Joseph Anderson

Soul Cartography, Part I

What is Soul Cartography?

I am teaching a class on Soul Cartography beginning March 8.

“Soul cartography” is a name I am using to share a process I fell into on my own about a year ago. It began when my mentor, Julie Charette-Nunn, presented me with a homework assignment: to answer the question “what is the purpose of my life”? Over the course of a few weeks I found myself sketching like mad (I, who have never really done any visual art!) as I wrestled with this question and its implications. What emerged has been so valuable to me, and the basic outlines of the process so clear, that I felt called to share it with others.

The task is simple on the surface: draw a map of your life. But the reason for this mapping is important and I want to lay that out for you.

In the late 1960s Joseph Campbell published a book called Creative Mythology. Its premise is that while in the past our ancestors adopted shared myths to find meaning and purpose in their lives, we in our time have the opportunity to define these meanings for ourselves as individuals. Soul Cartography helps you do just that. It’s a process intended to facilitate an awareness of the personal structures of meaning that you are developing from the material of your life – all of your experiences are available to be put into service of this project. By capturing these structures of meaning in visual form in creative and possibly playful ways, you can engage your imagination and intuition and come upon some surprising insights.

The result of the process is one or more maps or diagrams: visual representations that capture your view of yourself and your life. Getting clarity about the shapes we have lived through helps us to anticipate what is to come, and bring ourselves into alignment with the rhythms and directions that have been established and will continue to have some force in the future. In each moment we make a choice how to proceed on the path, and knowing where we have been and where we are now gives us a wise perspective on what intentions and practices to establish next.

The benefits I have gained in doing this for myself include:

  • Greater clarity about how the seemingly chaotic details of my life actually form a harmonious, coherent picture
  • Deeper understanding of how purpose expresses itself through these details
  • A sense of motion and progress that helps me to define my intentions for the future and take steps to manifest those intentions.

Next: How to Begin