Choosing a Mentor
Look over the following questions. You can either write answers to some or all of them, or just think about your answers.
After you have read the questions, pick one or more of the people to be your mentor. Remember, this is not an irrevocable choice. As you are doing the writing suggested in the next chapters, you can come back to this list and pick a new mentor at any time. You can also pick someone who's not on this list. Or pick no one at all: Some people have found that it worked to just write the correspondence without ever having a picture of who the correspondent was.
The possibilities are endless. You do not have to limit yourself to one mentor, or to the first one you choose. This is a game, and it should be fun. But it is a game that can become a lifeline when times get tough.
Here are some questions you may find helpful:
- When you were a child, what did God look like? Describe your first images of God.
- Describe what pops into your head now when you hear the word God. How is that related to your childhood image? Is it similar, or is it reaction against an old image?
- Who were your childhood heroes? Why did you admire them?
- Who are your heroes now? Why do you admire them? Are they different from your childhood heroes?
- Who are your favorite characters in books? What makes you like them?
- Did you ever have an imaginary friend? How old were you? What was the friend like?
- Did you have a favorite doll or stuffed animal as a child, one with a real personality? What was it like?
- Have you ever had a pet that seemed to understand you better than any person did? Or maybe you had an imaginary pet. Describe it.
- Have you ever had a real mentor who is no longer with you? Someone who guided you and helped you? Who was it?
- Is there someone in your family tree that you're curious about? This could be a grandparent you knew, or someone who died before you were born. Imagine what this person might have been like. Your image of the person doesn't have to be accurate.
- Do you have any favorite myths? Who is your favorite god, goddess or hero? What do you like about that character?
- Who is your favorite fairy-tale character? Why?
- Who are your favorite TV or movie characters? What do you like about them?
- Who are your favorite religious figures?
- If you had a guardian angel, what would it be like?
Begin your correspondence
Write about meeting your mentor for the first time. You may want to describe the setting. Are you on a mountaintop, in a garden, a temple, a forest glade, a seashore, a palace, or maybe a coffeeshop? Or are you in your own room? How do you approach your mentor? Are you sipping tea, watching a sunset, sitting on a lap, flying?
Write your self-introduction to your mentor. This can be a letter you're writing, or a transcription of the words you imagine speaking. Thank her for meeting with you, and tell her why you have chosen her to be your mentor. (For ease of writing, I am assuming your mentor is female, but of course that may not be true.)
Close your eyes moment and listen with your heart. Imagine that you are the mentor. Greet your guest with words of welcome. Be as kind and gracious as you can, but try to speak as the character you have chosen would speak. Again, this can be thought of as a letter, or as a transcription of words that are spoken.
Read over your mentor's words with the realization that they are addressed to you. How do they make you feel? If they are not warm and supportive, think carefully about whether you may want to choose a different mentor. Brusque and bracing is OK, if you feel comfortable with it.
Explain to the mentor why you have undertaken this journey. What do you hope to accomplish with her help? Tell your mentor about your current joys and concerns.
Again, write from the point of view of the mentor. Address each of the joys and concerns as you would if you were answering a letter from a dear friend. You don't have to have a solution for every problem. Offer love and support, and advice if any occurs to you.
You don't have to stop with one exchange. The conversation can include many exchanges back and forth between you and your mentor. I usually label my "letters" by beginning each one with a salutation: "Dear Lady", and ending with a signature: "Love, Karen". My mentor does the same. I also begin each one with a date, just as though it were a real letter. This can be valuable later, when you go back and read your journal.
You have already seen an example of my first conversation with the Goddess on the Letters from the Goddess main page. If you would like to see two more examples, also taken from my own life, click here..
If you are having trouble getting started, you may want to make your mentor more concrete by writing a description or making a representation. What follows are suggestions for ways to do this, along with rituals you may find helpful to set the mood.
- Write a description of the mentor you chose in Chapter 1. What does she look like? How big is she? What is she wearing? What does her hair look like? What kind of expression is on her face? What does her voice sound like? How does the touch of her hands feel? Does she have an evocative smell?
- Draw or paint a picture of your mentor, and put it in a nice frame. Make a photocopy and put it in your journal. Or draw the picture in your journal.
- Make an icon by painting a picture on wood.
- Draw an abstract symbol to represent her.
- Sculpt a statue from baker's clay* (recipe below) or Fimo.
- Make a mask of papier-mache† (recipe below) and paint and decorate it.
- Decorate a ready-made mask.
- Find a picture that looks like your mentor. If you have chosen a mythological or historical figure, you should be able to photocopy a picture from a library book, or find one on the Internet using www.google.com. Put a copy in a frame, and put another copy into your journal.
- You may be able to purchase a statue that looks like your mentor. I found one at a flea-market that looked like the Lady to me.
- Devotional candles in glass containers decorated with paper pictures of religious figures are available in the Mexican food aisle of many grocery stores. Maybe one of the figures represents your mentor, or looks like her. You could also buy a plain candle in a glass container and glue your own painting to it.
Do you ever catch yourself obsessing over something, worrying about things over which worrying does no good? Do you nurse anger long after the quarrel is over? Is there an inner voice putting you down? You're not a good enough parent, or housekeeper, or worker? Sometimes that inner voice can be productive, when it spurs us to make positive changes. But more often it's unrealistic. Once we've taken the ordinary precautions of fastening our seatbelts and watching out for other cars, we should be able to drive without imagining terrible wrecks at every turn.
