As part of the assessment for the diploma course in spiritual accompaniment I took last year, I am currently writing my spiritual autobiography. It has been fascinating to look back over my life and see in my childhood the early seeds of interest in all sorts of areas which are now central to my life as a grown woman. It is also pretty alarming to become aware of all sorts of seeds that never had the chance to take root, and to face the reality that now I am solidly in the second half of life, many of those potentialities will never be realised.
As I mentioned in a recent post, one of the things I have been trying to do recently is to carry out active imagination exercises which I first learned about in a book called ‘Living Your Unlived Life’ by Robert A Johnson and Jerry M Ruhl. In the chapter Symbolic Life: Curing our one-sidedness the authors suggest:
It can be useful to reclaim what is unlived in you externally, adjusting your life to express these potentials. However, often this is impractical or impossible. For example, you can only heal old wounds with a parent or spouse who has died or have a conversation with God through inner experience. When we experience untapped potentials inwardly, on the level of symbolic life, often the experience goes deeper, is more intense, and produces more personal development. There are many realities that can only be taken in at the imaginal level. You can still live whatever path you haven’t taken that resides in you if you consent to explore symbolic life…When you allow symbolic images to arise from within, and then in your imagination you begin to talk to and interact with these inner figures, the dialogue will reveal things you never knew about yourself….all the energies essential to our authentic being demand to be expressed in some way.
Although it can feel very strange to poke around inside and discover these inner figures, and even more weird to start dialoguing with them, I have found this a hugely energising, helpful practice and it’s one I highly recommend. It feels a bit risky to show this, but here is a ‘dialogue’ between me and an inner figure who represents a highly competent, confident career woman. In this extract, she’s letting me know some of the other inner figures she’s aware of in me:
“I don’t know the names of all the others, but there’s quite a lot of anger in here, a crone, Dita, healers and shamans, magicians and entertainers, poets, bards and wanderers, musicians (God – they’re singing folk like they mean it!), fey princesses, grouchy kings, simple little match-girls, Ned the lonely donkey, a girl with no hands who’s eating a pear, a belly dancer and a glass blower, a shedload of artists and wannabe artists, heaps of writers and pontificators, lots of business women and an accountant, a scheming money-maker, lots of lazy types hoping everything’ll come together without too much effort, perfectionists of all sorts – perfectionists about appearance, tidying, qualifications, behaviour, gardening, dress, morals – a monk and three hermits, a sage, a simplicity guru, lots of mother earth types with big earrings and rainbow clothes, a really irritating clown, some sad children, some thoughtless energetic children, a couple of mopey teenagers wearing grungy black stuff, a nun, a stripper, a tower builder and a well digger, someone who makes altars out of moss and drinks from pools in the forest, a balloon animal maker, a maths teacher, a story teller, a box maker and a drystone wall builder. That’s just scratching the surface…”
I don’t feel like I need to spend much time dialoguing with my inner accountant, but a few chats with my inner glass blower could be really illuminating, particularly as this was the first thing I ever wanted to ‘be’ (when I saw someone blowing glass on the telly at the age of about four…).
I think we all carry within us the seeds for so many different potentials, interests, gifts and possibilities. Rather than being saddened that we don’t get to develop and live out all of these, I’d encourage each of us to explore these seeds, allow them to grow in our imagination, and then choose which ones we want to bring out into the world, plant, and explore more in our daily lives.
Anyone here daring enough to let us know what seeds you have buried inside? Perhaps they might just start growing towards the light with a little bit of dialogue and encouragement.