What is Expressive Arts?
How is it practiced?
How does it change people’s lives?
These are questions we are asked frequently, and our new blog series – Expressive Arts in the World – is a forum for providing answers, raising awareness, and offering brief profiles of practitioners worldwide. We share some examples of how this work is practiced, and the impact on the lives of real people, locally and globally. Expressive Arts embraces the power of the imagination, and asks that we bring our whole selves, our best selves, to our lives, to those we serve, and to the earth itself. It is all about engaging and following the threads of creativity, in service of wellness, healing, wholeness, connection, community, and social change.
Profile: KEIKO SOEJIMA
by Kathleen Horne
I first connected with Keiko Soejima when she attained her REACE (Registered Expressive Arts Consultant Educator) credential, through IEATA (International Expressive Arts Therapy Association) in 2014.
Even before meeting her in person, I was drawn to Keiko’s energy and enthusiasm, and knew I wanted to learn more about her work. The following year, on the first day of the IEATA conference in Hong Kong, I found myself sharing a breakfast table with a group of women from Japan. As we introduced ourselves, Keiko and I were surprised and delighted to find ourselves sitting next to each other! We have continued to share and communicate since then, and I think you will enjoy meeting her as well.
I asked Keiko a few questions about herself and her work.
What was your pathway into Expressive Arts?
After suffering from a life-threatening disease as a teenager, I got interested in the development of health. After learning how much Arts and Aroma can affect well-being, I sought training to assist people in finding more opportunities to experience their own good health and happiness – the genuine objective of life.
What type of Expressive Arts work do you do?
I am an educator and consultant, with the REACE credential.
I work with Arts de Naikan (Mindful Experience through Arts) and the modalities of painting (including Japanese calligraphy), movement, and voice work. I do private consultations and group workshops in education, focusing on themes such as personal awakening and development, relationship and family issues, and team building and communication.
Could you say more about Arts de Naikan?
NAIKAN is a method of introspection, or self-reflection.
As the letters say: 内NAI means “inner” 観KAN “observation”. It leads to inner knowing and greater self-understanding. I could see the similarity between the meditative Naikan practice and engagement in the arts, and have blended the two, in a process that I call “Arts de Naikan”.
What might happen in a session with you?
At the beginning of the session, I guide the client, or the group participants, to mindful state, through meditation. I ask them to focus on breath and listen to each part of the body and the mind. From there, some key words will come into their heads, and reflecting on those, we move into painting or movement. As new words or images come, we continue to work with them through the arts. It is really about continuing to be aware and experience what is happening in the body and mind. At the end of the session we share and I give feedback. The most important thing is to attend to what is going on inside.
And sometimes you include Aromatherapy as one of the modalities?
Yes, there are many ways I include it. It is very good for people who are stressed out, or who don’t yet know that the arts can help them. Using the aroma, sometimes with massage, helps them to relax and be more receptive to actively engaging with the arts. Or, I can simply use oils to explore their hidden pictures in mind. I might ask: what can you feel from orange? cedarwood? Or rose? This can be very powerful, as the olfactory nerve relates to the limbic system, which controls our emotions and memory.
Who are the people you work with and how do they find you?
I work with ages 5 years and up. I design workshops to fit the needs of each group, and work with as many as 30 people per group. Most people find me by word-of-mouth referrals, and also through my website and advertising.
What do you see as the main benefits of expressive arts in serving people, changing lives, and affecting the world?
EXPRESSIVE ARTS BRING US PEACE, in each mind and the world!
What else would you like people to know about you, and/or about the field in general?
LOVE, LOVE… and LOVE to YOU! To “feel and express” yourself is essential, like breathing. It warms and relaxes you and those around you, in society. LETS ALL FLOW IN LOVE AND PEACE.
For anyone visiting the prefecture of Kagawa, Keiko invites you to have a time of NAIKAN with the arts.
The well-known SETOUCHI INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL is held here, every 3 years, and is coming up this summer. In addition to seeing the arts of others, you can play with your own creativity and imagination, listen to your inner voice, and awaken your hidden nature! It will enrich your journey even further.
Everybody is different, still WE CAN MAKE PEACE above the differences.
To contact Keiko: email@example.com
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Thanks so much, Keiko, for sharing a glimpse of your work with our readers. It is such a joy to be a part of this international community of expressive arts practitioners.
Co-Founder and Core Faculty, Expressive Arts Florida Institute