Thursday, November 24, 2011

Art Journaling: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude this Holiday Season

I’ve noticed during yoga classes that my teacher often directs the students in clearing their minds and focusing on gratitude.  It intrigued me, but I didn’t feel like I really understood why.  I just tucked it in the back of my mind.  Then early this fall I went on a retreat where I attended a workshop.  The person leading the group did an exercise in meditation that focused on the heart rather than on clearing the mind of distraction.  She had us focus on feelings of gratitude to push feelings of anxiety out of the body.  She created a relaxed atmosphere, and then had us imagine that feeling of gratitude being pumped throughout the body and into each cell of our being.  It was incredible how harnessing that feeling of gratitude, even gratitude for something very small, could impact how we felt both physically and emotionally.  Early in November I had an opportunity to make an art journal and do some meditation exercises using visual artmaking.  After these experiences it seemed like everywhere I looked I saw references to the physical effects of cultivating feelings of gratitude.  I kept stumbling on magazine articles that encouraged listing things you are grateful for as you fall asleep at night, writing notes of gratitude, and the simple act of verbally saying “thank you”.  I found research on positive psychology interesting, but also thought that if there are this many articles written about the “pursuit of happiness” clearly it is something that our society is craving. 
Our frantic pace and overwhelming list of obligations are magnified during the holidays.  I love Christmas but find that the joy can quickly be blotted out by the endless pressures of fulfilling the material expectations of the season.  I knew that a friend at my church, who is a dance professor, was interested in teaching a class on stretching and decided to invite her to combine our talents and offer a class to our congregation during Advent.  So we came up with, “The Attitude of Gratitude Workshop: gentle spiritual and physical activities to refresh your weary soul this Advent season.”  I plan to write a blog entry each Sunday night with some of the journaling activities, prayers and ideas to meditate on.  Our hope is that it will give people tools for maintaining a calm, joyful mindset so that the most wonderful time of the year won’t leave us physically worn out and our souls weary.

Directions for making a gratitude journal

  • 10 sheets of card stock
  • scrap of fabric approximately 9”x14”
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • 4 clothes pins
  • an awl
  • rubber mallet
  • magazine or scrap wood
  • heavy thread or crochet thread
  • large embroidery needle
  • 1 large button

1.       Fold 10 sheets of card stock in half and stack inside one another to create a book.
2.       Measure one inch from the top, one inch from the bottom and the center of the fold.  Marking with a pencil.
3.       Line up the fabric cover so it matches up with the edge of the left side of the cardstock (when the cardstock is unfolded and there is an extra couple inches of fabric along the right hand edge.)
4.       Hold the papers and cover together by securing with the clothes pins.
5.       Using the awl poke three holes along the spine of the book where you measured. (if you have a rubber mallet or hammer you can use it to pound the awl through the layers of cardstock and fabric.  Use the scrap wood or thick magazine to protect your work surface.
6.       Cut 2 ½ - 3 feet of thread.
7.       Sew the spine of the book by starting from the outside of the fabric cover through the center hole back out the top hole, in the bottom hole and then back through the center hole from the inside of the book to the outside.  Leave a tail long enough to stretch across the width of the cover and extending a couple of inches. 
8.       Sew the button to the flap extending from the back cover so that you can close the journal securely by wrapping the tail of the thread around the button.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the journal idea to instructions.
    I really enjoy your blog!