There is so much gold and light in the following interview
that I humbly bow in honor
and pass the Artist~Healer Talking Stick
to self-proclaimed Artist~Heal-ing, Laura Hegfield
All that I am I open to You,
Offering soft wisps and whispers
Released from the center of my being.
In precious moments such as this, love is
No longer held captive by fear. No pause hinders
The liberation of Divine sparks as seed by seed they
Drift with ease, touching down as blessings gently planted
In the wild world, cultivated by the shifting seasons and Your
Presence. I am awed and grateful for the beauty of each miracle seen
And unseen. This pod like a heart broken is a healing prayer quietly spoken.
I open to You, soft wisps and whispers released from the center of my being.
What does being an Artist~Healer mean to you?
In a sentence: An Artist-Healer is being a vessel through which Divine creativity flows-in and out, like breathing.
Honestly, I don’t think of myself as an Artist-Healer, more an artist heal-ing.
When I share my fragile heart with others through my photos and writing, or as a facilitator, healing happens inside of me and sometimes within those who view, listen to or somehow open to whatever I offer. Kaizen-Muse® Creativity Coaching, SoulCollage®, Spiritual Direction, guiding meditation, are all creative healing services I offer that involve lots and lots of listening to others (and my own heart too) as clients, mentees and students discover healing within. When I work one on one, which is most of my work now, my role is to be a guide, a witness, a compassionate mirror for others as they watch their own healing process unfold, one exquisite petal at a time. Seeing, listening, and feeling become part and parcel of the same experience.
This is true for me personally. When I am fully engaged in discovering something intriguing to photograph, writing from that image or a SoulCollage® card, a sound I hear in my environment, or song that rises up from my soul, by being present, healing happens.
(are they separate facets of your self & life? do they inform one another?)
Healing and art are not separate aspects of my life; everything is interconnected.
Me, You, the light shining through a leaf, or the miniscule hairs on the stem of a browning weed that might capture my attention and wake me up to a deeper understanding of what I need to recognize in a particular moment in time. There is no separation here. Then again, there is the witnessing piece. I’ll discuss this more in a bit.
Have you always identified yourself as BOTH an Artist and a Healer? If not, when did you first recognize yourself as both?
It took a while to embrace Artist, though I’ve always understood that I am a creative being (we all are). I have been expressive visually, verbally and musically since early childhood, but to put a capital A in front of trist; I still wouldn’t necessarily capitalize the a. I was in my mid-thirties when I was hired to teach art to teens in my community, hired because I was an artist, amongst other reasons. I started to get it then. “Oh, ok, I am an artist.”
For seven years I taught art & Jewish spirituality and yoga & Jewish spirituality classes to teens. It didn’t take long to recognize the connection between art and healing and how much these energetic and over scheduled teens needed some sacred down time. As the years went on and I got into my “groove” as a teacher, the classes became much more focused on process than product. I could see how by incorporating meditation and kabalistic and Chassidic concepts into my art classes as well as intuitive painting, wire, beads and collage and eventually SoulCollage®, once I was trained, all of these things helped the students to settle into themselves.I saw insecure eighth grade girls become more and more accepting of their natural ability to create and then themselves as a whole. I watched smart-alecy ninth grade boys drop their guard and engage with art materials, experimenting with different ways to make marks on paper with paintbrushes or oil pastels, forming sculptures from wire and beads. They were playing, using their hands, getting messy, stepping outside of the images they had formed of who they were supposed to be and into who they really were on a much deeper level. This was a time of healing for these kids, even if they were not aware that that was what was happening. I was privileged to witness their growth and transformation, because the same students would often choose my classes (they were electives) for four years in a row! Part of what I saw were developmental changes that would have happened anyway, but I feel like there was more to it than that. I created a safe sacred space for them to just be. Some of my former students, now young adults still stay in touch with me. I LOVE that!
