Diane “Annie” Mathias can be described as a Jill of all trades: she writes, draws, plays the Native American flute and didgeridoo, conducts percussion circles, works with mourners and helps people find peace. interior.
Her passion in life is to connect others with the creative arts as a way to find healing and well-being, but what sent her on her own path was a tragedy: her husband died by suicide in 1987, making her a widow at 32 with three children.
The road to recovery for Mathias was a challenge, but more than four decades later, she has helped others on their own journey through her Palm Desert-based nonprofit, Resources for Uncovering Wonder.
Originally established in 2010, the association uses art, music, writing and maze walking as a means to promote education, health, well-being and empowerment. After having disappeared for two years for lack of funding, the association is operational again thanks to a donation from an anonymous donor.
While the workshops are being held online, an in-person maze walk was held at the Desert Unitarian Universalist Church on Saturday, 72-425 Via Vail in Rancho Mirage. A maze is a winding path that often winds in a circle around a central point, which can be calming for some people.
âWalking in a labyrinth is a meditative walk,â explains Mathias, who holds a master’s degree in psychology. âIt allows people to be in a situation where they don’t have to follow a lot of rulesâ¦ and we also play music while people are walking through the maze, which kind of gives them an extra layer of just a way to relax. “
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Mathias moved to Coachella Valley from Ann Arbor, Michigan after her husband died. Writing has always been something she loved, but when writing specifically about her grieving journey, she found that she could endure something painful and find some peace in it by sharing the story. with the others.
Meanwhile, she said there was “such a stigma” associated with suicide, and some churches “didn’t even mention their names or they thought they were going straight to hell.” Mathias therefore began to lead bereavement groups, striving to create a “safe place” for people and allowing them to deal with death in their own way and on their own schedule.
Over the years she has learned a number of skills and found different ways to incorporate them into healing practices. She taught the Native American flute so that people could play their “song from the heart”. She has used this with cancer patients, she said, so that “they have a way of expressing what is going on.”
In the late 2000s, Mathias underwent cataract surgery, which resulted in further surgeries to save one eye. The healing period took over a year and a half and she was no longer able to work. So she decided to launch Resources for Uncovering Wonder in 2010. The nonprofit was supposed to help people find their “authentic voice and expression” and “come together and just be comfortable.”
There were in-person and online classes in writing, reading, and meditation, and she also hosted concerts and maze walks. But when funding ran out, there was no choice but to take a break from 2019.
In January, the organization received a donation from an anonymous donor who said “we need this work,” Mathias said.
âI’m delighted with what’s going on, and it’s different this time around,â said Mathias. “We’ve been through that time and people don’t just make arts or crafts, and they’re a lot more honest with themselves.”
This became clear when Mathias created an online workshop for the Wisconsin Dells, a town on the Wisconsin River that’s famous for its water parks, earlier this year called âLet the Waters Talkâ. The idea was for people to watch the video, meditate and then think about what the water is telling them. What came out of it was “just phenomenal,” Mathias said.
âWhen you write without having a predefined outline, words and thoughts from deep within you come out, and that’s what happened in this workshop,â she said. “It’s happened before, but I think there is a deeper level that people are operating these days.”
She currently runs two online classes each week – an art class and a writing class – and the group size is limited to around five people, which allows people to share their work. Holding an online percussion circle is a bit tricky so this class has turned into a breathing group where there are guided meditations and people can share poetry or any heartache they may be feeling.
Costs vary for workshops, and offers can be found at https://uncoveringwonder.org/online-workshops/.
Her maze walks are also liberating for participants, especially since there are no rules, she explained. On one of his walks through the labyrinth at Sunnylands Center & Gardens, Mathias recalled a man from Alaska asking him, “Can I do whatever I want in the middle of the maze?” Yes, she said, as long as it was family friendly.
âWhen he got to the middle of the maze, he just lay down in the middle and looked at the sky with the biggest smile on his face,â she said. “I just thought it was wonderful, what a great freedom it was.”
His Saturday maze walk to the Unitarian Universalist Church in the Desert was easily accessible, and benches were available for rest if needed. Participants listened to relaxing music to help them “reach out to that inner part of (themselves) that needs to be soothed,” said Mathias, and to be surrounded by “the nicest people”.
âThey are just warm, welcoming people who are deeper, contemplative thinkers,â she said. “Maze walkers are comfortable people because they know how to sit with themselves or because they learn to sit with themselves.”
After the walk there is a chance to “close the circle” by letting people share what they have thought about.
Another maze walk is scheduled for December 18 at 8:00 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in the Desert.
Whether someone is attending a class, a workshop, or taking a walk through the maze, Mathias hopes he can âlook at life differentlyâ and add new tools to his toolbox.
To learn more about resources for Uncovering Wonder, visit https://uncoveringwonder.org/
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ema_sasic.