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LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

BECOME RESILIENT BY REFORMING YOUR BELIEF SYSTEMS AND EXPERIENCES

man and woman standing on brown field near green tree under white clouds
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Four Steps to Turn your Past into Your Future

We are on an ever-evolving pathway of growth, and understanding the world around us, and our purpose in it. Some have settled into a comfort zone of “I know what I know and am happy and content with that.” This may give a sense of stability and security, thinking things will stay the same and the future is more predictable. Unfortunately, many things outside of our control will flip that idea on its head. Natural disasters, disease, and war can pull the rug out from right under our feet. So how can we build resiliency into our lives?

1. EXPLORE NEW IDEAS AND BELIEFS

unrecognizable men praying in old catholic church
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Most of us would have grown up in a home that had a particular set of beliefs that were passed from parents to children. The culture, and environment in which you live also play a large part. Beliefs and values and not the same, but they do overlap at times. What is valued in one culture may not necessarily be appreciated in another. Examples of these systems can be capitalism, socialism, ubuntu, or some other local system. Do we really understand the positive and negative things these systems bring with them? How they affect our culture and our sense of being and self-worth?

Religion is another system, although it was meant to be a spiritual experience with our Creator God. It has evolved in some places to a structure of hierarchy and power. Instead of being the place of refuge for the vulnerable, it has imposed oppression on them, particularly women and children. Especially when the application of Scripture is interpreted through the laws and not through the grace which was the Creator’s redemptive design for His Creation.

Do we blindly accept everything we were taught, or has life experience led us to doubt certain things, as they no longer make sense?

Do we blindly accept everything we were taught, or has life experience led us to doubt certain things, as they no longer make sense? As an example, a seven-day creation does not make scientific sense to me as a geological cartographer. I am happy to change that belief to one of time periods, eras, or epochs.  Have life experiences and new scientific discoveries rocked your belief system? We are on a journey of discovery; when you open yourself to let go of an old belief, you can embrace new ideas and thoughts.

2. ENJOY THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

person holding book from shelf
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To build resilience, you must be prepared to spend time learning new things. Is research a chore, something you did at school or college, and when you had finished, you were done? I have met many people like that, they have hardly opened a book since they left school. They only learned the necessary skills to keep a job or find employment. But what if learning was fun, digging deeper into the hard questions of life to find hidden nuggets of wisdom and truth. History repeats itself if the lessons are not learned. The French Revolution was an example when a government system did not heed the people’s voice, and power and corruption were rife. How did Nazism take hold? What did the people in those times believe? Enjoy the learning experience as you delve into other deeply held beliefs, religious, faith, and church systems.

In the light of what we know now, do these things really bring us into alignment with the purposes of our loving and compassionate Creator, whose pathway of redemption was love and sacrifice of self, not others.

In the light of what we know now, do these things really bring us into alignment with the purposes of our loving and compassionate Creator, whose pathway of redemption was love and sacrifice of self, not others. Learning new things can be fun, but your new ideas may not be well received as people around you get uncomfortable with your new truths. This is also part of growing resilience as you learn to live in the face of opposition.

3. CHALLENGE YOURSELF

positive senior businessman typing on laptop while holding money in hand
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Building resilience involves challenging yourself, not others. They are just as entitled to their beliefs as you are. Breaking free of the old systems and ways is always hard. Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change.”  Nobody likes change, but survival often requires us to embrace change and accept what is. My grandfather was a horseman; he never could adapt to the automobile, so he always relied on other people to take him to appointments if he could not walk to them, thereby limiting his experiences.

We are in a digital age now. It is difficult for older people to embrace that this is how life is going to work from now on. Resisting online banking and shopping is not going to make it go away. Learning to use new technology is a challenge, but it is here to stay. Re-read the previous paragraph and take it on board, enjoy the learning experience. Make it part of your daily practice to build new experiences into your everyday life, try ethnic foods, new languages or skills, or even watch movies you never enjoyed before. What new things could you intentionally learn from them?

4. MOVE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

man riding motocross dirt bike on dirt road
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Building resilience means you need to practice what you have learned, which usually means moving out of your comfort zone. Speak the new language you have learned. Interact with people of different beliefs and cultural systems, try and understand their perspectives on life. Visit places you would not usually have. If you are a sports fan, visit an art gallery or a ballet. If you are a culture vulture, see a sports game. How does this make you feel? Are you enjoying this experience or learning something you would not have had the chance to learn before? By moving out of your comfort zone, you are giving your heart, mind, and emotions time to make new neural pathways and expand your capacity to survive more difficult circumstances. You are building resilience muscles just as you would in a gym workout for strength training.

black handled key on key hole
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After reading this, you may still decide you want to hold tightly onto your past beliefs and cultural systems, and that is OK. But I have given you the key to open the door to new experiences that will build your resilience muscles for when life moves on and the inevitable changes are forced upon us that we have no control over. There is one core belief that has remained unaltered for me. Our compassionate, unchanging Creator God loves and cares for all that He created and desires to walk in companionship with us to show us the pathway through the changing seasons of life.

Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

FIVE WAYS TO FIND EMOTIONAL PEACE AFTER TRAUMA

faceless barefoot female traveler on embankment against sea
Inner healing pathway
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Recognize the Symptoms

When we experience a sore throat or fever, we are reasonably sure we are getting a cold or the flu and take measures to help ourselves get over it. But quite often, we don’t feel quite right within ourselves. Perhaps we feel anxious or uneasy at certain times or with certain people, or our stomach knots up at certain places. We have low-grade depression and just find life hard at times. These can all be symptoms of PTSD or systemic abuse. Part of healing is recognizing that something is just not quite right. Having established that you could be living a much happier and healthier life than you currently are, is the first step in getting help. Your commitment to yourself to get help or find new coping strategies and strategies for overcoming disabling thoughts and behavior are the motivation you need. Let us look at a few ways in which we can recognize unhealthy symptoms.

woman sitting on wooden planks
Depression, Inner Healing Pathway
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Mental: Stinking Thinking?

