What’s your metaphor?

Flora Bowley standing in front of one of her paintings, San Miguel de Allende

Way back in January, when I told a friend about my upcoming trip to San Miguel de Allende to paint, he asked me about the teacher. I confessed that I didn’t know a whole lot about Flora except that I was a huge fan of her work. And then I surprised myself by adding, “I think she’s actually teaching the same thing I do. Only difference is she’s coming at it through painting and I’m coming at it through photography and writing.”

My suspicion was right. When I think about that time in Mexico, I often forget (at least initially) that I was painting every day. What feels most visceral and profound was the metaphor that we lived inside for one whole week. Somehow, through the practice of moving paint around on a canvas, we had to confront all of our stuff. Our humanness. We had to muster the courage to show up in each moment in the face of the mess, of things not working, of feeling like we sucked. We had to battle the voices that threatened to shut us down. We had to trust ourselves enough to keep going. We also learned to relish the joy that showed up unexpectedly, in moments of flow and presence.

I learned to lean into my strengths – my love of color and my confidence – and use those to my advantage, boldly throwing down the most delicious colors I could find without thinking too much about it. It was all right there, all of me, in that one little microcosm of a blank canvas. My fear of not doing it right, my attachment to to the product, my impatience and perfectionism, my brilliance.

Since then I am seeing metaphor everywhere and wondering: Are we all learning the same stuff? Are we all trying to:

1. Cultivate our courage
2. Learn to trust ourselves
3. Find faith in uncertainty
4. Find bits of unexpected joy in the process?

Do we all have a metaphor, a practice that takes us there?

Perhaps you are a gardener and learning faith this way. Or maybe you are a runner and practice courage and resilience through moving your body. Maybe aikido is your thing? Or stand up comedy. It can be almost anything, right?

What’s your metaphor?

In the comments below, tell me what your practice is and what you are learning from it.




  1. Posted July 5, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    i’m learning mine is through food….hearty, healthy, garden grown, colorful fruit and veggies….living a joyful life through the 5 senses….

  2. Posted July 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    knitting. definitely knitting.

    and i’d never thought of it this way until just now, with this post. gives me good focus for how i talk about my knitting! so thanks for that!

  3. Jeanne
    Posted July 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    mine is two-fold….like Celisa more healthy food – connecting with it, growing it, juicing it…..savoring it. And, art. Art is new to me in a personal sense and it is so funny that your post mentions Flora – because her book is what inspired me to pick up a paint brush for the first time in my life – about two weeks ago. And nuno felting is my joy…

  4. Renee
    Posted July 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Mine used to be yoga…but I am on hiatus from that for a bit right now due to my ten-month old daughter taking up all my time.

    So just like Robyn, mine is definitely knitting at the moment. It is teaching me to be slow and accept and appreciate the NOW.

  5. Posted July 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I love this Andrea! I say that all the time “They teach the same thing as me, only I use creative journaling + meditation and they use _________”

    It feels like we all (all of us who are awake) are teaching the same thing.

    I’m going to WDS – I hope we run into each other!

  6. Denise
    Posted July 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful metaphor. I find mine in Crossfit – and I never realized it until I read your post. Crossfit is something I love to do, even as on some days it makes me feel utterly unfit and ridiculous. And then on other days I am absolutely amazed at how my body is changing and how it stretches me as a person in so many ways besides simply physically.

  7. Posted July 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I kept trying to come up with other stuff, more interesting, artsy stuff – but the truth is that for me these days, my metaphor is parenting. Figuring out my own messiness, my fear, my strength, all while uncovering my creativity, my courage, my faith, my courage, and my deep flaws – at the same time that I drive my teenagers from here to there, talk to them about life and love and sex and politics and the wild world we live in, while I cook, clean, and laugh my a** off with these two beautiful, challenging, demanding, self-centered, hungry, needy, loving, hilarious people we’ve brought into the world.

