Art and Healing — How can it help?

Writer, publisher, and teacher Cheryl McLean recently posed this question to me: “How do you envision the healing arts having an impact in these challenging and chaotic times?” She gave me three minutes to respond, so this is what I came up with.

“I shan’t attempt to address the specific challenges we’re all so very aware of. Rather, I invite you to step back and take the larger view. Dostoevsky said: ‘Beauty will save the world.’ So I invite you to champion the everlasting and ever-accessible natural resource of art and beauty with which we are every one of us blessed.

Developmental anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake shows us we are all hardwired for art, from the very moment of our births, when the curtain rises on the art-filled multimedia duet that unfolds between newborn and mom. This communal art-making—of story-telling, of song, of dance, of pure unblemished beauty to fill each other’s senses— need never end for any of us throughout our lives.

My own lasting and ever-accessible resources are my senses: of sight and sound, smell and taste, touch and intuition. So I urge you, everyone of you, to drink your fill of what awaits your senses right now—art-for-health in nature.  To make your senses your primary focus—to inspire your creative imagination and intelligence.

First, sight & sound: The very safest place to be right is outside in Nature. So I urge you, spend your precious time revelling in the beauty of the sounds and sights of nature, of growing things, of creatures great and small.

Second, smell & taste: We eat to live—and as social creatures we eat communally. So cultivate the culinary arts. Relish the abundance of aromas and tastes with which our creator has blessed us. Love the art of delicious and healthy food.

Third, touch and intuition (our sixth sense): We can make physical contact right now with non-human creatures, and with our earth and its waters, with all that lives beneath, upon, and above. And above all, our sixth sense—intuition—is the very fount of our imagination and creativity. From which all beauty and art-for-health emanates.

Full awareness of your senses will return your attention in abundance. So this is not a recipe book. These words are meant simply to galvanize and inspire you. To be well, to be joyful, and to give thanks.”

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