When I asked Maria what she wanted to see and feel when she got her painting, she said:
“A sense of awe.”
A long pause, and then, “I want to be able to see me.”
Painting a SoulScape is a genuine act of co-creation, involving both the story a person shares with me—and what I can perceive about them.
In Maria, I found a beguiling mixture of vulnerability and spiritual power in the same person.
On the one hand, her fierce dedication as an educator of emotionally disturbed children clearly makes her a powerful change maker. On the other, I could still glimpse the former child who had been raised in an orphanage and broken open at a young age. And while this early trauma had brought much suffering, it was also now the continuing source of Maria’s compassion, strength, and commitment working with disadvantaged kids.
Maria’s life story began to change for the better when at the age of ten she met a woman who took an extraordinary interest in her. Every Sunday for years, this woman had Maria over to her house where she would read poetry to Maria and encourage her creativity. It was because of this special love and attention that Maria went to university and ended up in the work she has now.
Yet to this day, Maria said she still feels like two people. At times, she feels big, strong, and able to change things. But other times, she feels very small, almost childlike. “I fluctuate between feeling powerless and powerful.”
Her work is the key to her ongoing healing and unfoldment.
“I like to think what I do changes lives,” Maria told me. “I know at times it has. There were significant people in my life who will never know how significant they were. If I could be a stepping stone for just one child …”
I asked her what qualities she experiences when she is working and the best part of her shows up.
“Passion,” she said. “It’s how I feel alive. I can go to work tired. Then the kids come and, suddenly, that’s it. It’s brilliant.”
She also finds spiritual nourishment in daily prayer. It’s about getting to a special place inside herself. In that place, there is a definite energy or force. “Sometimes when I pray, it feels like I’m holding balls of fire.”
It was clear that she was at a pivotal and dynamic point in her life, a process of self-discovery. Now, looking toward the future, what were the possibilities? How was I going to help her carry forward this life story?
After discussion and sketches, we decided a triptych was the best way to show the way Maria’s past, present and future were resonating inside her and manifesting outward.
In the first painting, there is a childlike figure in the center, surrounded by love but not in direct contact with that love. In the second painting, we see her being pierced by that love. In the third, she fully embodies and expresses that love and is then a source of love to children in difficult circumstances.
There is a heart-shaped arc of light in the first, and then that light pierces her in the second. In the third piece, the light is arcing again, and there is a ripple effect of light. In the second piece, the larger figure in the top left is turning and holding its arms out to the smaller figure. Where that light is piercing her, we are actually seeing an embrace. It is the very feeling of being held.