I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jessica Curtis' reflection Metaphors as Messages.
Poetry has long been part of my spiritual practice. I especially love metaphors and have begun noticing places where they show up in my life other than poetry.
At church recently, the minister was talking about the idea that we come into this world with an inheritance. He referred to this inheritance as taking the form of a “blessing bundle” and a “burden bundle.” The goal over the course of a lifetime is to lessen the burden bundle and augment the blessing bundle.
I carried this metaphor around in my mind all week. I imagined myself walking down a path carrying two satchels – one filled with heavy stones (burdens) and the other filled with feathers (blessings). I imagined how one would be digging into my shoulder and slowing me down while the other would be barely noticeable. Noticing the burdens rather than the blessings – this felt like a message for me.
I began to play with the metaphor. What if our inheritance is only one bundle? What if burdens and blessings are one and the same?
Perhaps it’s in framing our inheritance within the constructs of good and bad that we feel weighed down.
So, I turned my image into a single bundle. I did not want a bundle of feathers that might blow away on the wind. Instead, I pictured a backpack full of stones – with weight and texture and volume.
My practice for the week became visualizing that backpack of rocks with appreciation, carrying it on my journey as a valuable inheritance, not a burden.
I imagined how I might take some out of my bag to build a cairn, marking a place on the path that I want to remember or come back to. Perhaps I will use a few to help me cross a stream without getting too wet. I imagine those rocks in my bag, rubbing against each other on the journey, perhaps smoothing some of the rougher surfaces and polishing each other along the way. I might give some away as a token of gratitude. But most of all, I want to feel the weight of my inheritance as I walk along, letting it anchor me to myself.
When metaphors show up in my life, I have learned to pay attention. When the car broke down at the end of an especially busy week, I recognized my need to slow down. When I lost my voice the day after a significant conflict, I paused to ask myself what I wasn’t giving voice to.
In this way, metaphors can be a beautiful modality for understanding our inner lives and journeys. They can be a very useful tool in developing self-awareness. But where does the rubber meet the road? How do I apply these metaphors to the practicalities of my life?
One of the gifts of metaphor is its ability to help me bypass the intellect. I can apply my learning through the body and the intuition, and perhaps from there begin to impact the workings of the mind.
For example, I now have an image of a backpack of rocks and stones that I carry on my journey through life. I call up this image and experience it in the moment; my body imagines the constant weight upon my shoulders, I notice the strength in my legs and the steadiness of my feet planted on the floor. I am aware of the power in my body. I feel strong, and I appreciate this bundle that I am carrying.
In a different moment, I might be feeling weighed down by an experience, by a pattern of behavior in myself that I’m re-visiting or by a familiar voice of criticism in my head. Again, I bring awareness to that backpack of my inheritance. I can see myself opening it and finding that rock – the one that is not serving me any longer. I watch myself take that rock out of my backpack and put it down. I can choose to leave it behind.
Down the road, I may hear the same critical voice again. I can remind myself that I have chosen to leave that rock behind. I can imagine myself revisiting the place where I put it down and deciding it needs to be rolled down the hill where I’m standing. In my mind’s eye, I give it a push and watch it roll, end over end, picking up speed as it goes, getting farther and farther away until it is no longer in view.
This kind of visualization has become an ongoing intentional practice for me. I feel it building my muscles of awareness. I feel less anxious, learning to trust the messages – the metaphors – that show up in my life.
Jessica Curtis, M.Ed., CPCC, ACC, works with people seeking growth and fulfillment in their lives. A professional coach, Jessica helps people cultivate intention and live a spiritually-centered life. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and a flock of chickens. You can learn more about Jessica and her work at: www.jscurtiscoaching.com