Now healer, I don’t feel completely comfortable owning that, even though you invited me here as a “healer.” To be honest I’d feel more comfortable adding a prefix or suffix to the word, “self-Healer” or “Heal-ing.” I can step into the word with more ease with these subtle changes. A friend once called me a “spirit-gate-opener.” I loved the way the words sounded and it woke up a realization that perhaps I was supposed to be a Spiritual Director, or maybe I already was? That’s another story.
Anyway, if my art, my writing or ability to be present to someone when they are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, frightened, confused, filled with deep peace or rapturous joy opens a gate to Spirit within them, then I fully accept that appellation. In my experience we are all continuously Heal-ing our Selves.
Of course there are individuals along the way who aid us on the journey. Perhaps sometimes I am one of those angel-messengers (in Hebrew the word malach means both), it seems clear from messages (emails, blog comments and phone calls and from my work in the past as a teacher), that I do inspire others to discover something they need to be reminded of for that internal process of healing to unfold.
Does that make me a healer?? We all need help, we’re not meant to travel completely alone. By simply being present to Presence, and to others, healing, like the breath, naturally flows.
Why do you think it is often difficult for Artists and Healers to claim this title for themselves?
Wow Hali, you ask some tough questions!!!! I think there is humility involved. And maybe some fear and awe too. So here are two more Hebrew words, soul qualities that resonate for me and might clarify my perspective on this.
Anavah is the word for humility. It means two things; knowing when to step back, when this is not your “realm” of expertise. It also means knowing when to step forward and claim your seat, do what you are meant to do, be who you are meant to be. I feel more confident about stepping forward into “artist,” even though I know that it is a gift, certainly not all my doing, but perhaps because my own body, heart, soul, mind are involved in the acts of seeing and capturing something that is beautiful in a photo, or woven through the words of a poem or song, I can feel some ownership for that.
Then there is the word Yirah. It means both fear and awe and is used in reference to the Divine. I cannot claim that I heal other people. I don’t. Honestly healing myself, I don’t think I can really claim that either, I’m a participant in my own healing process, this is true, but I don’t, can’t do it alone, I have assistance through wonderful doctors, other practitioners and dear, dear beloveds.
I am a person of deep faith. I take nothing for granted. Everything is a gift from the Holy One of Blessing, even the stuff we don’t particularly want. We might not understand how this “thing” this “illness,” this “challenge” whatever it is that is creating discomfort or disruption in our lives could possibly be a gift. I’m wandering here a little, but still I think this is relevant.
I live with a chronic illness, Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t really enjoy taking that seat, but it is part of my life. It simply is. It does not define me, but in very physical ways it confines me. It also sets me free.
It has taught me that healing and cure are not necessarily the same thing. A person (like me) can have an incurable illness and still experience healing each and every day. MS has taught me to slow down and pay attention in a deeper way than a twenty-year yoga practice has. It is a living mindfulness meditation day by day just to get up out of bed and into the bathroom to wash up. Or as my yoga teachers might say, it is “yoga off the mat.”
Being slow means I see the world with eyes that are not off and onto the next task. I’m very very present. And so we are back to artist, seeing, expressing,
anavah, gently stepping forward (metaphorically on the days I cannot walk) and yirah, fear that is really awe for the wonder of the exquisite Mystery of all that ISWASWILLBE.
I don’t know if I answered your question or just opened up more questions. I tend to trust questions more than answers, but that’s me.
How does your healing work inform you, or offer you unique perspective, as an Artist?
I think it comes back to paying attention, going slow, being present, listening with an open heart, seeing what is or what wants to be born; trusting what I feel from the inside out, faith and intuition. There is this dance of identifying with other as self, oneness, and there is stepping away from other and self to be an equanimous witness; unattached and compassionately connected.
To make art of any kind you have to be fully present,
a part of what you are creating and at the same time you have to move back to be apart from what you are creating so you can look or listen to what has been birthed through you with fresh eyes, a soft heart, ears that are listening for what is beneath the words, intention.
