[Editor’s note: “Notes from a Crone” is an occasional Creative Construction series written by artist and artisan Juliet Bell. Juliet reflects on living a creative life after one’s children are long grown — with inspiration and wisdom for women at every waypoint along the spectrum of motherhood and creativity.]
I thought I would share with you a tool I learned years ago for tapping into the subconscious. I have used this method to resolve creative roadblocks, especially writer’s block — working out plots, and the like, and for quieting those deadly fears that rise occasionally, threatening to snuff out the flame of inspiration. There is no end to the ways this tool can be put to good creative use.
Back in the 80s I attended a weekend workshop on shamanism. It was led by Michael Harner, whose book The Way of the Shaman I had read years earlier. When I saw in the paper that he was offering a workshop in Boston, I jumped at it. It was a profound and life-changing event. The many “coincidences” and synchronistic happenings that occurred over those two days still weave through my consciousness today.
Over those two days, we explored many tools for seeking answers to questions. Here is one which is particularly delightful, fun, easy to do, and a great one for sharing with children. It is described in Harner’s book mentioned above. He refers to it as rock-seeing, and was taught the method by a Lakota Sioux medicine man.
First one poses a question to oneself for which one seeks answers. Then you take a walk. Your goal is to come across a grapefruit-sized stone that draws your attention. (We were asked to come to the workshop already having found our stone.) You then find a comfortable place to sit, place the rock in front of you, and pose the question to the rock. Then examine it carefully. As you do, you will begin to see shapes, little creatures, living things, symbols, animals and such, in the crevasses, markings, pits and shadings of the stone. Make note of them, and then examine the other side. Once you feel you have seen everything, begin to work out what these things mean, how they fit together, and how they address your question. When you have found your answer, you return the rock to its original location and thank it for giving you guidance.
This can also be done in pairs, where you both examine the stone, and work together to find the meaning of what you see. At the workshop we were paired up. As my partner and I took turns posing our questions, we were not only blown away with the answers that were held in our stone (our subconscious), but by the interesting “coincidence” of our pairing. I was beginning the search for my birth mother and was seeking answers as to my motives, and he, with his wife, was beginning the process of adopting an older child and was seeking information about that journey. How weird is that?
You may find as I do that when you are searching for your rock, you will find many that in themselves take on the shape of animals and other living things. This can become a game in itself. Like looking at clouds or at the cracks in an old ceiling, one sees all kinds of shapes. This is great fun to do with children, though it does tend to slow the walk down a bit. The other day I found a perfect profile of a dog, a ewe’s head, and a little stone etched with a Ninja warrior, carrying sword and shield.
For more information, visit the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner.