Spiritual Practice: SoulCollage®

 

FullSizeRender (2)You may have heard about, “ SoulCollage® ,” it is a fantastic spiritual practice and you don’t have to be an artist or even crafty to enjoy it.

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.

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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!

 

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Spiritual Practice: Listening to Trees

 

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What do you mean, Jacci, trees don’t talk! Well, even though new scientific research is showing that trees actually do communicate, that’s not exactly what I’m referring to.

I’m talking about sitting in nature: listening, observing and being in awe of creation. We forget, in our busy lives, just how much nature is good for our souls.

If we live in cities, or in my case the desert, it might be hard to find a beautiful place to sit and reflect. This calls for some creativity, but most cities have parks, marinas or protected areas like wetlands and arboretums nearby. It’s time to investigate your area!

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So, once you find a tree, how do you listen? I suggest, if it is possible, laying on the ground underneath it. I know, you have to throw your dignity out for this one. But, looking up into the beauty and the structure of a tree is amazing. If you can’t do that, just find a good spot, even if it is from inside, and then be quiet.

Turn off your cell phone, quiet your mind and just look and listen. Trees are amazing. They have seen and heard and experienced years of history. The bigger the tree, the more they have seen. If you can get to an old growth of redwoods, prepare for a holy experience; some of these trees have been around since Christ walked the earth. Can you imagine what they have been through? Fires, storms, births, deaths, wars, love.

Many trees are connected through their root system and live in family groups, holding each other up through storms and floods. Aspen trees grow in groves and all share the same DNA! Ponder the deciduous trees that lose their leaves every autumn. They understand birth, death, growth, starting over, pain, dormancy. Let the trees speak to you about your life. Listen to their wisdom.

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I’d love to hear how you feel about trees. Is it just me? Am I crazy to get such life from being among them? One day I was sitting in a cabin I had rented for this purpose, looking at trees out of the window, and the idea for my book Tree Singer, was born. If you’d like to follow it you can see the available chapters here.

Also, in book news: I got this stunning review of my new book, Snapped! Give it a listen. It is for young adults aged 11 and up. It’s about cyberbullying and empowerment. This review makes me cry every time I listen, and she says the book “changed her life!”

 

Spiritual Practice: Moving Through Thresholds

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(I decided to continue with my blog and share the book I’m writing over on Wattpad. You can read it here). Now, back to the blog on Spiritual Practices!

Recently I was with a patient as he was dying. His body fought hard to stay alive and I sat with him, holding his hand, praying for him and singing, as he crossed over. He’d been homeless at the end of his life, and he was estranged from his family because of his choices. But nobody should die alone, so I stayed as long as I could.

As I watched him struggle, I was reminded of the labor it takes to give birth. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with three women who have given birth, plus I’ve done it twice myself, and I can tell you – it is hard work! There is one point during labor and delivery called “transition.” It’s the period when partners get slapped, swear words fly, and statements like: “Don’t ever touch me again,” become part of the birth story.

Once I was in a training with a wizened hospice counselor who was talking about the process of “crossing over” when we die. She called that passage a “threshold.” She said that thresholds are hard and dangerous. For example, an airplane is in the most danger when it is taking off or landing. She said perhaps the thresholds between life and death are also hard to navigate and that was why so many of our patients see long-dead relatives who come to escort them over the threshold.

There are many kinds of thresholds besides birthing a new life and dying to new life. I believe that moving through them can be a spiritual practice.

There is a threshold when you’ve lost a job, and before you get a new one. Or when one relationship ends, and before a new one begins. Or when you let go of an old idea of God but haven’t yet formed a new one.

During these kinds of transitions, it’s good to have someone with you to guide you across the threshold. There are birth and death doulas for those transitions and there are others:

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Four kinds of helpers when moving through thresholds:

If you have lost a job it can be a very scary time. But, it can also be freeing and a time to re-envision what you want to do next. This is a good time to consult a guidance counselor who can give you some assessments and help you think about options for your future. You may decide to go back to school or re-tool for a different career. Get someone to help you with your resume as well. The rules about resumes may have changed and the requirements for each job need to be considered with each resume. There are also places online to get that kind of help.

If you have lost a relationship, a marriage and family counselor can be a great help. It’s important to grieve the loss before moving on. It’s also vital to own your part in the failure of the relationship, as well as determine what features of the relationship you would like to avoid with the next. The Psychology Today website is a good place to find counselors in your area.

If the transition you are going through is physical, you’ll need medical help. A doctor, a nutritionist, a personal trainer or physical therapist might be parts of a great team to help you through your transition. Asking for referrals from friends or on Facebook can be an excellent way to get a good recommendation.

But also, I see all transition as spiritual, and there are people trained as spiritual directors who can help you navigate that area. They usually meet with you for one hour, once per month, and don’t charge too much either. Spiritual Directors International is a good place to find one in your area. Some will work long distance through Skype or on the phone.

Whatever kind of transition you’re in, don’t feel you have to go through it alone. I remember a 12-step friend changing the old saying about, “When God closes a door, he opens a window,” to add, “but the hallway is hell!” I agree. It can be tough in the hallway, the waiting room, the threshold. But these transitions usually lead to new life, new possibilities, growth and joy. All you need is someone to come along and guide you through.

Are you facing a threshold? What help are you finding as you go through? Any hints to share?