"If you need to make two cards -
and you know who you are
- take two cards," said our workshop leader. I wanted to make two cards, but now I felt greedy. Then I hit on the solution: use both sides! Nobody told me that using both sides meant you could never use the card in a deck - like that Old Maid card with the dog-eared corner everyone knows to avoid. Never mind. That card, front and back, holds pride of place as the Card That Changed My Life.
It was November 2013 and I was attending an all day retreat called 'Harvesting Our Inner Wisdom' for 'women of uncertain age.' The day included "collages out of magazine images to inspire our practice and to joyfully practice concentration and insight." This was my introduction to SoulCollage®, although it didn't go by that name. Our leader was a highly respected meditation teacher, Peggy Rowe Ward, who had learned the technique from Seena Frost, her friend, years before.
A handful of people were expected; forty showed up. We were each given two
, one piece of card stock for our collage (two, if we insisted), and we were timed - 20 minutes for the mad gathering of images; 20 minutes to pick and choose; 20 minutes to glue. We were given a theme: "Our Journey." Women working together quietly, creating something meaningful while communing with our deepest selves - I imagined it like an old-fashioned quilting bee. It remains one of my favorite things about the process.
When time was up, we were invited to introduce our card with the words '
I Am One Who...
' Women shared pretty cards with images of a path, flowers, butterflies and so on. My card horrified me. There was nothing pretty about it. I said, "It appears that '
I Am One
with a bloody great rifle slung across my lap while sitting under a hair dryer at the beauty parlor,' and I don't know what it means." Everyone laughed. Peggy advised, "There's an important message in that card for you. Stay with it."
Peggy was right. Slowly the meaning of that card has revealed itself and insinuated itself into my bones. That young woman gives me courage. She says that you can be strong and brave and stand up for yourself - be a warrior - even while being completely feminine. This is not something I learned growing up. The old woman and the monkey, representing traditional ways and the chattering mind, are gossiping about this over a cup of tea, while the young woman ignores them. Focused on cleaning her rifle, she sees nothing incongruous in her actions. To know that that young woman is a part of me strengthens me no end. I like to think the old woman is secretly cheering me on, as I do what she could never do.
The month before this workshop, I signed up for a yoga teacher training which would last one year, during which I would turn 60. We had just had our first meeting. I was feeling a great deal of anxiety about this: too old, too fat, nobody's idea of a yoga teacher. Rifle Girl inspired me to think otherwise. Why NOT me? I could encourage others who feel they are too old for yoga, just like me. I finished that training and am a yoga teacher to this day.
A few months later, when I turned 60, I threw myself a collage-themed birthday party based on SoulCollage®. Creating my card had been life-changing for me: why not share it with others? Of course I worried about creating a meaningful experience for my guests. I had invited four yoga teachers, hoping that one of them would think up some sort of ritual or find the right words to help get us centered and in the proper place. None of the four could make it, with three of the four cancelling that very day. So I, the 'learner' yoga teacher who hadn't even finished training, and couldn't do a push-up without falling on her face, had to come up with the words and create the mood. I channeled the casual strength of Rifle Girl, found the words, and stepped into my new decade -- and vocation as a yoga teacher -- with confidence
You may be wondering, what about the card I created on the other side of Rifle Girl? If I was embarrassed about her, the other side was far worse. It was supposed to be a contemplative, deeply spiritual card (remember the theme 'Our Journey') - statues of the Buddha, a wise old crone, that wild golden stuff which is actually the headdress of a medicine man - and then! I was compelled to glue these balloon unicorns front and center, ruining the whole card! I was mortified. I hid that side away until I came across a cartoon that showed two clowns talking in a café and one clown exclaiming to the other, "YOUR spirit animal is a balloon poodle? MY spirit animal is a balloon poodle!"
Spirit animal? Balloon poodle? Balloon unicorns! I showed the card to my husband and daughter and they saw what I hadn't been able to for at least three years. My daughter said, "Mom, you can just show people that card and they will know everything they need to know about you. You are deep AND you are goofy. You are BOTH."
Wise words! We are all BOTH/AND -- a multitude of opposites. My two-sided card, and many more since, have taught me this over the years. I believe something in us craves balance. Rifle Girl was shocking to me, this embodiment of nonchalant strength in a woman - was she really me? Balloon Unicorns were my attempt to not take myself so seriously. Together they make a whole. Deep AND goofy, both.
Recognizing the healing and strength inherent in SoulCollage®, I formally trained as a Facilitator in 2015. I still use the 20-20-20 'rule' I learned from Peggy. I automatically give each person two cards. And I encourage everyone who creates a card they cannot explain to stay with it. Important messages will be revealed over time. Who knows, it might even change a life!
is an enthusiastic yoga teacher and SoulCollage® Facilitator, who hosts monthly workshops at her home, cozily sitting around the dining room table, cutting and pasting and welcoming all those opposites. More information can be found on her