Version One: The Story as told by SoulCards creator, Deborah Koff-Chapin
A Gift Blossoms – Version One: Deborah tells it…
In 1974, I discovered Touch Drawing (that’s another story) in a moment of playful exploration. When touching a paper towel which had been placed on a freshly inked printing plate, I found that the pressure formed lines on the underside. Lines coming directly from my fingertips! I laughed hysterically with this discovery. In a state of ecstatic revelation, childlike images poured from my hands. Although this experience had the appearance of simply being play, under the surface was something profound and powerful. It was as if I was receiving a gift from outside of time, from an invisible knowing presence.
While sensing that I was acting on behalf of a great evolutionary force, I began to pour my soul into Touch Drawing. It became my personal lifeline. During difficult times I would turn to the drawing board to release emotions. As I accepted my feelings and allowed them to pour onto the page through my hands, I was drawn more deeply into myself. It was as if I was sculpting my own being – transforming, literally before my own eyes. At the end of a session I had a record of this transformation: images of my soul in motion. I would feel clear and whole.
The images that emerged in those days were personal and therapeutic. Surrendering to such primal expression taught me the art of listening within. Over time, I began to tap into a trans personal consciousness. Gradually, I became aware of a subtle over lighting presence as I draw. Now, when I bring my attention to the drawing board, my hands trace the beginnings of a sensed image. In deep focus and trust, I abandon myself to the process and watch as an image emerges onto the page. When I rise to leave the drawing board, I realize that I have been in a deep communion. Silently, I offer thanks.
My years of work in the studio came to full fruition with the SoulCards. They were catalyzed by a synchronous connection. In 1993, I was lightly exploring the idea of doing a card deck. I had recently made small photographic prints of about 150 Touch Drawings, but had shown them to no one. At the time I was working with a theater group that performed stories from the audience. I would be on stage and create a large Touch Drawing of the story while they enacted it. Before leaving for the airport on my way to a performance, I had thrown the pile of photos into my purse. On the plane, I sat next to Will McGreal, a new member of the group. Acting on a impulse I pulled the photos out of my purse saying, “You may be interested in these.” His jaw dropped and he said, “This is what I’ve been looking for.” It just so happened that he was a Tarot card reader. He had just given his own deck away that day, thinking he was not going to do readings any more. I gave him the photos to take home, asking him to let me know if they worked as a deck.
One year and twelve hundred readings later, he was continually repeating to me, “You’ve got to do the deck. Just do the deck.” Using the images, his readings had completely changed. With Tarot, his clients would wait passively for his interpretation. With these images, they were having a direct and emotional response. They were taking an active part in the readings, tapping a wisdom and insight they hadn’t known they were capable of. Will also found that the images seemed to live on in their psyches after the reading; continuing in nonverbal relationship with their souls.
With such deep confirmation of the rightness of the card deck, I leapt into the process of manifesting it. Writing the manual, working with designers, printers, budgets and loans; I immersed myself in the organizational details of publishing. Though this was officially “business”, I felt engaged in an essential creative process. The force behind the deck was unstoppable. It had been conceived and it was growing. I have been serving a life much bigger than my own; giving birth to a vision. We have sold over 70,000 decks in the U.S. and Canada. As SoulCards continue to find their way into the world, I stand in awe and humility at the larger pattern of unfoldment that I am playing a part in.
Getting Into The Spirit – Version Two: Will’s take on it…
For me, the emergence of SoulCards out of a woman’s life’s devotion was the beginning of an unprecedented and unanticipated devotion of my own. I had never gotten into the guru thing. I had led a fairly original and independent life by the time I came across Deborah Koff-Chapin. We were each a part of a small ensemble of people collected to cater to the emotional needs of downsizing corporate America through an improvisational therapy known as Playback Theater. We weren’t getting a lot of work in the beginning, the money was slow and, to top it all, we gave equal share to some woman who joined us near the end of each conference and did some kind of…drawing or something.