    Sure, I journal and write and blog and do other stuff.
    But my main metaphor these days is being a mama.

  8. Posted July 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s both papercrafting and like Gail said above, parenting. I learn different things from both.

    Persistence and the value of practice from papercrafting which is new to me but I love to the point of almost-obsession :)

    From parenting I am absolutely learning patience, grace, anger management, and just generally learning how to be a better person so I can lead by example. That is some hard work…

  9. Lisa
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    For me, it’s kindness. Not practicing random acts of kindness rather recognizing the opportunities to be kind in the ordinariness of my life. When I have listened to my intuition and acted accordingly, awesome things have happened. And I don’t use the word ‘awsome’ lightly.

    I often remember the time you wrote about having bloodwork when you were pregnant with Nico. You told the lab guy you weren’t feeling well and were scared. He looked you in the eye and assured you you were safe with him, and he distracted you by talking about Alicia Keys. He was practicing kindness in the midst of his everyday duties. And it made an impression on you-so much so that you posted it on your blog.

    I do my best to always remember: no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

  10. Bridgette
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Like Robyn, mine is knitting. I’m not a patient person and there are times I’ve thrown my knitting down in frustration but at some point I always pick it up again. Usually, I can see the problem so clearly and realize that I just needed a little distance to gain perspective which is definitely a good lesson for me to carry around in life.

  11. Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I teach others the tools of yoga through metaphor, it’s the only way I know how to teach as it’s relatable and paints a picture that most can understand. Usually what I’m teaching is a direct result of what I’m needing or working through at the moment. Right now, it’s showing kindness to ourselves so that we have plenty to share with others. We can’t give what we don’t have…so we in turn our nurturing ourselves to then have the capacity to nurture others and change the world! Namaste.

  12. Mac
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Writing and photography… Even with introspection the power of doing trumps the power of just thinking.

  13. Posted July 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Currently I am learning to love myself and also to let love in from others. There is no creative process involved just introspection, observation, riding my bike and doing yoga every day. I’m turning to painting and have a photo project in the works but in the mean time just being still, taking my time and feeling what is surrounding me.

  14. Gabrielle Fabian
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Hi Andrea! Before I get into my {current} metaphors, let me say that I’m sure you wrote this post with ME in mind. These connections we make are fabulous.
    I currently have 2 metaphors at play: the first is yoga, which I recently began the practice of after a long time of wanting to, but putting it off for…. I can’t tell you why. I love it and it is teaching me new things all the time.
    My second metaphor is expanding and growing my creative practice, particularly regarding painting. These days it is easier for me to simply ‘go for it’ and be more involved in the process rather than the product. Very freeing.

  15. Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Andrea, I’m so thrilled you’ll be in San Miguel de Allende! I spent several months bumming around there in 1996, living the boho life of the idle ex-pat. When I left, I swore I’d be back by the end of the year. Somehow, we haven’t made it back. I hope you’ll post lots of pictures. I’m dying to know how it’s changed. Hopefully, not much!

  16. Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Mine seems to be about allowing lately. Allowing myself to write and be creative BADLY. Allowing myself to DO and SHARE even if it makes me feel vulnerable. What I respond to in the writing of others is honestly- so also allowing myself to be honest in writing.

  17. Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    My metaphor is similar to Jessica in that I am allowing myself to do stuff I used to be afraid of. I am learning through writing and keeping an online ‘diary’ about my breast cancer battle. I used to be shy to share openly and since being diagnosed with cancer in January it kind of game me permission to bust out of my shell and really just be vulnerable. It’s crazy that it took cancer to do push me into doing this. It is therapeutic for me and I have learned alot about courage, having faith and still manage to find joy through it as well.

    I look forward to days where doing artwork and painting again will be my metaphor for further exploration too!

  18. Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Great question. I don’t know. I am so passionate about so many things.
    But I just got Flora’s book and then taught a class on intuitive painting. What a blast we had.
    So happy to hear about your experience with the beautiful Flora live & juicy.


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