An Intentional Creativity 7 Step Process for those impacted by natural disasters related to Fire, Water, Earth, Air
This Intentional Creativity® process is designed to support individuals in coping with losses from natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods. Our hope is that this tool will help those impacted by such events enter into recovery, integrate the trauma and transform their experience and also provide a tool of service for those who desire to support. This process can also be modified for personal use.
We are focusing on the power of imagination to help change energy and move out of survival and into an experience of their participation and co-creative capacity to know how they feel and to do something about it.
We wanted to offer a process that was simple and effective that used a small quantity of materials. In our community of Intentional Creativity we use red thread, but you can use ribbon, string or fabric of any color. If you can afford to, provide a journal and pens that you can leave with them at the end. If you have a table, great, if not, make sure you have a hard surface for them to work on like a clip board or journal. You will go through the process with them, working at the same time. You can also do it one-on-one or in a group. Some parts of it could be over a phone or video stream.
Remember that everyone processes trauma in their own way, in their own time. When doing any healing processes, meet the individuals where they are. They may not yet be able to write about their feelings or experiences, there may be some things that feel overwhelming. Be present with them, holding space and witnessing but not probing. Be gentle with eye contact. Let them participate according to what feels safe to them and adjust as needed. You can do this at a shelter, café, home, office, street side, park and some parts of it can be done over a phone or online streaming like zoom/skype.
Please note that creativity, because it is often uncomfortable, can cause more discomfort at first, but stay with it, and this anxiety is like a crucible that can transform into calm. We send you all blessings for the journey ahead and for those you choose to gather.
Co-Founder of Intentional Creativity
Introduction to the Elements
7 Step Intentional Creativity Process
Provide an overview of the process and agree with your guest/s how long this process is going to take. A half hour to several hours depending on what space you have. You can also just do one part of the process.
Introduce the overall idea as if it is a prayer or blessing on the energy you are carrying. Something like: “This is an invitation to become present and embodied during difficult times, and to integrate what has happened.” Based on what you are dealing with, this invitation can change to what feels appropriate. After each process, invite them to share if they want to, or not. *You demonstrate sharing and vulnerability, but with strength. You are the place of compassion.
Materials: red thread, 4 pieces of paper, pens (not sharpies), scissors
Set the materials out in a sacred manner. As if it is a small simple altar. For each exercise, use both sides of the paper. For the free-write side, consider drawing a simple border of containment: one line going all the way around, choose a different style of border for each page.
1. INTENTION: Have everyone state their intention for the experience as they receive the Red Thread. The intention for you as the leader can be something like: To hold space and witness for [the element you are working with]. Your guest may be uncomfortable with sharing in the beginning, so you can just ask them to share what they are noticing or present to. Each person shares their intention and receives a part of the thread to keep with them or put on their wrist. Tie it on for them with tenderness.
2. ACKNOWLEDGE: Invite your guest to free write on the first piece of paper about the part of the experience that feels most impacting for them right now. Loss, fear, anxiety, stress, unknown, anger, isolation, panic, etc. You can provide a few choices if they seem to be drawing a blank.
3. ACTIVATE: Invite in the element connected with the situation. Free doodle drawing that includes elemental event (ie. fire, flood, earthquake, etc.) on the other side of the paper. Give a demo so they can see what that element looks like.
Share about the element in such a way to diffuse the fear around it, so that we come to a space where fire is not evil, the earth is not punishing us, the water is not raging against us. Be mindful of your thoughts on how you contextualize this idea. You don’t want to negate their experience but guide them into their own empowered ideas about it.
If appropriate, this can be a good time to share about the healing aspects of the element being worked with – and/or to bring in any/all of the other elements. OR you can ask them what each element represents for them inviting a positive representation. As the leader, you are making an effort to help neutralize the element and activate the positive energy of it.
Possible interpretation: Fire: Transformation, Will and Change ~ Earth: Home and Grounding ~ Water: Renewal and Cleansing ~ Air: Breathe and Communication.
4. SAFETY: Acknowledge current situation on the second piece of paper, this is done with some gravity from you and perhaps a contextualization of the current environment.
Ask a few questions about where they are experiencing now: Are you safe? Are you with loved ones? Do you have what you need for the next day? Focus on right now and put these inquiries into context with where you are during the process. Of course, if they are at a shelter be sensitive to that, distinct from if they are in an office, or a home. Free write on this topic and acknowledge what feels true. Grief and gratitude do dance together and work better in tandem when acknowledged. i.e. glad to be alive, yet filled with fear. Acknowledge that the paradox is normal. People often have a hard time reconciling the two things, but they can exist side by side and can be healing.
Turn the paper over and draw a feeling of safety, even if that safety is temporary (give demo if guiding), perhaps with circles or tracing their hands or a symbol of their choosing. Circles that intersect are good here. The act of asking them to draw a feeling stretches the imagination to a new place, and while uncomfortable, is often calming.
If you are called, use body movement to integrate drawing/painting and accompanying feeling of safety into physical body – ie sweeping motions, swinging arms, big wide movements, embody the elements.
5. CONNECTIONS: Create blessings and prayers for the community on the third piece of paper. Rip or cut the paper into smaller pieces, and write prayers or blessings or wishes for others. This step acknowledges that others are having the same experience and is a move towards broader consciousness and compassion. Getting out of our own story and moving our gaze towards others is necessary for healing. Service can be one of the most transformational aspects of working within a tragedy.
One idea is to tie them together on red thread like a prayer rope or string. If in community, this can be a group process OR have them wrap red threads around the messages and hand them to others. Depending on the location you are in, the messages can be hung up/showcased in the space and more messages can be added. That way the person you are guiding has a job to invite others. These prayers, blessings, messages can also be gathered in a bowl with strips of paper instead of tied.
6. AFFIRMATION: On the fourth piece of paper, invite them to write an affirmation of how they will choose to show up and stay centered during this time. Although it may be too soon on their path for a true claiming – practicing this gives a sense of power. Invite them to keep this piece in their pocket, in their bra, in your purse, and remember it when they get scared – to read it. On the other sides they could create a connection from their past to their future – with them being in the present moment – like a bridge, or a journey.
7. SHARING: Consider inviting them to share a variation of this project with another person in need. You can guide it, change it and use it to work with others who are experiencing trauma. You can even give them a handout with this process and empower them to move into being the guide.
With the paper they have, they can tie it into a scroll with thread, and or fold it up and keep or, or let it go.
Blessings for the journey ahead. Thank you for being willing to hold space for those in need.
NOTE: Working with trauma can be very sensitive and complex. If you don’t feel experienced or comfortable, keep the process more general and just enough for them to receive some comfort and empowerment. A little love through Intentional Creativity goes a long way. People can and will be triggered but we cannot let that keep us from sharing.
Basic process created by Shiloh Sophia, with input and ideas and editing from members of the Intentional Creativity Guild.
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