Self-Awareness through Collaging

January is the namesake to Janus, guardian of thresholds, doors, transitions. He is typically depicted in a way that well represents human consciousness, with two faces, one towards the past and a second toward the future. This is a good time to reflect and come into a deeper relationship with your own wholeness. Collaging – as a creative act of bringing pieces together into a meaningful whole – offers us a unique way into this inquiry.

What do you see as you look back, look ahead, look in the mirror?! Do you find yourself trying to solve something? Trying to connect the dots?

Connect the dots: I love this as a puzzle game. I even find it soothing, especially when life has thrown me one too many changes – such as last night’s much-interrupted sleep – and I can easily lose my way. I search for the next number, relishing the comfort of knowing what I am looking for.

Connect-the-dots

Connect-the-dots

Unfortunately, life itself is a puzzle that does not yield so well to “solving” by this connect-the-dot method.

I know I am often asleep to my own story-line, to the ways I select out, order, assign meaning to make sense of the events, images, words, faces, impressions, colors of my days.

However, when I play with these same elements with scissors, magazines, catalogues, paper and glue: inspiration, insights, and surprising connections unfold.

With a nod to Janus, I invite you to also play, to save connecting-the-dots for sleepless nights, and engage with me in collaging as a profound method of creative inquiry toward self-awareness and understanding, toward recognizing the mystery of your unfolding.

I first worked with this method in the 1990s while team-teaching a graduate cohort in a program on Women, Leadership and Change. We instructed our students – women leaders in business, government, and not-for-profits – to collage three images: as you see yourself in the past, present, and future. I felt compelled to sit on the floor along with my students – an atypical choice when I am teaching – and happily let my colleagues hold the space.

Sara-of-the-past took the shape you see here: as contracted and determinedly connected to the spiritual, bandaid for a body, and band-aid over the heart, weight of the world on her shoulders.

Sara-looks-back

Sara-looks-back

People are not central to the life of this Sara. And my eyes, the window to my soul? Whirl intriguingly one way to draw people in, whirl the other direction and they are peculiar and off-putting.

Sara-of-the-present has grown taller, grounded in a spirituality she brings down to earth and daily life: 3-legged, like a sturdy stool. Above, connected to the flow of grace.

Sara-looks-in-the-mirror

Sara-looks-in-the-mirror

Her heart is leaf-like, a living creature, and holds her Jewish and eastern meditation paths. She is woman-connected.Transformation is implied through images of caterpillars, butterflies, phases of the moon. A full moon, the flowering feminine, is also a new willingness to be seen.

And Sara-of-the-future? Two stark black and white images, the full flowering of good and evil tucked in and held in a single luminous, womb-like spiral: one of a lotus, a flower that grows from mud, and a grainy photo of a sign hanging over the entrance to Auschwitz: Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes you free).

Sara-looks-ahead

Sara-looks-ahead

This mysterious watery container is ambiguous – something endlessly flowing in? flowing out? flowing in both directions?

At the time, I did not recognize the nondual nature of the image of Sara-of-the-future, nor did I know that this was an invitation to healing and awakening that I would still be accepting 18 years later.

Today, my knowing that all is held in one continuous spiraling, unfolding life, one reality continues to deepen. My capacity to hold such vast disparities of good and evil is still a wrestling match. And my humanity is more vividly real to me: I claim my own interior lotus and concentration camp.

This collage, now 18 years old, continues to serve as a reminder, a true connector, and a gift.

 

What might you see when you look back, look ahead, and look in the mirror through this practice of creative inquiry? How good might you look on paper?

Gather some magazines and catalogues, paper, scissors and glue stick, and let’s find out.

 

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