Continuous learning and growth are important. Not only are they a professional requirement they’re a personal commitment, too. They helps me do and be my best in my life and in my work.
This pursuit has lead me to some surprising places as I’ve explored formal and informal learning opportunities with curiosity, interest and wonder. Through these experiences I’m deepening existing knowledge and skills. But I’m also pursuing new learning, trusting that by following my own inner voice my choices will enrich my work and my life.
This is the first of a series of posts where I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing and learning during the past 12 or so months, and what I am gaining from it.
…knowledge of unfamiliar situations feeds innovation by inspiring us to think creatively and providing examples to follow.
When I went to Soul Collage™ for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. My friend Nicole invited me to join the informal group that her sister Jaye leads. “I think you’ll really like it,” she said.
Knowing about Soul Collage™ I decided to just trust Nicole and see where her invitation might lead.
A few weeks later at 10 o’clock on a Friday morning I arrived at Jaye’s townhouse. I walked up her front steps, wondering what would unfold over the next few hours. It turned out to be pretty amazing.
A group of 4 or 5 of us gathered in Jaye’s living room. They welcomed me, we introduced ourselves, and Jaye lead us in using a deck of beautiful oracle cards to help us identify what we’d like to explore through our collages. We spent some time discussing what we’d each found in the cards we chose, and what meaning we made of those messages.
We then used Jaye’s impressive collection of catalogs, magazines, and calendars to select images that we were drawn t. She keeps all the supplies on hand: the sources of the images, plus paper and card stock of various sizes, glue sticks, and scissors. She also offers notebooks and pens to write down discoveries and questions.
The image-choosing process took quite a while. At some point I decided I was done collecting images and, guided by my theme, began creating my collage. We were free to create a piece of any size. Some made very small, greeting card-sized collages. Others used a poster sized piece of paper, or something in between.
I became completely immersed in the process, not saying much as I worked. I ended up not using all the images I’d cut out. Some I used as is. Others I disassembled and reassembled, creating something new. Upon finishing, we wrote a sentence on the back of the collage, starting with the words, “I am the one who…”
Witnessing and Being Witnessed
We each took a turn showing our collage to the others, saying a little bit about it. They responded with brief comments about the thoughts or feelings came up as they looked at each creation. When it was my turn to be part of the group, I felt part of a kind and caring community. When it was time for me to “show and tell” I felt held, seen and understood. Experiencing the others’ acceptance of me, I felt my sense of self-acceptance growing. The others’ comments expanded my self-understanding and my perspective on the experience I was exploring.
For each person the rest of the participants repeated, in unison, their “I am the one who…” statement three times. When my turn came, I realized what a powerful moment that is. It’s affirming to hear your words said in chorus in that way. And somehow it brings new depths of understanding with each repetition.
I last attended in November, when my statement was, “I am the one who transforms.” I had the sense then (and now) that I was entering into a time of becoming who-I-am-now and of saying goodbye to who-I-had-been.* It’s a sense of changing and evolving, of shifting my focus and priorities. Hearing the group repeat that sentence to me three times helped me feel ready to follow this changing sense of self wherever it might lead.
What I’ve Learned from Soul Collage
The opportunity to delve deeply within, and to express something important using images more than words is precious. In my own work I lead personal growth and discovery through writing, which I find very powerful. It was a great discovery to realize that images are another route to connecting with my inner self. It stirs the soul, calls upon intuition, and leads to important understandings. The gentle support of others who are witnessing what you are exploring is no small part of the experience. With all of this, something within shifts and settles into place each time I participate.
I’m not a gifted artist, and that doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that in this setting, artistic ability isn’t important. It’s the the an unhurried process of noticing what comes into awareness when you allow yourself to let go and express your deepest self that brings the learning and growth.
I’ve carried this understanding into my work as a writing facilitator, where we use words to connect with our deepest thoughts and feelings and bring them into awareness. I always say that you don’t have to be an experienced writer, or a “good” writer to benefit from it. Now I understand better how it feels to take a leap and allow yourself to freely use a medium that I know I am not “good” at. It makes me let go of self-judgement and self-criticism, to accept who and what I am, and to open up to what I can learn when I feel less than sure of myself.
Integration of the Personal and the Professional
The last time we gathered I made the collage that now illustrates my newest offering, the 6-week Transform Your Health: Write to Heal.
I wasn’t trying to create a collage that I’d use in my work, but it turned out to be the perfect image for communicating the purpose of the class. It turned out that the collage was helpful to me both personally and in my work. That reinforces my understanding that we don’t have “personal selves” and “professional selves.” We’re one whole self, sometimes doing things in the professional realm, and other times things that are more tied to the personal realm.
Next in the Series
In the next post, I’ll tell you about another kind of learning experience, one that was more formal and more focused on my profession. In that learning experience, I got in involved in two intensive workshops that introduced me to a coaching theory and approach that was new to me.
Photo: NL Seibel, 2019