Picture it: Explore vision boards as a way to cut and paste your way towards a clearer sense of your desires.

To the publishers, art directors and editors who work so hard to put great magazines together, I’m sorry. I spent Sunday night deconstructing your work in the most primitive way. (Rip, tear, cut.) And I loved it.

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I didn’t think I could, when I first heard about vision boarding – a kind of personal insight tool that is basically gluing inspirational images torn out of magazines to a piece of posterboard. In fact, when Melissa Darou first told me about her longstanding practice, I stood on her foot and kept asking questions trying to wrap my brain around how it actually works. Where does the “vision” part come from? How is this anything more than a collage? How can this manifest anything into real life when my years of pinning inspirational quotes and images to pinterest and tumblr haven’t amounted to shit?

Darou is a veteran communications professional who has just launched her own business. A writer, mother of three, former massage therapist, gardener and cook, she had nothing to prove or sell me, just 17 years experience with something she has found playful and effective and that she loves doing for herself or with friends. So she answered my questions, and shared a host of spooky ways in which elements of her past vision boards had come true, but I couldn’t break her into revealing the secret to the trick, what makes it all tick.

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My bookshelves are lined with immaculate issues, season by season, of magazines. Multiple times a year, I submit my stories, plain pages of letters strung endlessly across a page, and those boring Word files are magically transformed by editors and art directors and incredible photography and clever captions and pull-quotes and wonderful fonts into something quite visually arresting. I already believe in the magic of magazines. As they are. Ripping them apart, cutting the pieces and gluing them into some kind of Frankensteinian compilation feels deeply transgressive.

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Through January, Darou offered several New Year vision boarding workshops in Pemberton, at Mount Currie Coffee Co. I signed up – a girl whose desperate desire to believe in magic was at risk of turning her into an inquisitor of magicians, shining the light into their eyes, trying to disprove their wizardry even as she’s longing to believe in it. Sometimes, I realized, the truth you seek won’t come from looking suspiciously up someone else’s sleeves. It’s in rolling up your own sleeves and stepping into the dark.

The year was still fresh, still smelling like a newborn, I’d picked my word for the year, but hadn’t had much time to think about it, or to scribble out goals or plans, having spend most of it stick-handling the flu, pinned on the couch under the sweaty body of a small stoic sufferer.

A three hour evening out, complete with snacks, in the company of friends, with a motherlode of magazines on offer, sounded like a good offering to the thus-far ignored Gods of 2019.

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“Having a clear vision means things are possible,” explained Darou. A vision board, she says, is a collage with intention. It’s a tool for insight, like journaling. But it’s also a tool for visualization. “It’s looser than goal setting, but more concrete than the idea of just manifesting or materializing things out of nothing.”

Darou was introduced to the practice by her friend, writer Mary Caros, and she adopted it as an annual rite with friends – to celebrate her birthday, which is January 1, and at retreats, brunch parties, a baby shower for her youngest child, for her 40thbirthday celebration. Sometimes she does it alone, as a meditation. But more often, late nights, wine and chocolate are involved. “It’s fun building ritual into our lives, gathering together, supporting each other and sharing what we desire.” Darou’s kitchen table has been a port of call in a storm for friends, as they cut-and-paste their way through the processing of relationships ending or other Big Life Events, while Darou drinks beer and chats alongside them, or brews up a midnight coffee to keep them going until the end.

Those who understand vision boards acknowledge that deep soul work can take place through the practice, but it’s not without its fun. “It’s a playful way of accessing our truth,” says Darou. “Vision boards have the power to let us see what could be.It’s so easy to deny what we want, to rationalize things, to cut off things that we want because they seem impossible.”

Part of the magic of the experience, for Darou, and for her teacher, Caros, is in doing it in community. Caros explains that, although she has been doing vision boards almost every year since 2002, she doesn’t do it alone. “I do them with a friend, or friends – their noticing of your board helps illuminate some of the themes and gives you clues to possible interpretation.”

Agrees Darou, “It’s intimate to share with the ones who’ll call us on our self-imposed limitations and cheerlead us to live on edges.” Sharing the practice beyond her circle opens up beautiful possibilities – for Darou, as a facilitator, to help people to connect with purpose. And for the rest of us, that we might make more space for magic and mystery in our days, and gather together to welcome it forth.

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