The Black Swan and the Lost Key

Discover the transformational and healing nature of Extreme Visual Journalism developed by Juliana Coles. Learn to recognize and develop your own personal mythology through the ancient myths, untold stories and faded fairytales of your life. We gather at this retreat equipped with the compassion of our visual journals; not just as a tool for self expression, but the Secret Key to our rich inner world, full of unique signs, symbols, and golden threads. Within you lies a vast archive of stories and images that are rich with metaphor and energy to assist you on the Black Swan’s journey of telling the rare and as yet, untold tale of herself by combining words with art and images in the safe container of a book or journal. She is coming home. As a girl child, I was told the story of the ugly duckling whose life was so piteous and brutal, it was hard to imagine she survived. Taught that she was hideous, and forsaken because she did not fit into the common view of beauty, she was abandoned by her "family" and chased away from everyone she tried to connect with. Her profound sorrow was deep and lonely. And after a long winter, nearly starving, suffering tremendously, barely alive, the ugly duckling witnessed her own reflection in the water: Now that she was mature, she was a beautiful creature, a swan! Spread your wings, pretty baby. It’s time to tell the true story of yourself. To turn wounds into triumphs, and develop your own symbolism using everything that has occurred in your life up until this point. In this three day intensive retreat, we will transform the history of your life. It all mattered because it made you who you are: no mere ugly duckling but a swan. A miraculous black swan at that: so unique and rare, there is no one like you. You don’t believe me? Join me, and I will show you how, through the combination of words and images in the safe container of a visual journal, you will see your self and your life through the beauty it was meant to be seen through: your own eyes- not some external validation that has nothing to do with you and would just as soon slay you. Let me tell you the story of the black swan. In 82 AD a Roman Satirist wrote of a rare bird in the lands, that was "very like a black swan." He meant something whose rarity could compare with that of a black swan, because more than rare, a black swan actually did not exist at all. For at least 1500 years, the rare bird, or rara avis, flourished in the European imagination as something that could not exist, much like the unicorn. So it caused quite a stir when black swans were discovered in Australia in the 17th century. When the rare birds were brought to Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries, because they were so unusual, they were feared to have sinister relationships with the devil, like the black cat, and both were considered to be the witch’s familiar and were often chased away or killed. There is actually a scientific theory named for this black swan phenomenon. The term black swan comes from the ancient Western perception that ‘All swans are white’. In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 17th Century discovery of black swans in Australia challenged the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass. In other words, what was impossible, has in fact, occurred. What cannot be, is. The black swan theory refers to a large-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations. The theory was described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan. Taleb regards many scientific discoveries as black swans-"undirected" and unpredicted. He gives the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, the first world war, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks as examples of Black Swan events. The events of your life are Black Swan events. No one could have predicted it. And if you were ever to tell someone, they would never believe that that could happen to anyone. These large impact hard to predict experiences are about to challenge how you see yourself. They are about to make sense in the natural order of the universe. You are about to unfold your wings. The Visual Journal is the key. These events are not lost to you. They are not random isolated incidences. They are the stuff of the grit and unfathomable depth of you. The key is there at your feet. It might be a small key, like in the tale of Bluebeard. When you open the little door, and see the room with the bodies and bones piled up, the key begins to bleed. Oh little bloody key. And nothing you do can wash out the blood. This is as it should be. When it is time, the Visual Journal reveals it all. She is awake now. Pick up the key. Turn it in the old rusty lock; it is safe to look now, we can do this together. Welcome home little girl. See your reflection in the dark pool of your history: she is the beautiful rare black swan she always was and always will be. It doesn’t matter what they said. They were wrong. They were all wrong about the Black Swan. (no prior writing or artistic experience necessary. Please bring your openness.)