At this time, what do you see as your true work in the world related to Art and Healing?
It seems that my purpose, my work right now is to share what I’ve learned about the beauty of fragility, this understanding from direct experience and witnessing life all around me, that we are all broken and whole, that these words “broken” and “whole” are not in conflict.Integral to this is an emphasis on gratitude; opening to gratitude for each and every blessing, the ones that are obvious the ones that are disguised and take a little digging to find.
When we soften our hearts and breathe into what simply is with lovingkindness and compassion, when we stop trying so hard to fix and control our lives and rest in faith, trust that even if this particular moment is difficult we begin to realize that our very next breath may be equally filled with ease and joy. If we exhale and let go, healing happens, gratitude awakens with a deep inhalation and life feels much more expansive. And then of course we will contract once again and get a little lost and confused and frightened or angry, but those moments of recognizing holiness, tiny blessings will also return, they always do, and so the healing process continues, all the days of our lives.
I am actively doing this work through photography, writing, meditation, gentle yoga, opening to song, these are spiritual practices that heal me. I don’t have the energy to paint, collage, or do beading anymore and my vision is somewhat impaired by MS, so detailed work is not really something I can do. I have found other avenues of self-expression, and share the bounty on my blog. Photography is fairly new for me. I’ve only been taking pictures for about four years.
I also facilitate two meditation tele-circles, Minucha B’Lev-Resting In The Heart, a Jewish Meditation Healing Circle on alternate Thursdays, and The Healing Womb on alternate Fridays for women who recognize that they are on healing journeys. Many of the women in the group, but not all live with the challenges of a variety of chronic illnesses including: MS, cancer, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, lupus, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety to name a few. I post podcasts of each session that are free to anyone in the world, although donations are greatly appreciated.
Has anyone had major influence or impact on your journey of discovery as an Artist~Healer?
Two fiber artists, Bhakti Ziek, an amazing weaver and Claire Beevers, a knit designer, were my teachers in college at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University). Both Bhakti and Claire encouraged me to play with color and texture to my hearts content and to trust my intuition when designing and structuring cloth. They recognized the artist in me long before I did.
I have to mention Seena Frost, midwife of SoulCollage
®. Learning how to guide and dive into SoulCollage® certainly helped me understand the power of art to heal. Karen Haaskarl, of blessed memory, my teacher at Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy®, blessed me deeply during the weeks I had the honor and privilege of learning from her. She taught me how to listen to my own body and be a compassionate mirror for others. I personally consider both PRYT and SoulCollage®, to be forms of Spiritual Direction. There are four amazing women who have inspired me in infinite ways as a spiritual being. Their presence in my life has had a profound impact on my art as well, on how I see and write from direct experience, how I live a life robed in blessing.Rabbi Nancy Flam, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, Rabbi Myriam Klotz and Diane Bloomfield planted many seeds and taught/teach me how to cultivate my inner garden with their generous offerings through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and Torah Yoga
®. They continue to be my mentors and support team. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of these beautiful women for their love and devotion, all vessels for creating a more compassionate world through their unique gifts, through their presence.The most important influence of all has been my mother. She lives life with courage, faith and grace. As a role model my mother has taught me that no matter how challenging life can be, don’t ever give up. Look for the beauty, the blessings, the joy accessible in every moment.
And so I do this as an artist, as a human healing.
I don’t think any of these women know the full depth of the roots that ground me, the roots that spread wide to form a foundation, the roots that continue to grow from the seeds they planted throughout my lifetime. I am grateful to them all, beyond what words can express. There are many, many other people I could name, probably should, but I think you get the picture.
Share a true story or experience highlighting the relationship between art and healing, and how this had a profound impact on you or someone else.
I’ll share a personal healing story that I think is kind of amazing. When I am able to get outside to take photos, I am both witness and one with the experience. It may be that I can barely walk; this is how it is for me on many days, so I’m in my wheelchair.
