A Knotty Problem

“life begins in the imagination” Greenbelt 2013

Take a look at the first picture. This is a little doodle of a knot that I found as part of my preparation for a group I’m running called Soul Art. This week we are thinking about the patterns of our lives. Sometimes it’s difficult to see a pattern in what is happening to us, rather like this picture. The second image shows a Celtic knot, named after the people who used the device extensively and beautifully in their decorative arts. In their fabulous designs, what could be messy becomes ordered and exquisite.

As an artist, I am used to delving into the messier side of thinking; imagination is not a straightforward process at all in my experience. I used to get stressed that I could not find a simple route from initial idea to final artwork, but over time I have learnt to trust the process. Tangled thoughts allow for questioning and reassessing, as Thomas Merton says “The imagination should be allowed a certain freedom to browse around’ and Richard Rohr says ‘creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions’.

At a recent online art lecture, the host talked about ‘not reducing what can’t be known into something that I put into words’.  And St Paul talks about ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ when explaining our limited understanding of divine love. Both trying, with words, to explain the unexplainable! As I write this blog week in week out, I often have the sensation of trying to pin down something fleeting, a butterfly like perception which flits in and out of my mind. When I am able to explain the pattern I see, which is not always, it feels as if a small window, a hagioscope, has opened in my heart. An artist I know talked about this process as ‘cleaning the mirror so that others can see the divine’.

When researching knot images for the course I mentioned, I found images in which the knot was untangled to produce a meaningful and ordered result, a ‘lightbulb’ moment. However, I chose not to use these pictures because I don’t think finding a pattern and meaning is as simple as that. Sometimes chaos is creative, sometimes we need to ‘browse around’, sometimes we can’t find the pattern without the preceding tangle. In one of my retreats, a church minister reflected on what was for him, a profound revelation. He said:

I was brought up to believe
That in the beginning there was chaos
And out of it God formed order.
I came to realise that this was a misleading
understanding of the creative nature of my life.
I have therefore spent too long seeking to replace
The chaos in my life with order
The brokenness with perfection
The mess with structure
The doubt with certainty
The pain with happiness
The dark with light.

I realised after much seeking
That I could find truth
When I recognised the order
Within what appears to be chaos
When I recognised the chaotic nature of order.

Then I found freedom
Then I found faith.


Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:

  • -what feels like a muddle in your life?
  • where are your thoughts and feelings tangled?
  • how can you explore your creativity and imagination?

Meditative action

You will need a piece of paper and a pen

  • This is a repeat from a previous blog, but it had to be done!
  • Shut your eyes or use your least preferred hand to scribble onto a piece of paper
  • Now open your eyes, or change hands, and find the hidden pictures in the scribble, add details, have fun!

At LMM we regularly produce reflections and meditations, find more here. Shaeron Caton Rose wrote this visual meditation, you can find this and other resources on her website.

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