Blog : Story

Michelle on Presence

Michelle Gardiner is a creative an passionate woman who I have had the pleasure of working with for the past 2 years. It has been an honour to watch her grow and blossom in this time, and an honour to be the host of her first guest blog post. Watch this space, Michelle is only just beginning.

Michelle, tell us you inspiration for being a guest blogger for Amanda Scott Art Therapy?

I participated in Amanda’s five week creative journalling course in September 2013. At this time, my curiousity got the better of me and after many years of writing, I had stopped. I felt like I entered a sanctuary every week when I attended the course, where I could sort through some of the inner workings of my mind. I loved the patience and calmness not only of Amanda, but also the love and support of the group. This picture is one of my favourites that I made during my course. To me, it looks perfect- loving hands holding the gift of the colourful confetti, yet bringing together all the messy parts of self with it from the outside painting.

My own blog, Shy Girl Unleashed, has been an idea in my mind for twelve months. It took me breaking my arm and not being able to dance to commit to  my first post. My philosophy is about the importance of embracing who you are and becoming ok with using that to build resilience and connect with others, in whatever way you choose. My guest post for Amanda is a little gesture of gratitude for all that she has done for me over the last two years that I have known her- for her listening ears and never ending encouragement. Sitting in her studio and being able to play with paint without judgement has greatly expanded my journalling journey and I am humbled to write for her.


Michelle on presence


It’s a new year and there’s nothing like a new year to bring up a wave of emotions as I reflect on who I am and the life I lead. At this time, I find myself thinking about what matters to me, who I want to play an important role in my life and whether the things that were important last year are still relevant for me. At the beginning of 2014 I set out with a one word “theme” for the year. My word was “abundance”, and going into 2015 I have decided on the word “presence”. With my decision to focus on the word “presence” this year, a large part of my reflection has revolved around working out what that term actually means for me, and how it relates to “abundance”.  My perception of the word “abundance” is light and free to me, while the word presence feels grounding. I have wondered if one term can truly exist without the other.


In 2014 I set out to do some amazing things, and I achieved most of them. My struggle came where I over thought and became overwhelmed and anxious in anticipation of what may happen if I didn’t achieve what I wanted for myself and my life. I made simple things seem much more complicated than they needed to be. I became caught up in external comparison and judgement. While I achieved my goals, I wondered if the mental stuff that I had floating in my mind was compromising the feeling of abundance that I was searching for. In effect, what I have more recently realised is that true abundance begins internally and then portrays itself in our external world. It is the realisation and ability to sit with our internal abundance, which makes this present in our external world. I have come to realise that abundance IS presence… and the two combined are a formidable force.


Presence for me is feeling grounded and humble in my body, mind and spirit. It is feeling confident in who I am, accepting and appreciating all parts of my being without judgement. It is being focussed and trusting that my path is individual and right for me. It is appreciating what and who is in front of me, just as they are. It is being ok without being over-stimulated and “busy” in every moment. It is truly valuing my wellbeing and intuition as a key source of my strength and worthy of my commitment. It is an acknowledgement that the quiet moments are my opportunity to consolidate the growth and learning’s that occur during the busy and noisy times.


I love dancing. I love the connection of my whole being. I love the social connection and the amazing, beautiful and diverse community that I have found myself a part of through it. I love hearing the music. I love that my body is becoming stronger and more defined. I love the personal challenge and opportunity to express myself. Over recent months I have received some recurring feedback in my dancing. I have been told to “be present, enjoy the dance, let the guy lead and trust that your body knows what to do…. then you can focus on smiling and bringing your playful, light energy to the dance”. My feedback has been to be grounded in the present, to trust the process and remember my greater purpose. By trying to get each move just right, I have been suffocating my spirit and taking from both my partners and my own enjoyment. The way to bring out the best of the moment is to embrace who I am and use this strength in creating the dance.


And so I have applied this learning to my life. There are lessons in each moment and by existing anywhere other than the present, we may just miss what we are here for. Mary Anne Williamson quotes “if we miss the moment, we miss the clues. In the present when we allow ourselves to fully live there, we are restored, made wiser, made deeper and happier”. I, like many, have a tendency to want to either live in the past, the future or through other people’s expectations. I have recently found that I can remain focussed and grounded by viewing each moment as a snap shot of my personal bigger picture.

I have become clearer about my responses to some big life questions. What do I want for my life? How is this moment relevant to my life? How is what I am doing this very second contributing to who I am becoming as a person and the life I aspire to live? Am I making this moment matter? How? In asking these questions to myself I have found it easier to focus in each moment, to build greater structure and routines in my life and appreciate that each moment exists in my greater picture in some way.


I am happier in the here and now, knowing that I am improving each day and that this is enough. Because I am committed to myself expansion, I am creating abundance in my life. In grounding myself with focus and structure within that vision, and free of judgement, I can be present.


