Often times, we look back at our lives and we can see the story. But is that story really the heart of the matter? How do we connect to the heart of our story in the present moment? Taking meaning from what is now to illuminate what was then.
At the core of every moment lies the heart of the cosmos, and my heart, and yours.
~Margaret D. McGee, Haiku–the Sacred Art
Today, I’d like to try a technique that Margaret McGee teaches in her book referenced above. She uses it to teach haiku. If you feel comfortable with that, I would definitely encourage you! If you feel there is another creative form calling forth from you, then use that–music, dance, poetry.
You will need up to 20 minutes for this exercise. Review all the steps before you start, unless you’re like me, in which case you just jump in!
Make a chart something like this (you probably will need extra room under sight!):
Now, if it is possible, find a nice place outside to sit comfortably and to take in your surroundings.
Relax, breathe deeply, look around.
- Now–What do you smell? It’s spring–are there flowers blooming? Can you smell them? Not all smells are serene! It could be something else altogether!
- Then–Close your eyes. Let go and stroll through your memories. Is there a particular scent from your past (last week? childhood?) that is arising for you?
- Now–Write down the first thing you see! And keep on filling it in. Our eyes can take in so many things! We can see, arguably, over 100,000 different colors! What words can you create that describes the individuality in what you see?
- Then–Close your eyes. Let go and stroll through your memories. Is there a particular color or scene from your past that is arising for you?
Continue on in this pattern for each category.
Now, get a fresh sheet of paper or use the back of your grid. Choose a few images from your lists that are resonating with you and with each other. These images may all be from the present moment or they may be from past moments. In particular, if you want to use the present to cast meaning on your past story, search for threads that connect across time.
Go and do! Create your artwork (or soulwork) in haiku, other poetry forms, photography, collage, painting, mandala, essay, etc. Whatever way calls to you. Take time now to make meaning and to add to the depth and meaning of your own story.
For me, what is resonating is the bitterness of coffee, addiction, wind that is too strong. Yikes–what can I do with that?
stormy winds of spring
whistle through my breaking heart–
Aaah, well, this exercise today seems to have brought up some memories. What is clear to me is that our stories are never finished. We can continue to add meaning and to find new meaning and to have alternate meanings! A surplus of meaning.
© 2013, essay, haiku, and photograph, Terri Stewart, all rights reserved
TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s Sunday Chaplain, Senior Content Editor, and Site Co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.