Not all concepts can be used instrumentally, like techniques. Rather than pushing ourselves to ‘do’ something with them, perhaps we can let them sit in our awareness in ways that they can do something to us… I tried to communicate this possibility creatively, through a story, on a recent Constellations training programme I led with my colleague Barbara Morgan, about the Interrupted Reaching Out Movement.
Long ago, in a land far, far away, a Traveller passed through a small village, and stopped by a clear fountain. He was older than he looked, and younger than he knew, and his body carried deep scars that had the power to transform all who touched them…
Some villagers – a small handful of bright-eyed, open-hearted people – gathered around him to talk together and learn from his travels. “Tell us stories of the lands you have visited! What medicines are used abroad? Teach us what you can, so that we, too, can travel safely in to strange lands,” they said. The Traveller did not know how to answer all their questions but tried anyway, as best he could.
After two days, they were joined by an old Wise Woman. She had eyes like mirrors, and was a friend of the Traveller’s. She had seen in a dream that he might be passing this way. She was the other Keeper of the Sacred Key. They both knew that it was time to pass on the key – a key that had been passed to them in times before, by other Keepers, and they both knew that those villagers who were brave enough to take the key, would also pass it on in their turn… This was a very powerful key, that could open many locks and let whoever held it have deep access to the most secret chambers of the Royal Palace – places where no-one had dared to go in many years…
However, the key was extremely heavy when you first held it in your hands – so heavy that some villagers would choose not to carry it for long, and would leave it by the fountain to rust, not realising that the key became lighter with each honest step of the journey to the Royal Palace. The key also looked a little old-fashioned and strange, as though it was wrought by elves in the coldest of Winters from dragons’ bones, and many of the villagers worried that if they were seen carrying this key by their neighbours and the village shopkeepers, they too might be considered old-fashioned and strange.
And anyway, it wasn’t obvious at first which locks this key fitted, nor which way to turn the key. It also looked far too small and delicate for the cast-iron locks of the great wooden doors of the Palace, many of which had been sealed shut and not opened in three generations… Even to pick up the key was fraught with difficulties, as – before passing it on – the Traveller and Wise Woman had to drop the key in to a green envelope made of nettles, which – frankly – stung like serpents!
The Keepers knew that those villagers who were curious enough about the key, and who would love and admire the key just exactly as it was, without ever wanting to change it, would have their own lives forever changed if they ventured out of the village square. All the honest people had to do, was place the key on a golden chain and wear it under their smocks, close to their hearts, and tell no-one. They simply had to look at the key three times a day for a week – in the morning sun, in the noon-day shade, and by the light of the moon.
Looking softly at the villagers, the Traveller and Wise Woman joined hands, walked around the fountain together once, and spoke a spell that ensured that each villager who picked up the key would have it for their own, no matter how many people picked it up… This done, the Wise Woman disappeared as quickly and quietly as she had arrived, for she had leprechaun magic to conjure in another land that needed her gifts.
The Traveller was besieged by questions about how to use the key… he simply warned the villagers that at first, they would just see the dullness of the key. But if their need was great enough, and if they looked steadily without blinking, and with innocent curiosity, the key would begin to glow, and grow brighter and brighter, and beautiful, intricate patterns of lattice-work would begin to be visible. Then, each time a new pattern on the handle of the key revealed itself, a lock would click open somewhere in the Royal Palace, without any effort by the villagers, and light would flood the room.
But which doors would open, and when, and for whom, no-one could ever say…