Thank you Michelle for your heart felt writing. I am eager to read more of your blog as it grows and unfolds! You can read more from Michelle here



A Story of Transformation


Written by Lynn Kontos, workshop participant, 2014


“A few years back (2011/2012) I was involved in my first vision board creation exercise. 
I recall that I enjoyed myself and it felt therapeutic at the time, but what really hit me from that whole experience I didn’t learn until approximately 2 years later. I was cleaning house and came across the goals I wrote out prior to creating my visionboard (which to this day is still up on my wall). I had actually completely forgotten the goal writing part of the visionboard creation process, despite that my board stares me in the face every day. On the verge of scrunching up that bit of clutter I glimpsed over it and noticed some things that, throughout my entire life seemed rather unattainable and realised that, wow, I had actually achieved not only a few, but most of these goals over the last 2 years. I was flabbergasted that simply writing something down could help you bring it to life.

When my dear friend invited me to experience a visionboard workshop I was nervous and excited.
I had been rather down of late. The beginning of my summer was spent shared with an admirable individual, a relationship which was prematurely cut short.
The fact it was such a short duration provided me no comfort and I was feeling excessively lost, empty and alone – despite the fact that I was on top of the world before our paths crossed.
I carried these empty feelings with me into the workshop.

Sunday 16th Feb 2014 – Visionboarding day
I am writing this almost 3 weeks post workshop, so my memory is a tad rusty. The following is just a snippet of the activities and is mostly what I took from and how I felt throughout the day.

To begin our visionboard experience we all participated in a warm up activity.
There were a bunch of random trinkets gathered on the floor in the middle of our circular group formation, the activity was to pick one that spoke to us.
I recalled the difficulty I experienced the first time I came across this activity years ago (In a vulnerability workshop) and felt the knot of anxiousness forming in belly.

I looked over the collection and knew it as soon as I saw it. I didn’t even feel a requirement to scan the rest of the items.
I reached out to a green balloon.

My reasoning; 
1. it was green. 

[Green is the color of balance and growth. To find out more, visit:]


2. It was “empty”. 

I know that sounds rather depressing, but despite its emptiness, I also chose it knowing that it is a vessel that is capable of being filled/of holding something.

After collecting it I noticed something I hadn’t expected. I became overwhelmed with emotion at this point and silent tears ran down my cheeks. Which I tried to control and hide.

The next step however was to talk about why we chose our object. I knew that I would not be able to express myself without openly crying, so I accepted this fact (which I believe I can thank in part for the vulnerability workshop I have done previously) and I spoke.

In what I look back and perceive as an inarticulate explosion of sobs and words, I revealed to the group that I had no issue with which item was for me. I picked the balloon because it was green, my favourite colour and I viewed it as an empty object that has so much more potential, except, once I picked it up, I noticed that it in fact was not empty. There was something already inside the deflated and apparent “empty” balloon.
It was precisely what I needed reminding of at that point in my life.
This was how I intended to tell my story, however, if anyone from that group ever reads this, they quite possibly gathered a different impression at the time.

Despite how much I cried I actually felt completely at ease with everyone and in myself (something I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with in the past). I was frustrated that my sobs drowned out my words when all I really wanted to do was share what I had just experienced.

We proceeded throughout the day with other activities and eventually came to our goal writing and few hours of creating our vision boards.

I found this part rather difficult, not that I was short of ideas, but it was difficult for me to express my ideas through creativity and I became quite resistive and unwelcoming of my “child-like” work of art.

Due to that feeling, I found our closing group discussion were everyone was welcomed to discuss each piece so unbelievably comforting.

The group only had beautiful, heartwarming, meaningful things to say about my artwork and it reminded me of how self-effacing I tend to be, and the kindness and love you can receive from strangers.

Thanks Amanda for a wondrous experience.”


Thank you Lynn for the courage to share this, thank you for embracing your vulnerability, allowing yourself to be seen and bringing your real and raw essence to the workshops. I feel so humbled reading your comments and am so grateful to receive this. I am so happy that you have allowed me to share this to others too, as it is a gift.
Love Amanda


Today I took some time to self care and got a lovely thai massage. When I was lying there, noticing the smell of essential oils, the warmth in the room, the silence and the low light, I also notice how many thoughts were racing through my head. I was willing it to relax and be present, when the idea of resistance came to mind. In fact I was resisting my mind. Resistance has been a concept I have been both thinking about and experiencing a lot, and when I speak with others about this, I realise how common it is.

