Painting my way into spiritual direction

By Lois Huey Heck

I came into the spiritual direction session with an old heaviness in my being. I was stuck (again)… unable to break out of some vague inertia. My director began with prayer… a personal prayer and a poem… something to give me a bigger lens on my small personal malaise. Then she guided me into giving my full attention to the place of stuckness. As always, this prayerful attention and deep listening yielded first clear-seeing, then a fuller understanding and experience of the “block” between me, Spirit and creative expression, and finally opened a vision of release – of healing… of transformation.

I have painted and drawn from such experiences before. Sometimes in hasty stick-people figures and sometimes with abstract paint marks – it all works. This time however I had more space and time – maybe more patience! The “illustration” of these three phases became a slow meditation that, by virtue of calm quiet hours spent, revealed ever-deepening layers of understanding how I get frozen. Some old wounds. Some old insecurities. Some old (and embarrassingly current) ways in which I get caught in my egoic concerns and lose trust in the transcendent. I know it’s not great art by any worldly or even technical definition – and it doesn’t have to be. For me it’s a way I receive, meditate, pray upon and finally rest in the gifts of Spirit that come in times like these.

It’s one version of visual art based Lectio Divina. I love the wisdom of this ancient four-fold practice:
1. Receive (text or image or sound: Lectio/Imageo or Visio/Audio)
2. Notice what comes and ponder it actively (Meditatio)
3. Respond by praying your gratitude, wonder, lament (Oratio) and
4. Rest in what has been given, let go into the arms of the beloved.  Some say this is the highest form of prayer and meditation (Contemplatio). Among other things, contemplation is the phase of integration of the insight/reconciliation/healing/wake-up call/challenge. Creating images based on these metaphysical experiences is a way I slow down, linger a bit longer, comprehend and then integrate more fully the gifts of spiritual accompaniment.

Ice Block

Image One – Ice Block

Desolate, I find something like a small iceberg frozen over most of the front of my torso. My skin and my organs are chilled and unmoving.

Melt

Image Two – Melt

I hold my attention on the ice block, prayerfully, open to grace I stay present to the unwelcome experience. As I remain with it, simply seeing and acknowledging it a slow melting process begins and opens up a small passage for all that wants to flow through me.

Free-Flow

Image Three – Free Flow

I feel what it is to “move” past the frozen icy state. The image of dance – such a powerful image of freedom, emancipation, joy – comes to me and I know again for the first time that freedom of physical movement is essential to me. Without loving care and creative expression for and with my body — living a full and faithful life is often frozen into stasis.


 

Lois Huey-Heck is a spiritual director, artist, writer and retreat and workshop leader.  A 10 year  alum of the Pacific Jubilee Program, Lois is now part of the program team of Pacific Jubilee (Enquiries – Admissions – Program Development).  You may contact Lois here.