By Laura Seligman
SoulCollage® is an intuitive practice that gently guides us home to our own inner knowing and guidance. It captured my heart at an impromptu offering during a spiritual retreat over six years ago. With SoulCollage®, there was immediacy, a sense of synchronicity, and an alignment with everything I loved: the creative process, spiritual practice, and inner cultivation. I was surprised by its simplicity. I wondered how collaging images to make a deck of cards could tend the soul. It would be so easy to dismiss it as a craft project. Instead, I discovered how much it would transform and integrate my life, both my inner world and my sense of community.
That is the unique gift of the SoulCollage® process. It opens the door so we can meet ourselves exactly where we are and explore life from an entirely fresh perspective. This gentle practice can become a doorway to more fulfillment, freedom, and inner peace.
Seena Frost created SoulCollage® over thirty years ago during her training with Jean Huston, a pioneer in the human potential movement. In a 2010 interview celebrating the release of her second book, SoulCollage® Evolving: An Intuitive Collage Process for Self-Discovery & Community, Seena explained:
Images are transformative because they surprise us and awaken us, often in ways that words coming from outside–from books or lectures or sermons or therapists–cannot….When your image begins to speak with your own words, it speaks from a deep layer of the soul that usually doesn’t have a voice. It is these words bubbling up that surprise us (dancingwiththeshadow.blogspot.com).
With SoulCollage®, each of us creates a deck of cards that mirrors our own unique journey and perspective. My deck reflects both my personal narrative and a universal understanding of larger energies expressed in archetypes and the natural world, especially animals. Each card reflects one essential presence and can carry multiple layers of meaning that are revealed over time. The cards may give voice to the parts that hide in the shadows or challenge me to live with more balance and a wider perspective. Equally important, they celebrate the unique parts of who I am. My evolving deck helps me laugh at my dramas and lighten up. I am able to meet the layers that want to be explored, held, and dissolved. Fundamentally, my cards guide my ongoing inquiry into how aspects of the personality can be harnessed in service of the unfolding of the soul.
The process is simple and playful, and absolutely anyone can do it. No art or creative experience is required. We intuitively choose and collage found images, photographs, and personal artwork onto a card. Working in silence, we pause from our daily life, slow down, and listen more deeply.
Engaging our active imagination, we use a process to discover the unique voice and message of each card. It may express some part of our personality or a relationship, or a more universal theme such as true strength, equanimity, kindness, or mercy. We may journal alone to get to know the essence of the card, and in a workshop we may work with a partner as a witness who scribes what bubbles up as we enter into a relationship with our card. Our partner honors our discovery by not offering insights or interpretations. Only we know what the card means, its power, gift, and strength. These cards invite us into their depths as we are ready. It is a very personal, intimate journey. The images come alive and invite the possibility for transformation. In community with others, there is a trust that develops as we honor the sacred space of our exploration.
We respect the copyright of photographers by using these cards only for our personal use. We never barter, trade, or sell them. Rather, we use them in our own unique way to understand ourselves and build community with others.
Making these cards in community with others has its own unique power. The group bond that grows even in an afternoon can be very nurturing and inspiring as we bear witness to one another. I remember after the last presidential election, a participant in my group in Los Angeles made a card that honored her mother who was in a concentration camp during WWII. The voice from the card commanded, “You have to do something NOW. It can’t wait!” Using the SoulCollage® process of getting to know the essence of this card, she was able to discern the power of the call to take action without feeling driven by guilt. This person went on to become a political advocate to honor her mother’s legacy. It was a voice that could easily have been dismissed by self-judgement or other distractions.
The ultimate reward of creating a SoulCollage® deck, even a small one, is in doing a card reading for ourselves. We pose a question about our life seeking clarity, support, or guidance. The question may be very personal about a particular issue or a more universal question such as, “What wisdom do these cards have during this turbulent time in the world?” Since we have made these cards, it is our own inner guidance that speaks to us. In this way, SoulCollage® is different from a tarot card reading.
Participants in past workshops have found the process life affirming, life altering and enlivening. One participant commented, “I’m amazed at how the images have their own voice and don’t always say what I expect from them.” Another noted, “This process was a new way to move through stressful times…a help instead of unhealthy coping mechanisms.”
My deck of SoulCollage® cards reflect the unity and emergent path of my life; the richness, the sorrow, the difficulties, the beauty, wonder, and grace. It’s a tangible, alive practice that invites me to know and be who I am, fully. It’s tender and sacred work that I do alone and in community with others. I have found Ann Arbor unique as a community that is curious about and engaged in spiritual exploration and the creative process. SoulCollage® helps us discover our wisdom and change our world. This is the gift we can give ourselves and one another. It’s an honor for me to share it.
Laura Seligman, M.S, is an artist and a volunteer at the U-M Museum of Art. She is a long time student of t'ai chi, Buddhist practice, and the Diamond Approach. Laura brings to SoulCollage® her skills facilitating numerous groups throughout her career. She delights in supporting others in using their creativity to transform their lives. For more information, you can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.