“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams
Today we meet artist and educator Jennie Oppenheimer, a lady who passionately believes that creativity and play not only illuminate our strengths and originality, but help us to discover our unique purpose and potential. As the founder of SOULIO, a business that delivers fun artful workshops to help people discover their authentic voice and take the risks necessary for growth, Jennie is now doing what she loves, using creativity as a teaching tool for soulful investigation and self-expression. Here she shares how training to become a facilitator for SoulCollage® changed her life and her work.
When the idea of synchronicity enters SoulCollage® circles, many of us smile, knowing wherever SoulCollage® goes synchronicity follows. Five years ago as I searched for words to describe my new course at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, I typed “collage of the soul” into a Google search and found myself on an official SoulCollage® website. My heart quickened as I registered for an upcoming Facilitator Training course with the sense that my life was about to take a major turn.
My personal backstory juxtaposed against this rich and generative time was much more somber. A 30-year marriage to my husband, also my best friend, was unraveling and tremendous sadness and uncertainty weighed on me. Just as it takes fire to germinate seeds, my loss fuelled my leap into the unknown and a new beginning.
At the facilitator training we were invited to select a handful of images and introduce ourselves by intuitively choosing one to speak from, opening with the words: ‘I am one who…’
The image that immediately spoke to me was of a boy, joyful and exuberant, with his arms raised toward the sky as he danced in the surf. “I am one who is salty and sandy and in love with life! I am one whose arms are raised in joy toward the sun, who is unfettered and free!”
Did I actually say that? I had been mired in so much sadness, yet as those words of exuberant joy tumbled out, I sensed that I could be a witness to my own experience. My true nature, calm and clear, was untouchable by any circumstance. Suddenly I could bear what felt unbearable, as I profoundly understood that my situation did not define me.
Surrender: I Am One Whose grief has the weight of stone. I Am One balancing on a frayed rope held together by one strand, close to a fiery blaze that is burning everything to the ground. I Am One whose arms are raised in surrender. Image by Jennie Oppenheimer
Creating my Esalen workshop, a rich confluence of painting, SoulCollage®, and group process, was a wonderful step toward my own healing. Then, by sheer coincidence, I met Jean Houston – one of SoulCollage® creator Seena Frost’s early mentors – who just happened to be teaching the day my workshop ended and I extended my stay.
Soulful moments can be found anywhere
Jean introduced me to a couple of concepts that changed my life and work.
The first was the idea of the sacred wound: stories of past pain or trauma that are capable of being transformed so that we can grow into healthier, more whole versions of ourselves. When Jean explained that, “The sacred wound is a big beautiful arrow pointing us in the direction of our purpose,” the random stars in my life formed a constellation, and finally my own trajectory made sense. I realized that the tender places within us are themselves our strength and our gift.
The second was the Greek word entelechy, which is used to describe the process by which we come to discover our life purpose. Coined by Aristotle, entelechy refers to the unfolding of something to its highest potential, like an acorn growing into an oak tree. All the information is there, like a blueprint, it’s just waiting for our voice to be empowered and our potential to be unlocked.
I left SoulCollage® understanding that it’s not just our positive life experiences that matter. It’s actually when we feel most uncomfortable, venerable, sad, lost or broken that we transform. If we are brave enough to listen and take action, our path will be illuminated and with that, as Jung professed, synchronicity will accompany us, delight and validate us.
Asleep in the Box, by Jennie Oppenheimer: I Am One Who cannot ignore my calling to step outside the box. I appreciate the structure that has held me upright and given me a place to rest, but it no longer serves me. I want to dance into a world of my own making, filled with brilliant colour, aliveness and synchronicity!
I recently decided to leave my job after I created a SoulCollage® card. My card revealed that although it supported my need for security, being a school teacher was too small and did not fulfill my deeper calling. Having the courage to follow my intuition has opened an amazing new world to me. I am building a life that I love around coaching, teaching workshops, travelling, leading vision retreats for organizations and individuals that inspire transformation and healing.
My home is a retreat in nature
As Wendell Berry says in his beautiful poem, The Peace of Wild Things: “I feel the day-blind stars waiting for their light, And for a time I rest in the grace of the world, And am free.”
A photo I captured at Burning Man says how I feel about my life!
Jennie leads retreats and classes throughout the SF Bay Area, at Esalen Institute, in Europe and Bali. She will be teaching a SoulCollage® workshop at Diddlington Manor in Norfolk, England in summer 2017. For more information and dates email [email protected]. To find out more about Jennie and her business check out her website.
When someone says, “So tell me about yourself…” what do you say?
What kind of picture do you paint? Do you focus on work, or your family perhaps? Have you ever actually taken the time to dig deep and discover what really makes you YOU?
Do What You Love invites you to create your Real Wild Bio, using our free digital workbook to analyse your unique path, understand what has made you who you are today, and sell yourself better.
Your Real Wild Bio is a quick run-down of all the important things in your life so far, showing what your world is like. Not a list of job titles, but of experiences you have had, things you have learnt, the difference you have made. It is a demonstration of things that really mean something, and show how you came to be who you are today. It shows your triumphs, and how you have overcome tough times or failure. It celebrates who you have become. It tells what you are about, not what desks you have sat at.
Why is this valuable? Well, first of all knowing yourself better helps you align your work and life choices with what really matters to you. Secondly, it’s easy to forget that we have all shone at various times in our lives, we have all been brave, surprised ourselves, pushed ourselves, done cool things and had adventures. If you find yourself at a point where all of that has been forgotten, and you instead tend to focus on challenges, fears and anxiety these days, this Real Wild Bio will remind you how powerful you can be. And lastly, if you show up at a job interview, or start a new venture, with this in your armoury, you will put yourself a long way ahead of the pack, because you will talk about yourself in a completely different way.
Try it and see what you learn about yourself! You can access this amazing FREE resource HERE.