One of our lessons last week was about how a metaphor can be a shortcut (which is also a metaphor…) for describing an entire situation or group of qualities with one word. It can set the vibe, the norms, and the direction of a group. Gives it a frame.
Of course, metaphors are everywhere — in the newspaper, on TV, in conversations, in our thoughts (I’m in a fog today). We rely on them, often without recognizing their brilliance.
Havi talked about an online group she took over the responsibility of moderating. The previous term used for the group was a “pack” which brought up images for her of togetherness and community, but also power struggles and take-over.
She used the process described below to create a new metaphor for the group: a knitting circle. The group flourished.
Here’s the quick and dirty about using a metaphor:
- a metaphor can be brilliant or it can keep you stuck
- we forget that we choose the metaphor and we can change it—it’s your world
- every word has aspects and qualities that vary depending on the individual and context: “safety” may = comfort and love for one person and danger and hiding for another
and how to create one…
- choose a situation/idea/group you want to use a metaphor for
- if that thing has a current metaphor/word, list all the qualities associated
- indicate the ones you want to keep
- write down the qualities you want in your new frame/metaphor
- what fits the qualities?
Here’s an example:
- The studio yoga teachers
- My previous frame has been either “staff” or “instructors” and this is what comes to mind: teachers, common purpose, undervalued, authoritarian, boring, job-like, infection, doesn’t communicate yoga, implies a ‘right’ way
- The only one I want to keep is ‘common purpose’
- Qualities of ideal metaphor: love, passion, compassionate, skillful, accommodating, accepting, strong bonds, community, creative, family, loyalty, supportive, fun, fluid, natural, decisions based on well-being of the whole, collaborative yet ultimately the responsibility is mine
- This is where it gets tricky. As my partner and I were brainstorming (a lover? some kind of ecosystem? bees, coral, ants?) Havi came over and asked a series of questions that led to dream-like answers about…
being trapped in a gunmetal gray box,
finding a key in my pocket,
stepping out of the box and into an area that was beautiful,
where I was a conduit,
where I felt all the qualities of my ideal metaphor,
floating just above some water,
sensing community, care, and ease,
and looking around to see other……
Right away she squealed, “Wand, sparkles, DUST people!!”
Fairies is so not the metaphor I was expecting. But there is was—an image so clear I couldn’t deny it.
And as much as my mind resisted, my heart felt the essence of being a fairy: nimble, honest, hard working, spreading goodness, much glee, know their strengths, guides and helpers (not out for the credit), and they take time to ponder and rest.
Being the Queen of Fairies is not autocratic like being The Boss or The Owner (yuck!). As Havi pointed out, no one’s going to get mad at the Queen of the Fairies.
After the fairy dust settled around my metaphor, I was giddy. I could just see the Fairy Circle at our Fairy Conventions (no more staff meetings), announcing our Gold Dust Missions, I’d probably need a crown… oh my god, should we all have fairy names?
And then I came home.
Started interacting in the Real World. Even on Recess I’m my monster is feeling a little silly for the idea.
I don’t even feel like wearing sparkles anymore.
But the people at the retreat last week loved my fairy dust so much.
Sigh. Even fairies get sad.