I never really understood what purpose she served in the group. The artistic director expressed unswerving commitment to her unique contribution but failed to integrate her work in any effective way. In between gigs the other actors and I would discuss our work and I would inevitably broach the subject of this artist woman. Either we use her more (She had an amazing voice!) or dump her.
It was decided. When we met at the next gig in San Diego, I would bring the subject to the table with the director in advance of the artist’s joining us and we would settle this.
The flight arrangements to San Diego got fouled up somehow. I’m not sure what took place but I lost my seat on one flight and took the next one. I hoped this was no indication of how bumpy this artist thing was going to go down. I sat there as people boarded, going over the conversation of dismissing the artist when I spied someone coming down the aisle. It looked like the artist but she wasn’t to fly today. Was she?
She was. On this flight, no less. Man! And!!…we were assigned the same seat! We each checked our boarding passes but, as the flight was fairly empty, we decided–no, she decided–to just sit in the extra seat.
Should I be up front with her…what was her name, anyway?…If I didn’t tell her I would feel mighty duplicitous later in San Diego. We chatted. I told her I had just given away my only two decks of tarot cards. Just this morning on the ferry on the way to the airport. Really? She thought I was a psychic reader or something. Yeah, but I was at a turning point (I had better stop this talk and tell her.) and she wanted to know more about that. I didn’t know what to say. I was changing and I wasn’t sure into what. Would I still do readings?, she wanted to know. Maybe. Not with tarot–that was for sure. Why not tarot? They were too limiting. I always I was having to push hard to break away from the confinement that even the best of symbols has on the psyche. Symbols could only point to light. I wanted to illuminate people’s extraordinary lives directly, not through symbols and comprehension. Oh… I did that, I added, but it was such an effort in the face of tarot cards.
I watched as she reached into her oversized, New York hand bag. Out came something wrapped in a golden, embroidered silk cloth. She handed them to me and I carefully unfolded the wrap. She hadn’t even shown these to her husband yet. Oh… They were photos–you know, the Kodak kind you get from the drug store after your kid’s birthday. They were simple, unassuming three-by-five photos. Unassuming except for the images. Photo after photo invoked my deepest psychic impulses. My mind actually felt as if it were speaking the language of my native tongue.
I told her I wanted to use them in my work. What a total switch. A complete change of plans. Moments before, I was no longer going to be a psychic and preparing to give the artist-woman the ax in San Diego. Now, I was sure that I would give more readings than I ever had and with her artwork as my psychic source material. We agreed that I would bring them with me to Los Angeles and New York and see how they made out. They did great. I loved them. My clients loved them. I felt something real in the readings that I had previously only aimed at or referred to.
Looking back, I am impressed by the tenacity of that first resistance to Deborah and her work. More than resistance; I was an assassin. My Confirmation as a child-Catholic crept back into my mind. I had taken as my Confirmation name, Paul, and here I was, acting just like him. Out to persecute and struck down by lightning on the way.
And even though I continued to mount various forms of resistance over the years that followed, my devotion and intuition always brought me back to this work. Ironically, it was the way I felt about my intuition, about my service to Deborah that informed me of the power of this love. All my life, I had been searching for some incarnate expression of the feelings I had about this world but nothing matched my soul’s manner. Everything I did with respect to The Center for Touch Drawing empowered me as much as it served Deborah’s mission.
This personal benefit from my humble association with Deborah is very much like what people are searching for when they come across the SoulCards. We might be looking for an answer which will guide us on some journey or we may want insight about an aspect of ourselves we keep hidden. We may think that even though these images come without interpretation, they hold some authority greater than our own. But SoulCards manage to insist that we listen to ourselves, that we recognize that what we have been looking for all along is the experience of the Self and that we are very real, indeed.
Serving The Spirit of Touch Drawing, The Center and, most of all, Deborah Koff-Chapin, has blessed me in this life with the gift of remembering who I am. I have learned more about unconditional love than anything I pursued in earnest in this relationship I resisted with every cell of my body. I am real. Everything else is celebration.
Will’s article ‘Why SoulCards?’ has further reflections.