Simple Centering Activity (with video)

I am going to share a a SUPER SIMPLE and INCREDIBLY HELPFUL centering activity that only requires something to draw with, something to draw on and a couple of  minutes.

Lets get started!

This activity is a variation of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts dual handed warm up activity, developed by Dr. Lucia Capacchione, that I use at the beginning of every workshop to help participants get centered. Variants of this activity, called bilateral drawing or bilateral stimulation, have been employed by psychologists and other mental health practitioners since the 1950s as a part of a regimen for encouraging self regulation and managing emotional issues.

For this warm up, you will need two writing instruments and some paper or a whiteboard. If you would like to participate, gather your supplies, then watch the video!

The first, and simplest way to use this is as a sort of moving mantra, an active meditation, where your focus is entirely on the movement and the tactile sensations you are experiencing. I am not typically very good at passive meditating, needing some sort of action, such as walking or swinging or throwing pottery on the wheel. This activity is amazing at quieting my mind, that is ALWAYS coming up with ideas.  I’m not trying to STOP my mind from thinking, I’m just letting them flow by in a way that is mirrored by the movement of my hands.

It is also good at encouraging whole brain thinking, which is immensely helpful in goal setting and problem solving.. If using the activity in this way, you will want a specific goal or challenge to focus on, as you are spiraling outwards, let your mind wander around this goal or challenge, opening doors and peeking around corners, so to speak.  Getting a solid sense of its shape and texture of this idea but not honing in on any one thing...just exploring, knowing that the solution to this challenge or the completed goal exists in this space. When slowly spiraling inwards, allow your mind to steer your focus to particular elements that caught your attention. Pick them up, look at them from multiple angles.  As you are overlapping your lines and letting your hands move where they may, imagine that these elements are moving into a position that will help you move forward in this process. This is not the time to make any judgments about what your mind is giving you, it’s about connecting with the feeling that there is a solution that a deeper part of yourself already knows and wants to share with you.  As soon as the activity is complete, write down all of the elements that were presented, even if they don’t make sense in context with the theme you just explored. Pick an element and ask it the following questions with your dominant hand and allowing the answers to come through your non dominant hand
  1. What is your purpose in this goal/challenge?
  2. What is your perspective about this goal/challenge?
  3. How can you help me move forward?

Pick another element and repeat the questions, dialoguing with as many elements on your list as you are able.  Once you are finished journaling, repeat the centering activity, allowing your mind to process all of this new information that you have been given.

The third way to use this activity is in preparation for inner work.  Before every dual handed journaling session, I use this activity in the following way:  While spiraling outward, I imagine that this act is creating the boundaries of a soft, safe space that my dialogue will exist within.  While spiraling inward, I imagine that this movement is connecting to the part of me that I will be dialoguing with. Finally, while my hands are overlapping and flowing to their own dance, imagine that this act is offering an invitation for the part of me that I connected with to feel comfortable in sharing its knowing with me. The activity, used in this context is shared in the CALM video

If you are ever in a situation where you  don’t have the ability to draw this activity out, you can go through the motions with your hands, either on a flat surface or even in the space in front of you. This moves the activity from bilateral drawing to bilateral movement which is incredibly helpful in the ways I’ve just discussed and, perhaps, more-so for those who use movement as a part of their self care practice.

For those of you, like myself, who like data to enrich a new method or concept you are learning about, here is a Psychology Today article about the power of bilateral drawing and movement in healing trauma.

Have you had a powerful experience with a bilateral practice?  Let me know in the comments!


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