The Healing Lotus
Artist: Elim Mak
I am a Chinese Canadian American artist and art therapist living and working in New York City. My calling to help others through art therapy and the healing power of creativity was catalyzed by my own trauma history and personal struggle with mental health. I grew up as the only daughter and middle child in a repressed, ultraconservative, Chinese Christian minister’s family. My parents disavowed our ancestry for the sake of Western assimilation, and my creative and racial identities were often dismissed and negated. As a child I constantly felt like an outsider, and Art subsequently became my comfort and constant companion. As an adult, I regard my fine art practice as restorative, essential self-care. My paintings are visual contemplations on human connection and emotional experience retold through the use of Asian art & design motifs, Chinese traditional customs, and Buddhist iconography.
The Healing Lotus is about the intimate relationship between pain and healing – two sides of the same coin, and that Life is ultimately a continuous process of becoming. In Asian culture the lotus is a time-honored symbol of purity, enlightenment, and a metaphor for rebirth and post traumatic growth. Even in the muddiest of waters, a beautiful flower blooms. During times of adversity and upheaval, one has the choice between two paths: either rise to the occasion to make meaning out of suffering, or remain mired in despair and hopelessness. Emotional wounds can eventually be healed and become valuable, unexpected pathways into transformative insight, creating new possibilities and redefining one’s life purpose.
The lotus also represents mindfulness, a practice that stems from Buddhist tradition and a vital coping tool for wellness. When engaged in regular, intensive mindfulness meditation, one learns to recognize that thoughts, feelings, sensations are transitory phenomena, like passing clouds in the sky. The positive result is developing an observing self that does not easily succumb to cognitive distortions, ruminations, or impulsive, self-destructive behaviors. Through this present-centered awareness one is freed from the ensnarement of negative emotional states.
Engaging in a healthy, balanced lifestyle – a holistic pillar of mental health – bears equal weight to therapy and treatment. There is a sense of urgency right now in the wake of horrific, spiking, anti-Asian violence in this country. Through mindfulness and meaningful connections, one experiences an enhanced existence that is not necessarily pain-free, but where one possesses greater capacity to make space for everything that arises and at the same time feels seen, heard, held, and validated. This is how we heal.