Excellence Reporter: Kim, what is the meaning of life?
Kim Hermanson: Years ago I sat on a stool in the Art barn at Esalen Institute painting a paper mache mask. I’d originally signed up for some sort of contemplative workshop, but found it too cerebral and ended up here.
I painted the mask magenta and then decided to paint a vine of flowers on the side. As I slowly drew a long vine down the side of my mask – getting into the feeling sense of the vine’s graceful, elegant beauty – I found my hand being moved by something Greater than myself.
I was no longer directing my hand, Something Else was. Something was moving me, brushing the paint on this mask.
We humans set goals for our lives and make all kinds of goals, plans, and schedules. We trudge along, continuing to believe we’re solely in charge of our destinies.
While all the while… Something Else urgently wants to move and express through us.
Later, I had a profound visionary experience that has shaped my work and life path to this day. In the vision, I was in a dark cave and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I realized that I was surrounded by millions of women throughout history…whose heads had been cut off. It was grisly. The women’s bodies were silent and ghostlike, and the rope used to hang the women lay still on a stool next to me.
In my work with clients that I call Doorway Sessions, the client becomes the image, so I became the millions of headless women.
Being headless, I had no voice and no way to speak. But there was something I could do… I could melt. So as the millions of headless women, I melted and became a thick, black ooze.
This thick black ooze had a tremendous amount of energy and it wanted to move…so I moved out in every possible direction—over roads, land, oceans, buildings.
The institutional forces of power in the world wanted nothing to do with me. When I/it tried to cross over bridges or thresholds, heavy walls and doors slammed down in front of me—this black ooze was clearly “not wanted” by any traditional system of power in the world. I was being shut out, but that did not matter.
Heavy walls could not stop me because I was not a solid substance, I was fluid—I could ooze myself into cracks and crevices, easily finding any openings that were available. I could ooze under and over and around…anything.
And so I did.
And when the entire world had been covered in thick black ooze, the vision abruptly ended. Nothing was left except blackness.
I was left shaken. I had just seen the entire destruction of planet earth.
One of my favorite writers is a magnificent but little-known scholar named Martin Foss who wrote in Death, Sacrifice and Tragedy, that life is a dialectic of destruction and creative rebirth:
“Life in its core is a perpetual conversion from a lower sphere to a higher one, destroying the lower for the sake of realizing the higher, and this creative destruction, the sacrificial action, conveys to life its essential character, which is sacramental.”
Our human lives are a sacrament…to the force and power of something larger than ourselves.
When I first began thinking about the question, “what is the meaning of life?” I was going to say that the meaning of life is to create. But more accurately, I believe the meaning of life is to align ourselves with the Deep Creative.
Perhaps the current moment is about creating something new. Perhaps it’s about destruction. Perhaps it’s both.
In any case, our linear minds are limited – they can’t control, understand or direct this greater wisdom. That’s why I work with the images that lie beyond our thinking minds…they align us with the Deep Creative.
~Kim Hermanson, PhD is an author, coach and educator who currently serves as adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her books include Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination and Sky’s the Limit, which received an Independent Publisher Book Award. She has co-authored with Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, New York Times bestselling author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and many other books. Mihaly said this of Kim’s work: “Not since Carlos Castenada’s books 40 years ago have I had such a strong reaction. This is very powerful stuff.” Kim has previously taught at Holy Names University, University of California Berkeley, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and Esalen Institute. She is known for her skill in quickly shifting people out of psychological difficulties into a place of profound beauty, healing and creative flow. Her PhD is from the University of Chicago.
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Categories: Art, Awakening, Psychology
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