Frequently in our healing circles and on our retreats, someone tells a story of having been saved by the arts—or a story of yearning to pursue healing through art that is frustrated by the need to do work that does not nourish the soul. Even among those who have never been drawn to arts before, the discovery of the healing power of art can awaken the recognition of a simple truth: art heals.

The central idea of the healing arts is a focus on process rather than product. There’s no need to create a finished product of high aesthetic appeal. Rather, the healing use of the arts focuses on what the creative act evokes in us. We can use healing arts to explore inner states: physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.

Here are some blog posts that provide more information:

Art

Healing Circles Houston

Healing Circles Houston: Where BIG Meets the Pace of Guidance

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Healing Circles Houston has been opening doors of opportunity since 2016 in partnership with many like-minded organizations throughout our communities.

The Faces of Fear

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Participants in a Callanish circle were invited to name the many faces of fear.

Healing Art Circle

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At St. Paul's Church in Houston, we explore self-discovery topics, such as emotions, stress, loss, strength, self-awareness, and transformation, by pairing them with specific art activities wrapped in healing circles.

Embellished Journals

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Opening my very first Art and Healing circle, I feel excited and vulnerable. Reminding myself to breathe, I ground and relax. I know that whoever comes will be just right.  This is my first time facilitating something like this, and I feel…

Poetry

Women Sharing, Women Witnessing

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Responding to national news, we invited sexual abuse or assault survivors, to share her story with other women whether she had told it before or was just finding the courage to tell it now.

In Exile 

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Sharing moments from a tender counseling session with a bereaved mother, Janie Brown takes a strong and compassionate look at the impact of loss on our hearts and our lives. Do we actually “move on?” Do we actually “get over it?”
CC BY-NC 2.0

An Apprenticeship with Sorrow

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Francis Weller views grieving our current, as well as our "untended" sorrows, as essential for the freedom and vitality of our souls. He says, “Learning to welcome, hold, and metabolize sorrow is the work of a lifetime.”
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Poems About Grief

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Poetry can touch our hearts and minds in a way no other language can. These poems can help us slip past our usual thinking and sink into a wider, deeper, and more intimate wisdom.

Discovery Circles

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Arts enable breakthroughs in our thinking and our understanding of self in crisis that our rational minds may withhold.

Searching for Soul Through Poetry

Poems touch in us a core, our inner teacher, our innate wisdom we sometimes forget to access.

Anyone Can Sing

Over the years, I have seen many people find a voice for their soul through song. In my volunteer and nonprofit work, I have had the privilege of guiding many who are healing with cancer, or facing death and loss, through a cathartic process…

Healing Circles: A Poem

Healing Circles Langley host Judith Adams remembers how she survived her husband’s death by banding with others.

The Spirit in Everyday Life

Milagros have been used for centuries throughout Latin America and represent the universality of humans acknowledging the presence of spirit in everyday life.

Music

Healing Sound Bath

Usually on the second Wednesday of most months, we push all the furniture aside in the Fireside Room upstairs and Deborah Koff-Chapin sits in a semicircle of her crystal bowls and tea lights in near-darkness...

Discovery Circles

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Arts enable breakthroughs in our thinking and our understanding of self in crisis that our rational minds may withhold.

Anyone Can Sing

Over the years, I have seen many people find a voice for their soul through song. In my volunteer and nonprofit work, I have had the privilege of guiding many who are healing with cancer, or facing death and loss, through a cathartic process…

The Power of Music and Singing

Music and singing are powerful healing tools to uplift and inspire us, bring us comfort and hope, and give voice to our struggles.

Movement and Ritual

Dr. Deb

Dr. Deb has figured out how to enliven the lost soul not just for her own healing but also for the healthcare professionals in her life.

Deeply Buried

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One man’s unwavering courage to heal his unattended sorrow changed many lives.

Discovery Circles

“When I actually sat down and began to write … I found my mind pulled toward rockier shores. First longings lept up to brush my heart. Distant voices appeared, and ebbed, and then appeared again. I remembered the stories … of a family trying to explain itself … I strongly resisted the idea of offering my past in a book … not because that past is particularly painful or perverse but because it speaks to those aspects of myself that resist conscious choice.”

This is the voice of Barack Obama writing his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” which increased his field of awareness and helped him make sense of his life. He’s not the only one to experience this, and that’s not the only benefit. “The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast,” wrote Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times. “Studies have shown that writing about one’s self and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits, boost memory … and improve happiness,” she added.

At Healing Circles Langley, we reinforce this individualized expression and healing with collective support. Our Write to Heal circle gathers for 90 minutes, embarking first on an interior journey of discovery through writing. Susanne Fest, co-host with Kathryn Stivers of the circle, writes:

“We believe that the circle holds us, gives us courage to look, remember, and name what might have escaped our conscious awareness. We put pen to paper, watch words and sentences appear: manifestations of the previously ephemeral, invisible, unknown. Finally, we read to each other out loud. This process of witnessing closes the circle. What was previously unknown has been invited into our awareness, represented in words, written on paper, spoken out loud, and integrated into community. In this way, healing becomes a possibility.”

Circle Poem 

voices joined in laughter and discovery
circling grief and love—an enso of healing
we pass our words, our sentences to each
other’s waiting hearts
and in the wake of words
we arrive

Our Poetry for Grief and Sadness circle gathers around the hearth. “We have been touched by death, grief, illness, and loss, and still we laugh, we hug, we write. We are healed by love, by sharing our stories, and by writing circle poems together,” writes Lynn Nelson, a circle member for two years.

Write to Heal and Poetry for Grief and Sadness are part of Healing Circles Langley’s Discovery Circles program. Discovery circles enable people who share a common way of processing life’s challenges (but may not share a common condition) to come together in the spirit of self-discovery. The arts enable breakthroughs in our thinking and our understanding of self in crisis that our rational minds may withhold. This happens through art, words, dance, and song.

Our Circle of Song meets monthly in a collective process of quiet singing, ramping up to boisterous joy and energy, and ending with reflective, spirit-inducing song. In our most recent evening, a man who had missed a few circles returned with a bald head and a mask—evidence of the challenging cancer treatment he was going through. When we started to sing “I am alive,” I could see his eyes tear up. When the song moved to “Who is this aliveness? I am,” he broke into sobs.

“I haven’t cried yet,” he said. Singing, a deep love of his since childhood, was the pathway to his inner feelings. Spontaneously, a circle member started to sing:

While I live, I love 
While I love, I sing 
While I sing, I dance, 
While I dance, I love, 
While I love, I live. 

We didn’t need to have cancer to feel that aliveness.

Diana Lindsay is co-founder and co-director of Healing Circles Langley. She is the author of the book Something More Than Hope: Surviving Despite the Odds, Thriving Because of Them, the story of her recovery from stage IV lung cancer.

Header photo courtesy of Callanish