During the past two years, I have worked through a brain reset. Much like when a computer crashes and needs to reboot, so did my brain. After surviving a horrific car accident, I navigated through the complex paths of healing. I anticipated a bit of what that might look like. Recovery included lots of physical therapy and intentional movement of my limbs in order to regain muscle strength and memory. I learned that the only way toward any goals of restoration involved actively moving my physical being in the spheres around me.
However, I didn’t expect that healing would involve so much introspection and the power of stillness. Initially, outside stimuli involving words did not feel restorative. My brain and soul required rest. Working through trauma requires listening to your body and brain tell you what’s going on and how to cope with it.
Although I’ve always been a ponderer, an observer, and curious about the manifestation of God’s character in all creation, this time of healing gifted me with the opportunity to hone in closer to the contemplative life. New-to-me methods of sensing God’s voice and presence emerged. I recognized that my whole being can become a venue through which holiness permeates and transforms. I cling to David’s words, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
Learning to Embrace Beauty
One of the tools for trauma healing requires finding an object of beauty and focusing on it. Beauty actually changes the neural pathways of the brain influencing the way we process trauma in our bodies. It becomes a calming mechanism. The practice of Forest Breathing, recognized in Japan, points to the sacred ways creation and beauty work together to be agents of symbiosis.
In addition, I recovered my long-ago passion for drawing. A vocational detour and the increasing demands of parenthood had put that skillset on hold. However, I decided to pursue it once again after finding myself in a season of less activity. My wonder at the textures, colors, and design of what transpires around me renews my relationship with God. Not only does drawing lure me to pay attention, but it becomes a tool of healing. I am amazed as I watch the endless colors emerge through the layering of my oil pencil colors. They reflect the beauty of a world which beckons me to keep exploring it.
Learning to Embrace Silence
Reading challenges me to imagine new perspectives, gain insight, and share those influences in my writing. The inhaling and exhaling of words become vessels through which we learn more about our own Christian formation. However, in these days of unlimited internet human connection, it can become easy to let reading and writing lose their contemplative purpose. Instead, we become consumers, feeling the pressure to read every meme, post, and book that arrives in our spheres. In addition, the pressure to increase the engagement of writing requires time and energy. Words begin to lose their purpose in the contemplative life and become part of the noise.
I remember the early days after my accident when any sort of stimulation to my brain seemed overwhelming. Reading wasn’t even an option. For someone who longs to always be learning and engaging, that felt strange. However, I knew my body and mind needed the quiet. During those first few days, I lay in silence. But God’s whispering voice spoke loudly into it.
Now, two years later, I find the need to remember that creating space for contemplation in a noisy world must be intentional. Rich Villodas writes in his book Good and Beautiful and Kind: Becoming Whole in a Fractured World, “It’s not a stretch to say we live in the most overly communicated age in history. There’s a lot of chatter in our world. The blessing in this is that essentially everyone has access and a platform to speak. The problem is that everyone has access and a platform to speak.” Being able to say, “No” or “Later” to those words, can be uncomfortable but necessary. I ask myself if they contribute to my contemplative rhythms.
My physical posture has changed considerably in the last couple of years. However, what I learned is the importance of maintaining a position of paying attention. I am always seeking new practices which allow me to contemplate the beauty, mystery, and wonder of the world around me. I have learned the significance of intentional pauses in my moments. They become sacred invitations to bask in the presence of Jesus whose healing defies boundaries and expectations.