SkyBlue -- The Ways of Imagination and the Quest for Creativity
In expressive arts counselling training, I work with colours, textures, music, songs, movement and dance, play, improvisation, drawing and doodling, voice and words.
Yet, I notice that for some of my companions words, especially when written, are suspect: after all, words are a product of the left side of the brain, and aren't we supposed to stimulate the right side, so that our clients can free themselves from the inhibition induced by judgment and left-brain logic... Therefore, verbalisation is used with a sort of justificatory and apologetic attitude, as a final step.
But the power of words is much vaster than that.
I believe in word magic, i.e. the heightened sensory and emotional weight words carry, when we write, read, tell and listen to stories, narratives and poems.
In my practice, I use words in three different ways:
1. Words as a clarifying and synthetising tool,
2. Words as a cherishing container for experiences, memories, emotions and ideas,
3. Words as enchantment through story and poetry.
I work with story and poetry primarily as portals towards higher consciousness and deeper awareness. The language of story and poetry is highly metaphorical and symbolic. It is full of images, sounds, textures, movement, smells and flavours.
A good story or poem activates our response on several levels, by acting on our senses, memory, emotions, imagination and ability to envision what is next.
We can know deeply and experientially through story and poetry: it is a kind of knowledge that does not necessarily rely on facts, but on connections, relations, correspondences, striking realizations, intimate understanding, sometimes a shocking sense of estrangement.
Through story and poetry, words become our home, where we can make meaning of our human experience. Through story and poetry, words also become our vehicles for explorations and adventures in the uncharted territories of human hearts and relationships, as well as our relationship with ourselves and with nature.
Thus, as all lovers of literature know, we can use words as magic wands to face our dragons, integrate our shadows and erect our castles of meaning and beauty.
Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels
I don't know why, but on reading an account by anthropologist and shamanic teacher Hank Wesselman, I felt the urge to rewrite it in my own words.
It is about his experiences with Spirit. Here it is, in my own words:
Leopard man came to me when I was three years old.
At that time, I had only seen leopards in the zoo. It was a thunderbolt in the serene sky of my childhood. For days on end, I dreamt of him: leopard man.
My mum took me to the zoo often and I grew up smelling the scents of wild animals in the midst of New York.
On that winter day, though, I stood spell-bound in front of the elegant spotted creature that paced a narrow cage.
As I looked, the leopard gazed into the depth of my soul and I felt a mutual recognition.
Afterwards, leopard man came into my dreams and visions.
We would meet in the park, near bushes and tall, thick trees.
He was to become my playmate and guide.
When I grew up, I became a postgraduate student of anthropology, I had my first fieldwork experience in South-Western Ethiopia.
One day, as I worked at the fossils excavation site in the Lower Omo Valley, I had an eerie sense of being watched.
As I gazed around, I saw a sudden "break" in the air and the quick, liquid vision of a spotted creature appeared.
I asked what that was to my fieldwork companion, an Ethiopian young man who had been watching.
He grinned -- because he had seen it too.
"Shaitani" -- he said. In Swahili it means "Spirit."
And he bent a brass bracelet around my wrist, in acknowledgment of our common tribal past: the ancient tribal past of an Ethiopian young man and a native New Yorker.
Picture by courtesy of Yigithan Bal, via pexels.com
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In Do the Work, after the “Foreword” by Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield writes the following sentence:
“On the Field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon.
You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”
This scenario certainly evokes an epic battle, such as those of medieval romances and fantasy novels and movies. We are to engage in battle.
But how on earth does the dragon come into the world in the first place?
It is our “enemy,” the one who is here to prevent us from entering the cave where the treasure is hoarded. And the treasure is our creativity and its great potential for achievement.
Yet, the dragon is none other than our own shadow, because both the knight and the dragon stand “on the field of the Self.”
I think the dragon comes into being as a crystallization of our fears, internalization of so many self-limiting beliefs and prescriptions we have been given throughout our life, that we barely remember or recognize them.
It is a monster, a compound hybrid creature the knight needs to dismember in order to make sense of its power.
Maybe, the knight could befriend the dragon, let it speak for a while, the time of receiving a gift and an explanation. Then something miraculous might happen: the dragon would turn into an ally, a giant pet, whose power the knight could harness for good.
What if, instead of battling our way through our creative projects, we could play with the dragon, through visualisation, narrative and dream incubation, or other ways, playing with the dragon’s unique message for us?
There will certainly come a moment we will have to tie the dragon to the post of discipline, but it will be much meeker and understanding of our aspirations than it was in the beginning of our project. It will even support us with its fiery breath and stamina.
Instead of going to battle and drawing out our wilful sword, let us be playful, for something amazing could happen in the process: as the dragon becomes our pet, we may turn into children again… and be greatly inspired.
Our adult self could deliver the child to the playground every day out of great fun and decide to supervise the child’s games.
Together, they could bring into the world their best work, our best work.