From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow. – Aeschylus
Our lives are composed of cycles within cycles within cycles. Rhythms of pause and motion run through our experiences. Nature cycles in particular are a mirror for us.
We are also nature. Observing how all of nature’s other creations start in a still, fecund nothingness, then gestate, birth, grow, mature, recede, and finally dissolve back into the invisible helps us recall ourselves.
This art therapy exercise is for taking time to recognize these cycles in our lives. It begins with journaling.
Step I: Journal about Your Life as if it were an Oak
Reflect on the following areas of life:
- Material World Abundance, Basic Security and Financial Health
- Romantic Life, Relationship Skills and Love
- Family, Friends, and Community
- Healing Your Wounds and Forgiving the Past
- Personal Adventure, Learning, Experiencing and Discovery
- Joy, Happiness, Fulfillment and Meaning
- Creative Expression and Finding What You Have to Say
- Spirituality and Embodying Your Essence into the Here and Now
- Contribution to the Collective (Shared Human and Planetary Well-Being)
Now journal to the following prompts.
What aspects of your life story are in the acorn stage? What seeds are you aware of which are still germinating, full of secrecy and potency? What do you sense may one day bloom and grow within you?
What has clearly already shown up as a sprout in your life? What fresh, tender shoots, that still need protection, are clearly visible as verifiable manifestations in your world? New people, new skills, new energies?
What strong young saplings are present in your life? What manifestations can you already almost lean on? What has viability, resilience, and strength? What are you proud of, reasonably secure will make it further on the life journey?
Which features of your life are in the oak tree phase, splendid, large, and solid? What thick boughs and formidable branches of your life are in the prime of their manifestation? Where are you beautiful and manifested, already fully unfurled, sheltering others?
Which aspects of your life feel they may be shifting, giving way under their weight, perhaps looking towards the end? Where do you feel the groan of something coming gradually to its conclusions, heading towards sunset years?
Which aspects of your life are fully complete, in the process of losing your body, disappearing from this realm, and making their exit? What has completed itself, no longer needs to be here, is on its way to the great beyond?
Which aspects and areas of your life are complete unknowns, totally sealed in mystery for now, fertile voids into which you have no insight? Where do you simply have no inkling what will happen?
Step II: Visualize Your Life in Cycles of an Oak Tree
The next step is to make the information you gleaned in your journal process visual.
The following instructions give you the general idea, but feel free to adapt the process as you go along, according to your nudges of inner wisdom.
The largest paper you have
Markers, colored pencils, and paint if you have some
- Draw a large circle, as large as you can fit onto your paper.
- Make lines to divide the circle into 7 sections, like cutting a pie.
- Draw a small acorn in one section, leaving a lot of empty space in that slice of the pie. Draw a small sprout in the next, then a sapling, an oak tree, an aging oak, decomposing wood, and in the final section, leave it empty.
- Incorporate words from your journaling into your wheel now, together with little symbols, to indicate which aspects of your life are at which cycle stage. For example, if your love life is in a sprout phase, you can write the word “love” inside a heart symbol in the section of the wheel that has a sprout symbol drawn in it.
- Take your time to add everything that feels needs to be there. It can fill up quickly – it’s ok to layer and to cram words in if you need to – that itself is indicative of how much you may need to make visible for yourself.
- Feel free to color it in and make it pretty or ugly, whatever feels fitting and creatively compelling.
Step III: Look at your Artwork and Reflect
Set a timer for 3 minutes, and look at what you have created.
Now journal. What strikes you? Any patterns? Are there sections of the wheel especially full or empty of topics?
What might that mean about how you could support yourself better, in acknowledgement of the needs of each stage? If your sobriety is a new little sapling in need of support, and you’re also starting a new relationship, this may imply you have an extra need for protection and tenderness with yourself. See this about yourself.
If you have a lot of fallow ground in your life, see that it’s a time for having faith, not for looking at your life critically. If you have acorns longing to sprout, what will help them issue forth their riches into the world, when the time is right? Where you’re a full tree, can you enjoy, acknowledge, and appreciate that, all you did to get that tree to where it is now?
Thanks for all that you are and all that you do, fellow traveler.