Healing through Nature and Art
Healing can be a slow and almost unnoticeable process. Whether it is healing a physical or emotional ailment, it takes courage, willingness, and determination to do the needed work. I experienced the healing powers of art and nature and reaped the benefits of Montessori-based activities after suffering a mid-brainstem stroke. My gait, coordination, speech, and cognitive skills were significantly affected, yet the doctors considered I didn’t need rehabilitation. I also suffered from sensory overload, which is common in stroke survivors. After being denied help, I drew from my knowledge in Montessori education and eco-art therapy to help myself regain the skills lost. Integrating
Montessori-based activities, spending time in nature, and engaging in daily art-making, gradually helped me regain strength in my right arm and hand while building stamina. I slowly noticed a change in my thought process as it became easier to get organized and carry out simple tasks.
Montessori-based activities improved my fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, concentration, and independence. Simple household activities like squeezing a sponge, pouring a drink, or peeling potatoes helped me regain strength and a sense of worth as I retrained myself.
Ecopsychology and Art
Applied Ecopsychology or Nature Therapy supplied a peaceful environment where my body could renew, rest and just be. It supplied the wisdom of nature through observation, journaling, reflection, and artistic inspiration. Montessori said, “The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge.” Through nature connecting activities I recalibrated my sensory functions. The immediate environment has a powerful effect on us. Surrounding myself with nature daily gave me peace, I felt at ease. Incorporating art into these experiences helped me reduce stress, be more creative, and gave me a sense of accomplishment. Amazed by how eco-art helped me rehabilitate after a stroke, I wanted to share with others, especially teachers, the benefits of these interactions. I started leading eco-art workshops and art classes for teachers. These classes combined meditation, visual art, reflection, and sharing time. Little that I know, I was intuitively practicing expressive arts. I discovered the field of expressive arts and it changed my life forever. Learning to facilitate expressive arts gave me a safe space to reconnect with my body in unimaginable ways. It allowed me to express things that words could not.
Spending time in nature, whether it is admiring a sunset, listening to birds sing, or wading at the seashore can bring an opportunity to rest, reflect and restore.
Who hasn’t experienced that?
These experiences in nature helped me overcome mental exhaustion and better my attention. The Attention Restoration Theory or ART developed by Rachael and Stephen Kaplan suggests that nature interactions can help improve our attention and therefore our ability to concentrate especially after strenuous mental activity.
As I reflect on my life after the stroke, I see the transformation of my body, mind, and spirit. Merging the knowledge and wisdom of Montessori education, ecopsychology and expressive arts enriched every aspect of my being. This fusion helped me heal by engaging my mind, improving my cognitive function, strengthening my body, and filling my spirit with joy.