After my first workshop on Art and Emotions, I was invited to run the same at the National Museum, Cardiff on Death and Bereavement. Later I ran a 5 session workshop at Oasis Cardiff with refugee women. Coming back to India, I started to work at an NGO called Nijaat, a rehabilitation centre for men struggling with drugs and alcohol.

This is the website for the centre

In my first session, I was made aware of the short attention span of these people and so I cut short the workshop time from 2 hours to 1 hour.  To know more about the kind of thoughts that these men were struggling with, I dedicated the one hour to a mindless painting activity to bring mindfulness to them. I had heard that it was difficult for them to close their eyes and sit in meditation.

Scrutinizing everyone’s work while working, I perceived that these men started with a light, joyful disposition and as they developed their work, it was dark and muddy. These men suffer from very low self-esteem.

During our discussion after the session, I heard instances where they narrated their loss of memories, so much that they couldn’t remember even the basic geometrical shapes. There was a lot of anger and confusion too in their work. One of them had drawn himself bearing a cross on his back and being stuck between two mountains. He said that he has sinned.

The second session was a bit different, now that I knew where the problem lied. I realised that, perhaps, distraction is not so bad after all. If sitting in the lotus position and concentrating on the breath wasn’t an easy task for them giving then something intricate and simple would surely help them, I thought. So they made boats.

They were asked to paint lines on as many sheets as possible and then to write how they felt at the back. After that, they folded them into boats. This session’s discussion was a bit better. I have noticed that these men are trying to do their best to get out of the mess they are in.

Our Third session very rewarding I would say. Geometry has proved to be very useful in holding their attention. Unlike the last two sessions, this one lasted for 1 hour 30 minutes. We were joined by two newcomers. One told me that he was married and wanted to change himself for his children.

This session’s activity was to engage in geometrical shapes. The time-limit to draw and to paint was fixed but it seemed that they were chasing perfection which held them to the work at hand.