Healing Yourself by Creating Art: The Muse That Heals Written by Michael Samuels, MD and Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD.


When art is expressed from the deepest levels of our being, profound healing occurs. Just as you may not consider yourself an artist, you may not think of yourself as a healer, either. You may have never used this powerful inner part of yourself consciously. But just as everyone is an artist, we know that everyone is a healer.

Each time you make art, the creative self can be reborn, brand new. Each day offers new ways of being, feeling, and doing. Each day we can recreate ourselves. The process is similar to the grass that sprouts up between the cracks in the cement: with the creative-healing force, you can learn to grow new shoots and harness new forms, ideas, visions, and realities. The possibilities of expression are infinite, and this is what frees you to heal at your core.

After years of teaching people, we can confidently say that it is easier than you can imagine. For some, what we call the Inner Critic can sometimes get in the way of our deepest expressions of felt-art, even for professional artists. Many people feel fear about sharing something personal with a group.

Release whatever doubts you may be holding onto.

Creating an Art-Healing Space-Time… Taking Care of Yourself

“Stepping into art and healing for me was like stepping into sacred space and time. I felt excited and joyful to do the process each week.” — Troy, Student in Creativity and Spirituality in Healthcare, University of Florida, Gainesville

For many people, taking care of themselves is a crucial step in healing their pain. However, this can be hard to do sometimes — even when the decision to make yourself the focus of your healing process is so critical. This is especially true for people who care for everyone around them:

Debra, a nurse, felt selfish when she made her art. She was so used to taking care of others, that when she dedicated time to herself, she felt guilty. When she developed breast cancer, Debra realized that she deserved to be taken care of by others; more importantly, she needed to finally take care of herself.

She created a piece of art with the internationally renowned sculptor Christiane Corbat. She made plaster casts of the hands of each of the people who were taking care of her. Each person put a message of love in the plaster palms. Debra cried every time she read the messages. She realized she deserved the wonderful care her friends, family, and caregivers were giving her. A crucial part of her art was accepting that she, the caregiver, needed and wanted the care.

Making Art… Finding What You Need to Be Whole

Healing Yourself by Creating Art: The Muse That HealsMaking art to heal is about finding an opportunity for you to do exactly what you want and need for yourself so that you can be whole. It is about you, healing your life.

Make yourself a priority — because you deserve it. When you care for yourself, you can give more to your family, children, friends, coworkers, community, and the environment. One essential part of the healing process is giving yourself the time and space to create.

Step One: Make Time… Giving Yourself Time

In an increasingly fast-paced, efficient world, time can be the most precious resource you have. Giving yourself time is the most useful healing tool. By giving yourself attention, you listen and learn about yourself.

We recommend creating a routine around each week’s material. Make these moments your own. Create art every day or every week, depending on your schedule: just make sure your time is free of distractions.

In our classes, there are students who get so excited that they make art for hours, and there also are those who fit it in when they can. Don’t worry if you miss days. Remember, this is for you to heal and change your life. It’s not a burden, an assignment, or something you have to do. It is joy and self-discovery. It is full of life.

At first, you may need to experiment with the particular day of the week or the hour of the day. Figure out whether you prefer mornings or evenings, until you find your rhythm and pace. The simplest way is probably the best. It will grow from there. Consistency will become important once you find the best routine.

This work is your gift to you. You’re doing it to be healthy and feel alive, full, and creative. Value yourself enough to do it. Make this simple act as important as anything else that you do in life.

Step Two: Make Sacred Space… Your Own Healing Temple

The next thing to do is to create a physical studio that reflects your wonderful energy. It can be any kind of place or space: between the covers of your journal, the sanctuary of your bed and bedroom, a corner of the kitchen, an attic, a backyard shed, or garage work table.

What is sacred space? If you were to walk on a road and find a rock, it might be an impediment and be moved away with annoyance. If you a devout Buddhist and you learned that this was the rock that Buddha sat on for his vision, it would be the most sacred place — a place to go to for solace or escape, full of healing energy and significance. Each person’s sacred space is their own and is deeply tied to personal meaning, their own story, and what they believe in.

Sacred space is crucial. In each class we lead, all art-work is done after intentionally making sacred space. We both do different things. Michael uses prayer, incorporating sage and medicine wheels before guided imagery and art making. Mary does guided imagery, prayer food, and a short art exercise with music and candles. But we never do anything in ordinary space — we work in sacred art-healing space.

Make a space that feels different to you from your ordinary spaces. Put candles, soft music, aromas, and objects you love in this place. Create a personal and loving boundary around yourself for privacy. It’s your sacred space — your own healing temple.

We guarantee that this new, sacred space and time, will spark memories. Images will emerge. In ordinary life you never are focused enough to be still or go inward enough to be truly creative. Intense focus and concentration create the physiology of healing and help the immune system function at its best.

*subtitles by InnerSelf

©2013 by Michael Samuels and Mary Rockwood Lane.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from
Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing. beyondword.com

This article was adapted with permission from Part 1/Week 1 (Beginning the Journey) of the book:

Healing with the Arts: A 12-Week Program to Heal Yourself and Your Community
by Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane Ph.D.

Healing with the Arts: A 12-Week Program to Heal Yourself and Your Community by Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane Ph.D.Through art projects — including visual arts, dance, writing, and music — along with spiritual practices and guided imagery, Healing With the Arts gives readers the tools to heal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ailments. Acclaimed by hospitals and caretakers from around the world, Healing With the Arts brings a proven 12-week program out of the medical community and into your home and neighborhood. Internationally known leaders in the arts in medicine movement, authors Michael Samuels, MD, and Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD, use creativity and self-expression to pave a path to healing. Whether using it to improve your personal health or the health of your community, join the thousands of people who have already awoken their innate healing ability through art.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Michael Samuels, MD, is the co-founder and director of Arts as a Healing ForceAbout the Authors

Michael Samuels, MD, is the co-founder and director of Arts as a Healing Force. He teaches at San Francisco State University’s Institute of Holistic Studies and is the author of 22 books including the bestsellers The Well Body Book, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye, and The Well Baby Book.

Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD, is co-founder and co-director emeritis of Shands Arts in Medicine at the University of FloridaMary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD, is co-founder and co-director emeritis of Shands Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where she teaches creativity and spirituality in health care. She is currently conducting research on creativity and spiritaulity at end of life. She is the co-author of five books including Creative Healing and Spirit Body Healing. For more information, please visit http://www.healingwiththearts.com.

Watch a video with Mary Rockwood Lane

Other articles by these authors.

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