What is resistance? There are many contexts that resistance shows up. I was thinking about it in a lecture by Shaun McNiff at La Trobe a few weeks ago. Shaun McNiff has written some amazing books about arts therapy, “Trust the Process” and “Art Heals”. He is somewhat of a mentor for me in the field. It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to attend his master class in Sydney, at the ANZATA Conference in October. Shaun used movement and art, and very little talking. In the lecture at La Trobe, I noticed myself sitting there, wanting to ask a question about resistance, and feeling resistance to asking the question. I stood up anyway, chose to push through the resistance, and ask my question, only for Shaun to ask me, “tell me what you know about resistance?

It threw me only for a split second, until I realised that I know a lot about resistance. I felt that his question to my question also showed me that we can ask many people about many things, forgetting that the answers are within.

So here is my experience of resistance. I know that art heals. I know that it is my medicine, that it helps me to feel calm, it gives me a space to reflect, and I know that I feel at peace when creating. It is like I drop into another world where time doesn’t exist and I could continue for hours, not in my head anymore. I am just in the present experience, feeling and sensing the materials, the sounds, and the emotions present. And yet I spend so much of my time in a perpetual to-do list. Not wanting to stop and take time to do art because there is so much to do! The beliefs come in: it is not important, I don’t have time, it is indulgent, when I should be doing things that are productive. Responding to that email, making new posts on social media, finishing that assignment, seeing that friend who I haven’t had time to see. The resistance is there, even when I know how much art heals, art helps me connect. I am much more productive when I am rested and not pressuring myself to achieve, achieve, ACHIEVE. It is similar to the value conflict of the last post- self care vs. achievement.

So here is what I wrote about after the thai massage. While I thought about this I was also noticing that the pressure of the massage in my sore muscles caused me pain. Yet I knew the pain was also providing me with a release of tension, an opening and a softening, in order to balance and heal.

“Resistance. Pushing, pulling, frozen breath, stopping when expectations say GO.
The stepping backwards when you “should” be stepping forwards.
Stuck, still, not knowing which way to go next.
Stagnant, fearful, judging.
Resistance… Not wanting to do/say/be something that you think you should do/say/be.
Resistance… A marker, a reminder, a flag that something important is happening.
Resistance is body wisdom, a felt sense.
You have a choice.
Is this really what you want (whatever you are resisting)?
Or are you just doing it because you feel like you should?
Is this (thing, action, commitment etc) is it scary?
Is it confronting? Challenging? Overwhelming?
You can choose whether to keep going with it.
Is it the right time to take on this challenge?
Or is it a big red flag?
That even if you or others expect it of you, it is NOT your truth, NOT in your best interest and NOT aligned with your values, desires, life.
So the questions I ask myself, when resistance comes up, how can I listen to it?
How can I stop, allow it to be
To either choose something different, or give it the reassurance it needs to keep stepping forward. 
I could find a more gentle way to take. 
How can I be with myself, really listen to what is right for me, and if it is right, to step into the unknown, and trust that whatever discomfort, pain or challenge, are worth it because of the magic, gifts, growth and learning that comes are unable to be replicated.”
The dictionary defines resistance as:

1. The act or an instance of resisting or the capacity to resist.
2. A force that tends to oppose or retard motion.
3. often Resistance An underground organization engaged in a struggle for national liberation in a country under military or totalitarian occupation.
4. Psychology A process in which the ego opposes the conscious recall of anxiety-producing experiences.
5. Biology a. The capacity of an organism to defend itself against a disease.
b. The capacity of an organism or a tissue to withstand the effects of a harmful environmental agent.
6. Electricity The opposition of a body or substance to current passing through it, resulting in a change of electrical energy into heat or another form of energy.

Something that stands out that Shaun McNiff spoke, is that resistance is everywhere, it is a force that makes things happen. That your resistance is where the magic is, the gold, it is the content from which art is created. Even the very act of creating a painting would not be possible without resistance. When you put the brush up to the paper or canvas, the pressure from your hand, arm, body through the brush and onto the canvas requires resistance.

Resistance is where things meet, where the edges meet. It is the separation and the connection.
Resistance is the process of moving from being separate, to being one.
The image included in this post is the painting that was created during Shaun McNiff’s lecture. The two artists: Libby Byrne (La Trobe) & Raelean Hall (MIECAT), created this together, as a response to what was happening and being spoken about during the lecture. It was an incredible example of how the arts can come into any environment and that the process both for the artists, and for the audience gave me another element of connection that is beyond words. It transformed a simple lecture to an enriching visual experience. 


So, resistance, you are welcome. I welcome you as a guide, a reminder that at each point I have a choice in how I spend my time. Just because I am resistant doesn’t mean I should shy away from a challenge, and just because I am expected to do something doesn’t mean I have to. Each and every moment of resistance is different. It is a reminder that there is a rich depth to this experience, with many layers, and all of them are valid. So listen to your resistance, and see what it has to say to you.