Gather your group to sit in a circle, at their desks or find a space on the floor.
Announce that you will soon lead your group through a brief exercise to help them relax and connect to their inner selves.
When ready, lead a short meditation following the Body Scan script, step by step.
Close the meditation by gently returning your group’s presence back to the room.
Pose a series of questions that invite your group to reflect on their experience, such as What does your inner world look and feel like? or Notice which areas of your body are tense or flexible?
Allow a few moments for contemplation.
When ready, inspire your group to decorate their inner world using paper and craft supplies.
Allow up to 30 minutes for your group to complete their artwork.
To conclude, invite one or more volunteers to share their artwork and a description of their inner world with the rest of the group.
How To Play Narrative
Turning inward is a great way to understand who we are and what we need without judgement or expectation. This activity is also a fun way to redecorate your participant’s inner world if there are some areas that they feel need a refresh.
This activity can also move people from a place of defeat to empowerment while having fun in the process and feeling like they’re not alone.
In advance, you’ll need to grab a bunch of art & craft materials and paper from which your group can choose.
To set the scene, you’ll want to lead a short meditation to help your group to really connect with their inner world experience focused on their emotions, beliefs, habits and memories. If this is new to you, don’t worry – download the Mindful Breathing Body Scan script, also available from the Resources tab to get you started.
Announce that you will start with a brief meditation, so invite your group to get comfortable wherever they happen to be. Sitting or lying down is probably the most comfortable.
Then lead the meditation. Take your time, it’s not a race. Allow time for intentional contemplation. You’ll soon sense a calm envelope the room which will inspire some wonderful creations.
Once the body scan is complete, gently shift the focus of your group to the creative part of the activity. To inspire your group’s creativity, pose a series of rhetorical questions such as:
What did your inner world look and feel like?
Did you notice which areas of your body were tense or flexible?
How was your inner world decorated?
Did you notice which areas were tense/flexible?
Which areas communicated signals or messages to you?
What did certain areas look and feel like?
What colours and sensations did you notice?
You don’t necessarily need any verbal responses, so allow some time for contemplation.
Then, instruct each person that you would like them to create a piece of art that embodies their inner world, that is, a visual or graphic representation of how it feels inside their body. You may start drawing the outline of a generic human body and then proceed to populate inside the body all sorts of imagery and creative materials.
For some, this may be a very new or challenging experience. So, it’s often a good idea to share and display one of your own creations to serve as an example. Please stress that while this may be an example of what can be created, it should not limit your group’s imagination and creativity.
Clear any further questions, and then step back allowing your group to collect their paper and whatever crafty materials they choose. Thirty minutes is normally more than enough time.
When ready, gather your group’s focus and provide an opportunity for one or more volunteers to share what they created. Note, it’s more than just showing their artwork – encourage these folk to share what different elements mean as part of their inner world collage.
Alternatively, especially with large groups, it may be useful to invite each person to display their artwork (on a table or hang on the wall) before asking everyone to wander around the space to view the group’s work.
Or, divide into smaller groups to invite sharing.
Practical Leadership Tips
This creative exercise offers amazing opportunities to connect through valuable conversations and interaction. To this end, it may be helpful to play some soothing music during the initial meditation and the creative process, too.
Remind your group that your intention is for this space to be a safe space to relax and to put their worries aside for a moment. Also, reassure those who are easily distracted that this is normal, eg finding it hard to focus in the meditation or being worried about personal issues, etc. Encourage these people to return their thoughts back to the exercise as often and as gently as they can.
There is no right or wrong way to create artwork. Remind your group that their primary goal is to have fun and to foster a curious mindset. See what happens, amazing stuff often does.
You could integrate Inner World Art as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s abilities to identify and understand their individual emotions, thoughts and feelings.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Recognising Strengths, Prejudices & Biases
Controlling One’s Emotions
Identifying & Managing Stress
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The practice of stopping, reflecting and turning one’s focus inside is very clearly a mindful activity. To this end, it is ideally suited to nourish the health and wellbeing of your group. Conducted regularly – especially without the artwork project – you can expect to build the mindfulness muscles of your group, not to mention their emotional literacy skills, too.
You may consider asking your group to display their artwork in a public space as a marker in time of how they were feeling individually and as a group. If you repeat this exercise at a later date, perhaps after a lot of health & wellness programming, you could reflect on any changes
Specific Collage: As described, and focus your group’s attention to pinpoint areas in the mind and body that feel at ease and those that feel more tense/stressed.
Group Context: Supplied with a large sheet of paper/poster board, create one large outline of a human body and ask your group to cooperate and decorate the inside of the being as a representation of the health of the group.
Take a look at Play-Dough Debrief to engage your group in an equally creative reflective exercise.
This activity can be done virtually but you’ll need to instruct your group to collect all of the stated resources in advance. As described above, it may be useful for you to first, display your digital creation to inspire the creative juices of your group. When it comes to sharing, you may choose to allocate your group to a series of smaller breakout rooms.
Use a virtual whiteboard (Zoom or Whiteboard Fox) or padlet to allow your group to create their virtual inner body artwork. When ready, invite a group of volunteers to share their creations via the Share Screen function.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It may be helpful to share your experience with creating your own piece of artwork and what was the most fun for you. Here are some additional ways to frame the activity:
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that affect our day to day…
How can we become aware of what’s going on inside of us to help us create more fun and ease in our lives? Here’s one strategy that I expect will appeal to the creative side of our group…
We have a ton of thoughts, feelings, and sensations that happen within us. By being curious about our inner world experience, we can support our well-being and connect on deeper levels with those around us. These are life skills that are helpful through every phase of life. The key is to stop and reflect, which is exactly the purpose of our next activity…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this creative reflection exercise:
What does your inner world look and feel like?
Were you surprised at what you found inside?
How do you feel about what you created?
How did you determine how to decorate your inner world, eg why did you use certain materials??What materials or images capture the essence of your inner world? Why?
Which colours, if any, did you pick to represent your inner world? Why?
What sticks out to you the most about your masterpiece and why?
What did you notice about the artwork of others?
In what ways can you connect with the artwork of others?
What is your favourite part about your artwork and why?
Did anything feel hard about creating your artwork?
In one word how would you describe your inner world?
Is there anything that you noticed that made you feel like you need extra support in certain areas? If so, what?
The inspiration for Inner World Art was sourced from Lisa Hughes.