I experienced it as part of the retreat at Mercy Center. We were taken to a room with pictures that had been ripped out of magazines. These were laid all over the room and stacks of National Geographic magazines were available as well.
On each table were glue sticks, scissors and a small piece of cardboard, about the size of a half sheet of typing paper.
The instructions went like this. Get a question in your mind like, “What is it you want to say to me?” or “What is next for me?” or “What do I need to know.”
Then we were to walk around and look at the picture and see which 2 to 6 of them “chose us.” This might be because we were drawn to them because they were beautiful or repulsive or intriguing.
As I walked around there were two pictures I was repelled by; one was a toxic looking lake with bubbles that looked like blisters on its surface. One was a bride that was wearing such a huge dress and sat in front of ridiculous flowers that it reminded me of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Both of these pictures I picked up and put down several times along with one of a confused looking giraffe, one of hands pounding red hot metal on an anvil, and an archway through rock into a beautiful vista featuring a road with trees and a lake in the distance seen through the rock tunnel. I had no idea why I picked these pictures.
Then we were told to arrange the pictures to fit on the cardboard. This process took a while. Some people had pictures they had to leave out, some had to go for more. Once you got them arranged you were to look at the collage and notice how each picture related to the other.
In my picture the toxic lake was at the top. The stunned looking giraffe was up in that lake. The hands and anvil, an eye-drawing red, were in the middle. In the lower left corner was the bride, just her torso, looking with love toward an unseen groom. Her hand was visible, resting lightly on his in a fun, flirty way. And in the bottom right was the rock tunnel to beauty and adventure.
Then we were supposed to journal using the prompts:
“I am the one who________.”
“I am the one who________.”
This is when the tears started flowing for me. I had no idea that this activity would reach past my mind into my heart, giving me words and images for something I didn’t even know I was experiencing.
Looking at the lake:
“I am the one who was trapped in a toxic environment.”
“I am the one who was labeled toxic by those I loved and trusted.”
Looking at the Giraffe, I saw his confusion, as if he was stepping out in the mist to find a person there. He appeared stunned, confused, and afraid. It’s like that with a trauma brain; when a person or place that formerly seemed safe turns unsafe. My trauma brain had been triggered by some circumstances and I was that giraffe.
I knew that the hope was in the anvil. That God was using these situations to mold me into a better person. But it felt like a pounding. It hurt. Metal does not easily yield. Yet, I trusted it. I trusted God.
Then there was the Bride. That look at her intended was full of love, and fun and promise. I’d lost that look and I wanted it back. I was done with the toxic lake. I was ready to move on from the giraffe to the bride.
Next there was the hole in the rock looking out at a beautiful view. A new adventure was waiting for me, if I was ready to let go of the old, toxic place and step through to new life.
What great freedom we have when we can let go of the old things that are holding us down and move forward into a new adventure. Are you ready to let go? Is it time to come out of the cave, to see with new eyes what God has for you?
This exercise was life changing for me. SoulCollage® is a trademarked experience now and you can probably find someone near you that offers it, but I also think that if you get some magazines and see which pictures draw you, put them into a college, and ask yourself the questions I’ve listed above, you’ll be surprised what you find. Your soul is waiting to speak to you.
Let me know if you give it a try!