I burn butterflies every week now. Before you call any animal rights authorities, let me explain. Do you have a noisy Inner Critic? That goblin in your head that says cloyingly sweet, supportive, cheerful mantras to boost your spirits? Yeah, I kid. As a professional writer, mine is downright nasty. I let it block my writing, often… until I learned about somatic therapy.
Art Therapy to the Rescue
Earlier I wrote that I took six weeks of art therapy with Jodi Rose Studio. The first session started the morning of my Mom’s Celebration of Life event, and two of those six weeks I was in Portugal. Processing grief and my own personal purpose in life was the only way I could effectively move forward as a writer. We processed a lot in this art therapy, through doodles and journaling with our non-dominant hand, collages, paintings, drawings, and breathing exercises. We made monsters and muses and bridges and Big Creative Selves.
Somatic Therapy – Connecting Body & Mind
What showed up loud and clear in all my work was noise. Angry, bold abusive voices. On a 1:1 Zoom call, Jodi helped me try some somatic therapy, guiding me to ground through a breathing exercise, and tune into my body. The pain was in my chest and my head. I wanted the voices out of my heart and my mind.
She gently explained that perhaps I could create a “somatic vessel” or “somatic container” in which to physically place the negative messages outside myself. One example she shared was to write them down and place them in a bowl. Another example, someone blew into a vessel to release negativity. She also explained that it’s very powerful if you make the vessel yourself. I loved the idea, but as I told Jodi, “I’m in an apartment in Porto right now. How am I going to make a vessel for this here?”
She was confident I would figure it out.
Pounding Cobblestone in Porto
I did what I always do when I can’t figure something out. I went for a walk. I walked fast through Porto, up and down steep cobblestone streets, weaving in and out of tourists, around buskers and out into the riverside patio scenes, then back into darker cooler alleyways. I popped my head into a tiny art gallery that had unique bright sculptures. The shop lady placed a volleyball-sized clay rooster in my hands. It weighed heavy like a cookie jar, but stared back at me with a comical expression, primary colors warning that the feathers were actually hand-pulled spikes on this rare folk art piece. One family left, she said, still makes these roosters this way, and all sizes are whistles. It was tempting, but then I imagined bringing this thing home and the decision was easy. I had to keep looking.
My legs took me to parks I had never encountered and old ruins of ancient walls, currently draping with moss and wine-drinkers. My heart thumped uphill and caught up to itself looking out over clay-tiled rooftops, out to the river and ocean. Wafts of bacalhau and roasted pork swirled under my nose. Geraniums dangled off balconies alongside ropes of laundry. The breeze. The breeze comforted me. But I still didn’t have my somatic vessel.
I returned to the apartment with savory stuffed pastries and a bottle of red wine. Before I took my first bite I opened my bullet journal to jot down random thoughts and that’s when I saw the sticky notes I packed in the back pocket. Aha! Suddenly the idea popped open like a flower blossoming in a time-lapse video. I looked up a couple videos on origami and all the ideas clicked clicked clicked.
Folding, Blowing, & Burning Butterflies
I now do this every time a loud gnarly voice in my head speaks up. Here are the steps to take towards Inner Critic Noise Freedom (or as my younger self would say, “Whatevernoise!“)! Are you ready?
Step 1: Acknowledge the Need for the Butterfly
Catch the thought as you hear it and stop everything.
Grab a sticky note and write down the malicious message from your Inner Critic.
Note how stupid it sounds now. When it’s in my head, this statement will grow big and heavy and block me from anything great. As soon as I write it down I can recognize this message as incorrect and ridiculous. I might even laugh at it.
Step 2: Fold the Butterfly
Fold the square in half, bottom to top (I prefer the first fold swallows the message).
Open and fold the square in half side to side, backwards (showing the message).
Open and fold the square diagonally into a triangle.
Open and fold the other tips into a triangle.
Open. Now you have a “star” of fold lines.
See the crease on the sides that folds in while the others fold out?
Push the “in” creases in and follow the folds to create a wide triangle.
Fold the two points up towards the center point of the triangle on just one side.
Flip over. Fold that center point down over and bend it to bind the butterfly with the “head”.
Confused? Try this song-free 1 minute video to help you.
Step 3: Blow the Butterfly
Now, see those wings you created? Open the top ones a little with your finger.
Rest the butterfly on your hand, open wing cavities facing you.
Take a second to acknowledge the message you are about to blow away.
Extra credit: Think and say the complete opposite message.
Example: The Inner Critic said, “You are talentless and stupid.”
You can say, “I am talented and brilliant. Clients tell me that all the time.”
Now blow the butterfly out of your hands.
Doesn’t that feel great?
Step 4: Burn the Butterflies
Notice the plural word above. Chances are one butterfly doesn’t cure you for all eternity. There will be many bad messages to get out of the way of your creativity. I have a “Butterflies to Burn” cup on my art cart (Yes, I have an art cart in my office) where I collect the butterflies all week.
On Friday I take great pleasure in burning them.
I even use an incense match to light them up. It smells perfectly ritualistic. Sanctifying.
What I love about this somatic therapy I created for myself (and now you can benefit from it, too) is that it’s quick and portable. I bring sticky notes tucked in the pocket of my bullet journal everywhere I go- to the cafe, to the airport, to the Zoom calls, to my desk, to my office bed (I’m still trying to find the interview Marie Forleo had with a sixth grade Australian author whose advice to every writer was to have a bed in their office. She is a genius).
When we render the harmful messages useless, we make space for the love and creativity that needs to take their place. As a sweet new friend figured out, these false messages might return, and you get to blow them away and burn them again, so they disappear, into the ether, like whispers of a ghost blowing away with the wind. And then you can write on. It will just be part of the ritual.
If you try this and it works for you, please tell me about it on Instagram. I’d love to see your butterflies and hear the relief this brings to your creative process and/or healing journey. And remember, you’re awesome!
About Laura Paisley Beck of Wa’am Writes, LLC
Laura Paisley Beck sharpened her copywriting skills as a serial entrepreneur and corporate trained salesperson for decades. She started Wa’am Writes, LLC to finally live out a happy, healthy, comfortable life as a writer. Her sales and business experience + writing skills = copywriting super powers to help uplift businesses and organizations she believes in. When she is not writing and networking, Laura enjoys long walks with Janis Pup, dancing, cooking, silent sports outdoors, seeking Wow (Woods or Water) and dreaming of digital nomad life in Portugal. Want a colorful, experienced, successful writer for your content? Schedule time with Laura Paisley Beck today!