Give a face and a name to that nagging voice. Make it something you can mock. Feel free to borrow a character from the comics, as I did (I chose Mistress Flurry from the Pogo comic strip), or from a book or movie or TV show. It should be dismal but laughable at the same time. Gloomy Eeyore, or Puddleglum the Marsh Wiggle from Narnia, or the Wicked Witch of the West ("what a world, what a world!") come to mind.
It may be enough just to name the demon, and tell it to go away when it gets too noisy. If you need more ideas for dealing with it, the following may help.
- As you did for your mentor, find or make a representation of your inner demon(s). If it is a borrowed character, you should be able to find a picture. If you make up a character, draw a picture or make a statue or mask. Just be sure it's more comical than scary.
- Find a symbolic tool or weapon to fight the demons of worry and obsession. You can buy or make something new if you like, but it may be better to find something you already have around the house and use in your daily life. That way, you will be able to remind yourself to shoo away the demons every time you use the tool. I did some brainstorming and came up with a list of ideas for symbolic weapons. The more lighthearted and silly you can make this exercise, the better. Here are some ideas:
- Use a broom to sweep away those pesky demons. You can use your everyday kitchen broom, or make a fun witch's broom out of twigs from your garden. You can also shoo demons away with a feather duster, a paper fan, or a flyswatter. Whap!
- Use a flashlight to scare them away. Demons like darkness and secrecy, and the more you bring them to light the less power they have.
- Make a magic wand. You can glue a crystal to the end of a branch, and add feathers for a shamanistic-looking wand. A buckeye glued to the other end is a nice finishing touch. Or make a fairy wand of tinsel and glitter. Go to a party store for ideas.
- Get a letter opener in the form of a fantasy sword, or buy a toy plastic or wooden sword, or even a real fantasy sword. Or designate your favorite kitchen knife or garden machete. En garde, you demon!
- Use a special pen or font when attacking the demons of worry, to let them know you mean business.
- Wear a protective amulet. This can be a pendant on a necklace in the form of a cross or ankh or other religious symbol, or maybe a crystal. I myself don't believe that amulets have magical powers, but they can be potent reminders not to listen to demons.
- Use an icon of your mentor as a shield.
- Find a bell or noisemaker you can use to chase those demons away.
- You may prefer a virtual, imaginary weapon or tool, something that exists only in your writing. You can let your imagination go wild here: flaming swords and crystal shields, golden fairy dust, wizardly fireballs, force fields and circles of protection. Have fun! Write a detailed description of your magical tool, or draw a picture.
- If you are keeping your journal using a computer, an ASCII picture (made of typed characters) of your defensive tool might be fun. Paste it into your computer journal any time you feel it is necessary. If you don't feel artistic, there are many, many ASCII pictures available on the Internet. Or you could give your tool a name, and call it by name in your journal as needed. I have made up a few primitive ASCII pictures which I will include here to give you some ideas. You are welcome to use them or improve on them. Because I'm right-handed I've drawn them to be used with the right hand, but you could easily reverse them.
.&. %%%% .&.
.&&. %(**)% .&&.
@ / \ @
* * *
* * *
* * * #=*=*=*===================@
* * *
* * *
< ---<>=<>=<>=YOUR SWORD'S NAME HERE=<>=<>=<>=[.]XXXXXXX(@)o
- The most important part of fighting the demons is to recognize them and name them. When you realize that you're stewing needlessly over the past or the future, call the demon by name and tell it stop. "Mistress Flurry, leave me alone!" This alone will often do the trick. But you can take a swipe at her with your weapon for good measure. You can do this either physically (which is silly enough to make stewing difficult) or in your imagination. Ask your mentor to be with you, and to bring her broom too (or her flaming sword, or whatever she's likely to wield.) You may want to write a description of the "battle" in your journal.
- Make up or borrow a mocking song, a spoken charm, or absurd threat that you can use to chase the demon away. Again, the more lighthearted and silly, the better. A student once told me that his four-foot-eleven-inch mother used to stand on a stool to scold her six-foot sons. When they were misbehaving, she'd threaten them with "Don't make me get my stool!" You could substitute the name of your weapon: "Don't make me get my feather duster!" One of my favorite absurd threats comes from The Wizard of Oz: "Begone, before somebody drops a house on you too!"
- The next time you deal with someone who seems evil to you, talk to your mentor about using the opportunity to fight the evil within your own heart. You will want to do something positive in the world to counter that external evil, as I discussed in the previous chapter. But you may also want to ask yourself if you yourself ever do anything that is in any way similar.
For example, if you are struggling against prejudice in the world around you, ask yourself if there are any groups against whom you yourself have a prejudice. One of my in-laws is a self-proclaimed "right-wing gun nut and Christian fundamentalist." It took me a long time to get past that label and discover that there was much that I really liked about him.
- As another example, if you are horrified by an act of violence, make it a reminder to treat others with extra kindness, and not to give in to exasperation and sharp words.
When you find yourself facing evil, ask your mentor to help you fight it in the most effective place, which is within yourself. It does make a difference in the larger world.
- Remember that you give demons power by paying too much attention to them. One way to give your mentor more power over them is to use positive visualization, as described in the journal entries above. When you are worrying about something, try imagining a positive, successful outcome. Even if you turn out to be wrong, you won't have grieved longer than was necessary. And if you are right, you won't have grieved at all.
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copyright 2002 by Karen Deal Robinson
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