Belonging has been a recurring theme in my art and in my life recently. It’s been an opportunity to pay more attention, get curious, heal and grow in ways that serve me. Earlier this month I read a quote by Henry David Thoreau, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Sometimes my brain is better at focusing on what I don’t want or what other people are doing or saying than being tuned into my own soul and longing. So I practiced tuning in and wrote about my dreams, what qualities would describe this life I imagine. I repeated belonging four times, “belonging, belonging, belonging, belonging— every part of me and everyone”. A few weeks later, the writing prompt at the studio was, “what does belonging mean to me?” And I got another chance to be aware of what I’m believing and to realign with what matters and what I want to feed. As I prepare for the birth of my baby in May I’m considering who is in my tribe, who I can turn to for support, where do I belong and how do I help create belonging for this little being.
What has unfolded for me is that belonging is life giving. It is about belonging to myself and allowing all the parts of me to have space to be, loving who I am without stipulating what that has to look like. Belonging means connection and being part of a community, about being held in safety and love. It is also about courage and being willing to show up and participate, authenticity and vulnerability even when its scary or uncomfortable. At the studio I created art about these life-giving qualities of belonging. I focused on my experience as an expecting mother and it felt really good to create images of women holding hands and helped me feel more belonging with a new group and identity. I visualized people who love me and the protection and fortified strength and courage I feel when I rest in this awareness, so much greater than when I’m alone.
And then I got stuck. I ran out of steam in my creative process because I wasn’t telling the whole story. Belonging also brings up feelings of separation, fear and not-fitting. The shadow side of belonging has been loneliness and believing I have to work hard to be good enough to be accepted in my own heart and in relationships. These experiences are part of my life, too and I wasn’t giving that space in my art. Expressing this tight, sharp, fearful energy and voice through art was what was authentic for me and when I allowed it to be there I felt more engaged and more ease. When I resist what is actually present I get stuck— not just in my art, but in my life. The practice of naming these feelings and thoughts and sensations through my art and words and trusting that even the parts of me that I judge as not lovable or beautiful or normal belong is the process and path of freedom and love for me.
Michelle Bunch is celebrating one year of process art making and self-discovery with the Creative Nectar community! Michelle earned her master’s degree from Kansas State University in Marriage and Family Therapy and has worked with a wide range of ages from children to aging adults. She has been trained as a play therapist, completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training program and the Beginning Level of Somatic Experiencing, a body-based approach to healing trauma and restoring regulation and flow. Mindfulness is an important part of her life and she is a member of Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness and leads a community class once a month integrating movement and mindfulness. Michelle is joyfully awaiting her first child in spring 2018 and has chosen to pause her clinical work and use this time to listen and tend to this growing life and to her own soul.