I am often using images in my teaching and formation and in workshops, reflections and stories. This began many years ago when I drew a number of faces to use in workshops of spirituality and mental illness. In guiding and companioning we are constantly entering into areas of experience, both human and divine, that we struggle to articulate using direct speech. Indeed these experiences can be too deep and multi-layered for words. It has often been said that we need the language of poetry to engage with the soul.
Guides, companions and pilgrims may not think of themselves as poets, but each has an remarkable capacity to engage more deeply using other pathways. These can include: body responses (“I’m experiencing a heavy weight in my stomach . . .”); the fullest range of feelings and emotions (“As I begin to talk about it now, all this anger bubbles to the surface.”); tears (“I am not sure what to talk about, but as I sit here the tears begin to come.”); metaphor (“I can’t find the words the express the rage, but it’s like looking at a volcano which is about to erupt!’); imagery (“I can actually see the volcano.”); scripture (“I found myself drawn to this Psalm.”); and much more.
Imagination is an incredible capacity, and where we learn how to trust it, we might speak of “active and believing imagination” as an amazing doorway into deeper life. For guides and companions, each of the above statements can potentially open a deeper doorway, and our task is to facilitate the pilgrim to be attentive to what emerges: to what unfolds before them. To move quickly past such expressions is to lose significant opportunities. The questions I might ask inwardly on such occasions can be: “I wonder what the Holy Spirit is stirring up within the pilgrim?” “How can I be in cooperation with the Spirit in this?” The inward response that often comes is to stay right with the pilgrim as this thread emerges and encourage them to be attentive to it!
In the pages in this section I have grouped a number of images I have used under three headings: Doorways to deeper life; Jesus as guide; and, Pilgrims speak.