I brought small pumpkins into Monday’s class at the Sophia Center. I had everyone close their eyes and hold out their hands to receive their pumpkin, so they wouldn’t immediately know what it was. Holding/touching something with eyes closed is evocative—we don’t immediately rely on our mind to recall pre-stored ideas about the object. We can have an experience without words or thoughts. With eyes closed, students noticed the smooth, heavy roundness of the pumpkin, and images/memories of mothers, mother’s bellies, and mother earth came up in the group. Despite their small size, the pumpkins were heavy, and the ensuing writing and discussion were also rich and heavy, grief even came to the surface for some. There IS something about fall that’s sad—the ripeness of late summer is over and leaves are falling. In my own garden, the cucumbers that didn’t make it this summer are rotting, the lettuce and broccoli have gone to seed…
The shape, texture, and weight of the pumpkin worked each of us metaphorically, influencing our thoughts, writing, and conversation.
I have noticed during the past year, that there seems to be a “higher energy” that works through my groups. It’s an energy that exists in the realm of feeling, image, and metaphor. It feels to me as if the group is weaving together a tapestry. Each student is contributing his or her own voice to the tapestry, and as various voices are added to the mix, rich, metaphorical threads emerge from the group as a whole. These metaphorical threads create a space that’s richer than I could ever create on my own. It’s bigger than me.
In their noteworthy book Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson demonstrate how metaphors are the basis of how we think and learn. In particular, we use metaphors to help us understand mystery and experiences that are difficult to understand. When we’re exploring something new we have to use metaphorical language, because we don’t already have a pre-determined understanding of it.
I’m still piecing this together, but I am starting to get the sense that the metaphorical threads are where the “higher energy” is. Through the rich realm of metaphor, we as a group are creating a higher-level space. I’ll keep you posted.