Collage as prayer: cutting and pasting my way to God
Sometimes losing our serious adult demeanor for a bit and doing childlike things can take us deeper into our spiritual center than any book on prayer ever could. Case in point: I spent Saturday armed with scissors and a glue stick, cutting and pasting — and praying. Although I’d done collages before on my own, back when I was working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I had never used the art form as a way to deepen my spiritual life. Until this past weekend when I headed back to the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, my new favorite spiritual place, for a six-hour workshop called “Collage as Prayer.” I convinced one friend to join me and then met up by chance with another once I got there. We had a great group of women, probably about a dozen of us or so, led by Sister Ethel. The result? Two collages and a whole lot of insights into myself and my spiritual journey.
Here’s collage #1. I did this one in the morning, after a short, guided meditation. I followed it up with about 30 minutes of journaling in one of the retreat center’s private rooms — sitting in a rocking chair, looking out at the snow-covered landscape while contemplating my collage and trying to figure out why I cut and pasted what I did. My friend, husband, and middle daughter have all asked if I’m going to frame this one, so maybe I will. I do love it, and it speaks so much to where I am in my life right now:
Here’s collage #2, which actually has a back and front. Truth be told, I got so caught up cutting out words and images that spoke to me that I had absolutely nothing glued down on my paper when Sister Ethel gave the 10-minute warning. So this one is not nearly as well-planned as the first. I didn’t have time to carefully place everything where I thought it should go after prayerful reflection. Everything on these two pages landed wherever they happened to fall. I did do a little additional work once I got home just to give each side a more finished look. I also never got around to writing a prayer based on my collage, which was part of our “assignment” at the retreat house. I hope to do that some time this week when I need a few minutes of spiritual quiet time.
Even if you think you aren’t artistic at all, you’ll be surprised at how easily collaging brings out your inner right-brained self. Suddenly colors and words and photos come together, even when you’re not intentionally working toward a specific theme, to form a cohesive whole right before your eyes. Each of my collages speak to me in a different way, including the one I made years ago that hangs beside my desk in my basement office. When I look at it, I can recall where I was at that time in my life. I have no doubt my new collages will do the same when I look back months or years from now.
I may take Sr. Ethel’s suggestion to do this sort of collage prayer on a semi-regular basis, whenever I’m working through something or marking a special or significant event in my life. It’s a great way to see where your head is at — which is often not all where you think it’s at. All you need are some old magazines, a scissor and glue stick, a slice of silence, and a little help from the Spirit. Give it a try and see where you end up.