Iris Chiang
Iris Chiang
India 2016-2017
I studied psychological science and art studies at Belmont University. I am going to Auroville, India to work under an art therapist for a program called Sankalpa. Read More About Iris →

The Henna Workshop

Ever since I was an infant, I have had very sensitive skin. My skin does not like extreme weather. In New Jersey, extreme weather was on both ends: cold and dry, as well as hot and humid. Then in Nashville, weather is still—if not more—hot and humid. As you can imagine, my skin really doesn’t prefer the long, even hotter, even more humid days of southern India. Needless to say, my skin has never been very good.

Recently, we held an art therapy based henna workshop at Sankalpa. Henna is a plant used to naturally dye skin, hair, nails, and textiles. Traditionally, women will pick leaves from the tree and use a mortar and pestle to grind the leaves into a paste. After adding other edible ingredients, it would be used to make temporary symbolic patterns on the body for ritual or adornment. I’d been pretty excited for this workshop and honestly, I wasn’t sure why. Suffering from eczema and/or psoriasis wasn’t necessarily a crippling insecurity, but it was definitely often on my mind. This workshop required me to focus on my skin, to draw attention to it.

The workshop emphasized self-image and encouraged self-love. We set intentions and affirmations to meditate on for the next few hours. My three affirmations were: I am capable. I am resilient. I am beautiful.

I had a small epiphany about meditating when doing henna, or doing really anything. (It’s a real game-changer!) The art was imperfect, which really made everything even more perfect in the moment and on my skin. Our group reflected and shared our experiences. We were vulnerable with each other. I found a fellow skin-condition sufferer!

If I took anything from the workshop it’s that beauty is not skin deep, but self-love sure can start there. (Another game-changing epiphany.)

I am capable (a reoccurring affirmation throughout all of the art therapy sessions I’ve participated and assisted in): Despite the way people have questioned me and laughed at me. Because there’s an overwhelming amount of stuff to do today, this week, this trip, this year, in my five-year plan. Because I am.
I am resilient: Despite my poor skin condition and extreme weather. Because my skin repairs and eventually the scars disappear. Because I am.
I am beautiful: Despite all of my physical blemishes and psychological flaws. Because I really don’t need to give any reason. Because I am.

I used to think the word beautiful was really extreme, so dramatic. But recently, I’ve been using the word beautiful a lot. It baffles me how I did not see it before. All around me, interacting with me, flowing out of me, made of me.

The henna workshop was a really beautiful session.

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