How to Heal through Metaphor: Tap into the Secret Language of Your Brain


“As soon as I allow the Universe to replace my fear-based beliefs with new perceptions, I receive a miracle.” ~Gabby Bernstein

As I was packing up my mother’s nursing home room after her death, I found a little heart-shaped stone that had the word “serenity” on it. I took it back to California with me and I hold it frequently. It’s heavy, solid, and soothing, and it reminds me of her.

I love the weight of that little stone.

When we’re grieving, heavy things are comforting. It’s not surprising that when we want to release stress, many people go for a mud bath. (Mud has weight, bringing a feeling of heaviness to the body.) Similarly, weighted blankets reduce anxiety and help us relax and fall asleep.

Because of our culture’s extreme focus on analytical thought, many of us dismiss the powerful wisdom and healing qualities of a simple embodied, felt sense… like the feeling of heavy.

That’s unfortunate because felt sense is the source of our intuition.

We may walk into a friend’s home and notice that it feels “peaceful” or “dark.” We might walk away from a conversation and feel “lit up” or “flat”. A new project at work may feel “too small” or “stuck” or “over our heads” or “flowing.” We may realize that it’s time for us to be “bigger” in our lives, or on the other hand, “smaller.” Or we’ll tell our friends, “I need to let go” or “I need to move on.”

Those are all examples of metaphor—the sensory, intuitive language of our right cerebral hemisphere. The right hemisphere is the part of our brain that seeks intimacy with the world. It doesn’t sit back and analyze things from a safe distance; it understands the world by getting up close and personal.

It feels its way.

Metaphor is also how we receive higher knowing. It’s how Spirit, the Divine, higher consciousness, or whatever you call that realm of higher wisdom, speaks to us.

Consciously or not, metaphor is how we learn, grow, and heal.

My First Experience with the Healing Power of Metaphor

When I was in my late twenties, I was involved in a head-on collision on the highway. Driving down the road at sixty miles per hour, a car crossed the center line and hit us head on.

I knew my back was broken. My legs were lifeless—I couldn’t move them. I had no feeling from the waist down, and the pain was excruciating.

After a couple of agonizing hours, I was finally airlifted to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where the doctors told me I’d broken T-12 and displaced my spinal cord by 40 degrees. I’d need surgery to fuse my spine back together, and they gave me less than 5 percent chance of ever walking again.

In other words, I was in big f$%^&# trouble.

But something else happened that night. A nurse in the emergency room came over to me and whispered in my ear, “Imagine you’re floating on a cloud.”

So I closed my eyes and imagined myself floating on a cloud… which, of course, required that my body be LIGHT. In the following days, I focused on floating and being as LIGHT as possible.

And here’s what happened: I eventually not only regained my ability to walk, but one year after I left the Mayo Clinic, played soccer (albeit poorly, lol). Today, nobody would ever guess that my spine is fused together or that I’d been in such a terrible accident.

Notice how LIGHTNESS is a very different energy from the HEAVINESS of my little heart-shaped stone.

We need different qualities at different times for different situations and circumstances.

Despite our culture’s extreme focus on achieving and producing, our best work and our best lives don’t respond well to pushing. Try as we might, it’s hard to force something to happen that’s not in alignment with Divine wisdom. (Just like it’s hard to push a boat up a flowing river.)

The apple tree doesn’t try to force its fruit to ripen when it’s not ready. It allows its natural life cycle to unfold, and its fruit is harvested when it’s time.

So, too, with humans. Healing, growth, insight, creative breakthroughs come to us when we’re aligned with the felt sense of higher wisdom.

Right now… are you in a time of building? A time of harvest? A time of exploring? Or study? A time of rest? A time to be open? A time to be gentle? A time to let go? A time to stand firm and hold your ground? A time of expansiveness?

You might be wondering what to do about the difficulty you’re having with your son. Or how to heal the digestive issues you’ve been experiencing. Or how to finally have a sense of peace and satisfaction with life. Or how to lose those ten extra pounds.

In my work, those questions are answered by the feeling qualities of metaphor.

To discover the metaphor you need right now, try this…

1. Take a moment to pause and focus on your breath. Shift your attention to your own inner knowing and imagine there’s a spacious field of very wise energy here with you. You are much more than your physical body. You’re also much more than your thinking mind.

2. Then, let a simple image spontaneously come to mind. Don’t spend any time thinking about it. We’re working with metaphor; any image will do just fine. Or you could open a magazine and choose the first image you see. Or ask a friend to give you an image. (But again, don’t allow your friend to spend time thinking about it or trying to find the ‘right’ image for you. Just have them choose a random image.)

3. Whatever simple image you come up with—cliff, tree, pencil, ant, duck, ocean—is a metaphor and it has wisdom for you.

4. Don’t create a story about the image. Instead, keep your thinking mind out of it and only notice two or three primary qualities.

5. Write down those two to three primary qualities. Remember to keep them simple: STURDY, CLEAR, EXPANSIVE, BIG, TINY, GENTLE, LIGHT, STRONG, DEFINED, FLOW, SPACIOUS, and so on. For example, your image might be a STURDY house or a TINY blueberry or an EXPANSIVE field.

6. Those two to three qualities came to you for a reason. They’re bringing the insight, healing, growth, and energetic shift that you need right now. Take a moment and write down why you think you received those particular qualities.

If you got something SMALL or TINY like a blueberry or a silver coin—what does TINY mean for you? Perhaps you’ve been ‘too big’ in the world or taken on too many responsibilities? Do you feel strung out with too many things to do? Have you been WAY too involved in your daughter’s marriage or have you been giving your friend unwanted advice? SMALL is telling you to pull back. Be SMALLER.

If you got something SOLID and STURDY—how are the qualities of SOLID and STURDY helpful for you right now? Are there situations in your life where you need to hold your boundaries? Where you need to be stronger?

If you got something BIG—are there gifts and capacities about yourself that you haven’t owned? BIG is telling you that you’re more than you think you are.

If you got something EXPANSIVE (like the sky or field or the ocean)—it’s often about acknowledging that something in your life is beyond you. Whatever-it-is is more than you can know.

For the past few weeks, my metaphoric image has been nurturing soup. Every time I check in with myself about what I should do next, I get an image of being soup and enjoying its sensory succulence.

I’d been in REST mode since my mother died—taking time out to grieve, find my own voice again, and gather myself back together. But with this image of soup, I’m sensing creative movement under the surface. It feels juicy, rich, and nurturing.

It also feels unhurried. The juicy richness of the soup isn’t needing to accomplish anything right now. It’s just being the richness.

Whatever primary sensory quality showed up for you is a directional pointer. It’s your very wise North star. Follow it and you’ll heal, connect to your own deep knowing, and experience miracles far beyond what you could create on your own.

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