How Landscape Painting Can Serve as Acceptance of Personal Circumstances and as Coping Mechanism to assist us Through Challenges
The Struggle with Everyday Life
In our (Western) society, we have a tradition of running away from or fearing so called “bad” times, “bad” feelings, and “bad” experiences. We try to hide it when we are moving through challenging times, and we fight and inner battle- it seems- against these “bad” experiences. We cannot accept that they are happening, and we so wish that the “good” times would only come back.
In actuality, life has ups and downs. Some we judge to be “good” and others “bad.” We will have emotions – emotions help guide us to our desires, preferences, and let us know what is and is not working. Many of these emotions can be dark, heavy, and difficult.
If we struggle against our emotions, project or blame our experience on others and their actions, and if we constantly wait for the “good” times, life will be very challenging indeed. Not to mention that living in this way limits our experience.
What is required, or what we can choose instead, is to ALLOW ALL the experiences of life in – to invite into the “house” that is our life – the perceived “good,” “bad,” and “ugly.” When we surrender to what is, we open up to the beauty of all that life has to offer.
To help understand this, the metaphor of the landscape with changing weather systems can be very helpful.
Be the Landscape
There is something oddly reassuring when we are aware of the solid earth on which we conduct our lives. No matter what happens to us during the course of our day, the ground beneath us is there. No matter how unhappy, or how happy, we are, no matter how angry or calm, the land is there (and has a way of absorbing it all).
The landscapes across the areas we inhabit differ, and differ much more widely across the world. Rugged, silent mountains; fierce raging rivers, deep, treacherous and beautiful oceans, fiery volcanoes; gentle prairies; rich forest, thriving and busy cities…each comes with a metaphor – a meaning – that we can draw out and relate to our emotional lives for comfort, healing, and growth.
Your Landscape (Experiences/ Memories/ Hopes)
Take a moment to imagine what your landscape looks like. Connect to your current experience – your current experience may be influenced by the past and/or the future. Ask yourself, “If I were a landscape, what would it look like, given what I am going through right now, have gone through, or imagine that I might go through?”
Perhaps you are a calm forest scene, with a gentle creek moving through. Maybe you are a rocky beach with violent surf. Or perhaps you are a mix of city, prairie, and rock. When you contemplate your landscape, be sure to make the connection to the metaphors and meanings behind your choices. Draw, sketch, paint, carve/shape, or create your landscape.
Weather Systems (Thoughts and Emotions)
Landscapes experience weather system that moves through – it is rarely stagnant and totally unchanging. Weather systems can be sunny, windy, cloudy, rainy, foggy, electrical, snowy, stormy, dry, cold or hot. Each weather system can be likened to moods, experiences, relationships, etc. in our lives. Within all this, the landscape largely remains (largely) constant (even though it does shift and move).
Take a moment to ask yourself what kinds of weather systems are moving through your life, your day, or this very moment? Keep in mind that situations are often not black and white. I like to acknowledge that, while there may be a prevailing weather system, there are often glimpses of other systems on the horizon, or occurring at the same time. For example, perhaps things are dark, foggy and stormy in your life currently, yet, there are moments of sunshine? Perhaps, even though you may be experiencing a violent storm, there is a rainbow ahead in the distance, and you trust that there is a solution not far off.
Add your weather systems to your landscape representation!
Bringing It All Together
While completing your weather systems, continue to circle back to the idea that the landscape is there- grounding you, absorbing all the emotion, stress, happy/sad experiences, without resistance. The landscape welcomes it all in, and even NEEDS the varied weather in order to function properly (from rain, sun, wind, fire, flood, and storm, etc.).
Reflect on what this can represent and mean for your life.
Ask, how can I BE the landscape, weathering all that comes my way, without the (often) unhelpful struggle that I can create?
Be curious about what is happening in your current experience and change your perspective so that you can SEE clearly what your current landscape is like, and understand how you are either allowing or resisting your experiences, thoughts, and emotions.
Thanks for reading!
Janine M. Ray is an art therapist and clinical counsellor living in the Vancouver, BC, Canada area. Janine sees both online and in-person clients with emotional difficulties, and supports them in achieving wellness, richness, and meaning in their lives. Contact email@example.com for more details.