The Power of Symbols

It has been said that the Divine speaks to us through symbols, and this week’s reflection is on the many ways in which symbols surround us. In my adulthood, I’ve had the opportunity three times to spend two days and nights completely alone in nature, which is always an amazing arena for viewing the symbolic. I was visited during my waking hours by deer; in my dreams, I was visited by a white heron and a green snake. Later looking up these symbols in the reference book Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews lent additional layers of meaning to both my inner and outer journey.

And we can work with the symbols we’re given in creative ways. Once I was in a drugstore and saw tiny, six-inch plastic trashcans for sale in the dollar bin. I thought to myself, “What would someone do with those things?!” The very next day, during an appointment, someone I was counseling spoke about noticing the “Divine residue” all around her — bits of animal fur, dried flower petals. I was very captivated by this image and the exercise that it suggested of collecting the bits of Divine residue that surround me every day. And I thought of the perfect container for gathering these discoveries — that same tiny trashcan I had dismissed the day before! It has become a great joy to use this symbol to become more mindful of the beauty and possible messages found in otherwise overlooked elements.

And when I once overheard a peer counseling someone to put one of those life lessons we all receive into her “learning basket,” I was delighted when that person later told me that she was literally going to make a learning basket as a reminder to be gentle with herself as she grows and evolves. Symbols can support us in becoming who we want to be and in contributing what we want to contribute.

May we each take the time to notice our symbols — to notice how God is speaking to us through all the beings and small details crossing our path — and to create creative containers for them, so that they can support us in living our most mindful, connected, and sacred life.

—Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon

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