Friday, January 18, 2013

Making Whole: Healing Through Art: Prayer Flag

by Diane Steinbach

Making Whole is a bi-monthly art therapy column focused on art to heal.

Prayer flags are a tradition that goes back thousands of years back to India. According to, "Bonpo priests used solid colored cloth flags, perhaps with their magical symbols, to balance the elements both internally and externally. The 5 colors of prayer flags represent the 5 basic elements: yellow-earth, green–water, red-fire, white-air, blue-space. Balancing these elements externally brings harmony to the environment. Balancing the elements internally brings health to the body and the mind.
Buddhists added their own texts to increase the power of the flags. There are ancient symbols, prayers and mantras for generating compassion, health, wish fulfillment, and for overcoming diseases, natural disasters and other obstacles."

Prayer Flag Project

You need:
Scrap fabric in both solid colors and patterns
Dimensional fabric paint
Cording or heavy string

In this art process, You are asked to take a square of fabric of your own choosing. It can be a solid color, or a vibrantly patterned piece.  Choose a color or design that you resonate with... something that represents who you are on the inside... your personality...your soul.  The square of fabric can be cut with rough edges and should be at least 8x8"big. 

Next, take black "Slickers" or a black dimensional fabric paint, and paint on a word that represents a hope, a prayer, that you would like to send to the world.
Perhaps you don't want to use a word, and keep your hope or thought more private...use a shape or symbol instead.
Maybe you'd like to release something on the wind? Release regrets, sorrow, along with your hopes and prayers... make a separate flag for those thoughts.

Make as many flags as you like. 

Cut a small hole in the top left and right corners of the flags to pass cording through. String your flags along the cord and hang between two trees or posts so that the wind can blow across the flags to carry your prayers to the sky. 

NOTES:  In this process the act of releasing regrets on the wind can be a powerful thing, as is stating one's hopes and displaying them and releasing them to the "universe" in this way. It is like making a promise a concrete thing and giving it more power. It can help motivate and lift a person to a new level and is a visual reminder of goals for the future.

Diane Steinbach is an art therapist and the author of: Art As Therapy: Innovations, Inspiration and Ideas:, Art Activities for Groups: Providing Therapy, Fun and Function and A Practical Guide to Art Therapy Groups

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Attribution Some rights reserved by Nivedita Ravishankar

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