is a tool for emotional healing found in cultures around the world. The ideas Rose has for using creativity to heal are rooted in the human experience.
Through themes of “creative knowing,” and “stillness and mindfulness,” the reader will find in the book a thread of stories and activities aimed at improving wellbeing. We are cautioned that for full effect, we are not to judge ourselves in the creative process, but rather to “create without attachment to the outcome.”
The power of creative expression is, in part, that it can circumvent the conventions of language. Expressive arts give the practitioner the opportunity to feed into painful experiences in ways that language does not offer. Skill is irrelevant to the process. The arts are a means to an end. We are not creating for the marketplace, but to experience deeper parts of self that we keep hidden, sometimes even from ourselves.
One of the goals of using the arts in healing is to find calm, inner strength, and a place of refuge within ourselves. There are many practices that allow us a path to this outcome: tai chi, qigong, yoga, meditation, etc. But if we look back through the eons, cultures throughout history use arts to connect to the moment, place, and one another.
This book offers a particular path to connection through creative practice. It invites “knowing,”—an experience of who you are on more than an intellectual level, but also on the levels of spirit and heart.
Rose is clear that our ways of knowing are not the same person to person, culture to culture. Indigenous people, women, people of color, even plants and animals—each has a different viewpoint and experience in the world. The arts can help us connect to facets of ourselves through our worldview and share our pain in ways that mean something to us, giving us access to support from members of our communities.
“Creative mindfulness” is the term Rose uses to express her ideas. She defines this phrase as supporting “us to live with greater awareness, helping us to live with peace and matching our motivations to our intentions in our lives.”
In the second part of the book, the chapters describe various creative practices and stories of people who use them to positive outcomes. Whether you choose poetry, song, sculpture, or make art out of found objects, there are ways to use creative expression to heal psychological wounds.
Overall, Rose’s work provides great ideas for psychotherapists who have limited experience with the expressive arts, and opportunities for professionals in schools, youth development programs, and mental health, addiction, or trauma treatment facilities to expand their offerings to include expressive arts.
If there is a criticism to be made of the book, it is that Rose’s tone and use of language may be interpreted as “woke.” While that term in its pejorative sense does not apply—like many in her field, Rose is simply gentle—it is a label that could inappropriately be applied to this work to discount it. Such a criticism is a falsehood. Anyone who accepts it is missing out on a wonderful addition to the literature on expressive arts in mental health practice.
Creating Stillness: Mindful Art Practices and Stories for Navigating Anxiety, Stress, and Fear by Rachel Rose is an excellent addition to any mental health professional’s library. Providing tools and inspiration to clients who may not respond to talk therapy is not only a professional obligation, but an opening to provide creative modes of healing to clients and communities.