You have a burning question.
There’s something painful in your life, and you stay awake long into the night looking for an answer. It’s urgent, and the emotion is killing you.
Maybe it’s a daughter who uses drugs. Or you’re coping with an illness, stuck with out-of-control anger, or trying to decide whether to drop out of school. Sometimes it’s just an emotional jumble of noise in your head, indecisive and hurting. Whatever the case, today you’ve agreed to use imagery to make sense out of it.
Imagine you’re sitting in a comfortable chair. At your elbows stands a smoothed-over, mahogany table. Across from you, an empty seat. The walls are a gentle cream color, the windows reveal vast fields of flowers, and perhaps there’s music tickling at your ear, a gentle melody that relaxes your muscles and allows you a chance to rest.
The painful emotion is still there. You study it indifferently, examining it from different angles, noting the color and texture and size. What does it look like? How does it feel? Does it have a sound or scent? Ask yourself: where did this emotion come from? Think, and think more. The answer to that question is the Problem.
The Problem & the Question.
The music is a delight at the ear, and sunlight plays lacework shadows across the floor. This is a safe place — but the emotion remains all-encompassing.
You’ve identified the Problem. Now consider it objectively, examining it from different angles, noting the color and texture and size. What does it look like? How does it feel? Does it have a sound or scent? Ask yourself: what is this problem? What is it I want to know? What question do I have about this problem?
What is your question? Perhaps it’s “How do I get through this?” or “What can I do to improve my situation?” Maybe it’s more specific: “Do I want to keep this baby?” “How do I get over this depression?” or “What can I do to stop these intrusive memories?” Take a deep breath and ask yourself: what is the basic question here?
You hear the rustle of cloth and soft steps as someone enters the room. They take a seat, and wise eyes fall upon you from across the table.
Perhaps the visitor is someone who knows you well. It might be someone you recognize or a kind stranger who lends you comfort and solace. Stranger or not, you see a person you trust.
“Talk to me,” they say. Their words are enough, and you speak, and you speak genuinely.
Perhaps you complain. We all need to complain sometimes. You scream and cry and pace and cry some more, because that’s what you need to do. Or maybe your words are a whisper, a confession, monotone and unfeeling, because that’s what you need to do. The explanation is a personal one and you say all that needs to be said. The visitor listens closely, nodding from time to time, chuckling at your jokes, handing you a Kleenex during the rough moments, curious and interested, because that’s what they want to do.
You tell your story until every word, every emotion and problem and question is spread out clearly across the table before you.
As you fall silent, your story coming to a close, the visitor leans forward and speaks. Their voice is a song of hope, a fulfillment of answers, the words you seek and need and so desperately long to hear.
But what does the visitor say?
(1) Imagine the listener is someone you admire. Knowing all they know about life, what would they recommend, what would they do in your situation? Think! Who do you admire? Why? Is it their integrity, taking a stand, flexibility, humility, strong opinions, computer savvy, or music? Would taking on their ability help you approach your dilemma in a new way? Ask the person you admire, and listen to what they have to say.
(2) The stranger cares about you, a confidant and soul-friend. They know you well, both your weaknesses and strengths, and they admire you for them. How would a soul-friend respond to your plight? What would they encourage you to do? Again, think! The luxury of a soul-friend is a rare find. They lend you their eyes to help see the world from a different perspective.
Think of the thousand ways to get past a wall: climb over, dig a hole under, walk around, break through, imagine it gone, fly over in a helicopter…
There are a thousand ways to solve a problem too, and your friend knows this. They grant you ideas you’ve never considered. What are those ideas. Ask, and listen!
(3) The visitor isn’t a stranger. Their face is like yours, their hands too, a familiar soul, far too familiar. In their eyes you see yourself, a distant “future you” who knows your feelings, who’s lived through your experiences, and, yes, who knows your future. A well-lived, contented sage sits before you. That might be surprising, but that’s where you’re going, and this person is proof that it’s true. This “future you” knows how to deal with your dilemma, and they offer ready advice. Ask, and listen. Think: in ten years from now, looking back, what would you have liked to see yourself do?
Your visitor congratulates you, reminds you of your worth, and lends you a sense of life you haven’t felt for a while.
They step out of the room.
A sigh, a happy sigh, before you stand up and leave that chair and table behind, all feelings, problems, and questions left sitting firmly on that table. A doorway gives way to a spiral stairway leading up, up, up, and as you reach the top floor, your reality kicks back in, the REAL reality, a place you’re ready to handle and apt to conquer.
You have your answers.
“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If youre [sic] a pretender com [sic] sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
How inspiring this blog? is. I love the idea of someone visiting and sitting across the table from me. It will be Nelson Mandela. I really admired him. Thanks for the cool ideas, Kim. Maybe I will put Martin on the table so Nelson can really examine him!
Sitting across from Mandela would be an incredible experience! Can you imagine the kind of advice he’d offer? Somehow I feel like he’d have ALL the answers.