Then something catches my attention and suddenly I’m up and either walking a few steps or crawling on the ground to investigate and attempt a macro or a photo from an unusual perspective. I love getting really really close to a subject. I don’t have a huge DSLR because I can’t hold one up, so I use a handheld point and shoot.
Anyway, what I’m trying to explain is that I become so engrossed in the flow of being present to the object of my attention, my neurons don’t seem to remember that they are all wonky from MS. I find this fascinating, because most of the time they forget how to connect, well they don’t actually forget, the myelin is impaired so the signals don’t go through from my brain to my muscles.
And this is precisely what is so powerful about this anecdote: the desire to be engaged in seeing, the joy of it, the act of it, temporarily trump disability and there I am completely immersed in the appreciation of beauty, making art through the viewfinder of my camera, “abled”; apart from and part of the experience, simultaneously. For me, during those brief periods, time is suspended and these tiny blessings become miraculous moments of awareness and healing. It doesn’t matter that afterwards I will be completely exhausted, unable to speak or lift my legs in a coordinated fashion, that my head, legs and arms will shake uncontrollably and my husband will have to carry me back into the car or the house.
There will likely be a time in the future when I won’t be able to do this, when my body just won’t be able get up out of the chair anymore. And that’s ok, No matter what I will always be able to connect with sacred Mystery.
I am so clear that while a cure would be welcomed for many, many people suffering from horrible diseases, and I too pray for cures to be developed for everyone who is suffering, when you really think about it, there is no cure for most of the challenges that we face in our lives. Stuff happens that is unexpected, unpleasant and unwanted. Sometimes related to our own bodies, or to our beloveds, to our emotions, our minds. Sometimes a relationship is not a healthy one, or we have financial difficulties, a natural disaster occurs you name it, unexpected, unpleasant, unwanted things happen in our lives. You can’t cure an abusive relationship. You can’t cure a job that no longer exists. You can’t cure an earthquake or tornado.BUT we can heal from and through these experiences. Healing is always possible. Healing happens when we are totally present; for those few moments of grace when I’m outdoors with my camera, I am at one with sacred awareness, and THAT is healing.
Do you have any services or projects upcoming that you’d like to share about?
Well I mentioned The Healing Womb and Minucha B’Lev. I am a monthly contributor to Buddha Chick Life, an online webzine “for women on the grow” and very, very excited that some of my work will be included in an international poetry anthology, Beyond the Dark Room, to be published by ReallyLoveYourBook, Wales, UK. We are aiming for a release date in June 2012. All commercial profits will be donated directly to an international charitable organization such as Doctors Without Borders or Smile Train (still deciding that as a group). Currently I have openings in my schedule for four new clients for Spiritual Direction, Kaizen-Muse® Creativity Coaching or Lev B’Lev SoulCollage®, these are all offered as phone sessions with follow up email support. My energy is quite limited so with compassion I respect my body and that is reflected in the number of people I work with at any one time. Schedules change throughout the year, of course, so please don’t be shy about contacting me. Information about the individual services I offer can all be found on my website: www.shinethedivine.com. My writing and photos can be viewed on my blog: Shine the Divine: Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice as well as information about the meditation tele-circles. I’m happy to connect with anyone via email as well: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much Hali for inviting me to share a little about my life here at Lily Wheel Slide with your readers.
Laura has offered us all a gift ~ a meditation podcast in her sweet voice:
Podcast Copyright © 2012 Laura Hegfield All rights reserved.
This 30 minute session is a blessing practice, informed by the whispers of our own hearts.
You can visit Laura’s site:
Thank You, Laura – there are so many treasures in this sharing you’ve offered us, that I imagine everyone who reads this will walk away as I am – in awe and forever shifted and expanded upon, within – artistically, spiritually, inspired.
There is healing in presence, as you say – the deepest kind of healing. And you have offered us healing here, with your uninhibited presence and heart.With the sharing of your story in our circle.
Bowing in gratitude,