So much takes place in our thinking brain. What are our obsessive thoughts? Do our thoughts and our beliefs align? What are our thoughts about ourselves? Do we beat ourselves up all the time?  What are our thoughts about others, families, friends, teachers, etc.? If these are on a constant negative spectrum and churn and return both waking or sleeping. We are constantly thinking about rights and wrongs and get confused with what we were taught and how our reality matches up. Do you have thoughts of self-harm? Make an inventory of your thoughts over several days or a week, write them down without judging them, they just are, and you are now aware of how much time you spend with them.

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules
Physical, chronic illness
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Physical: Chronic Illnesses?

Physical symptoms are easier to experience but not necessarily to diagnose as sometimes they may have started out as psychosomatic but have taken on reality in your body. Be aware that stress and trauma are retained in the body’s cells as a memory imprint. Do you get stomach aches in certain situations? Did that end up as IBS or chronic inflammation of the bowl? There are many forms that this can take, backaches, migraines, arthritis, etc. After having a thorough physical at your doctor to rule out any disease or illness. Learn to read your body signs when you are feeling stressed or your muscles tighten. Does your heart race, do you get hot, does your stomach contract? When does this happen? Make an inventory over a month, scan your body each day, what symptoms you feel and when.

a man angry in a workplace
Emotional , incontrollable outbursts
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Emotional: Uncontrollable Outbursts?

We may often feel angry or upset over something that should not really affect us to the degree it does. When do we feel triggered? Are there words that people use that make us feel bad? Or perhaps we will see or smell something that brings back bad feelings. Do we feel guilty over nothing or uncomfortable when certain subjects are talked about? Do you struggle with addictions to make you feel better? Or perhaps places we walk past or through that make us feel uneasy. Take an inventory of these places or incidents and any feelings or thoughts you have about them.

ancient arch architecture art
Empty Church arches, dead
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Spiritual: Disillusioned with God?

Do you have a belief system in some Higher Power? Do you believe there is help from someone greater who will guide you by their wisdom? Have you lost your faith? Does the thought of religion turn you off, or do you long for connection with God? Have you been hurt or disillusioned by church and religion or don’t believe that God loves you? Where do you seek spiritual solace? Journal your feelings around spirit, faith, church, God.

smiling woman stroking welsh corgi pembroke
Finding happiness with a pet
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Having taken an honest inventory of your dis-ease, you will now have a lot of information to help you identify the symptoms of perhaps a traumatic experience that has affected you most of your life. You will also have places to start looking for healing. We are wonderfully complex creatures made in God’s image, created for a purpose. We are His masterpieces, yet sometimes the mud that sticks to us is hard to remove, marring that image and holding us back from our full potential. According to your situation (we are all different), look for professional help in the area you felt the most in need, a psychologist, medical professional, or spiritual director. Once you have turned the key in the door that unlocks the secrets to your anxiety, unease, and mental health, you will have begun the journey to healing yourself. This may take several years, so have patience with yourself and those who would help you. For those who feel they can help themselves, there are many excellent books and resources available. There are also support groups to help you both on and off-line. Find one that you can gel with and be comfortable sharing your journey. A few resources are mentioned in my previous blog.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Five Things To Do in an Art Gallery to Problem Solve

Here is my list of Five Things to do when visiting an Art Gallery to help you solve problems. Art bypasses the cognitive brain and your rational thinking and works in the liminal space between the subconscious, where you are much more likely to access solutions from deep within and your soul and heart center.

Have you ever experienced when something seemed to be going well and then suddenly, out of the blue, it all went pear-shaped? I am sure that this has happened to many of us at one time or another. Whenever I have been through emotional struggles with relationships or problems at work, I want to know what my part in the situation was or if it had nothing to do with me at all. Although I am sure, there is always a part that we play in the relationship or work situation in the first place. My first port of call is not the Psychologist but the Art Gallery.

CHOOSE WHICH TYPE OF ART GALLERY

We are all wired differently, so choose the Gallery you feel most likely will help you today. This may not be the Gallery you choose on another day with a different set of problems. If you are not sure which Gallery, just select any, but have an open mind about what you may see and learn. I have been to the National Portrait Gallery and seen artwork portraying different famous or infamous people’s lives and have found solutions just by reading the story of the exhibition and their life. They, too, had problems and found solutions.

ASK FOR DIVINE HELP TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM

Sit quietly for a few moments and pray. Open your heart space to be turned into whatever God may turn your attention to. This is done by sitting quietly with centered breathing. It can be a silent prayer or just a silent listening heart, but make sure it is opened to be ‘tuned in.’

WAIT FOR ART TO ‘SPEAK TO YOU’

Walk around the Gallery slowly, looking at each painting or sculpture, not in detail yet. If there is an exhibition, read the notes on the artist, see if there is anything that strikes you. If not, walk on. Keep walking until a painting or description ‘speaks to you.’ Once you are standing in front of this painting, whatever it is, stop. Don’t give up on the unexpected. Some of the best solutions I have found were in the Tate Modern. I entered an exhibition hall that was made up of installations from a builder’s rubbish skip. I was about to walk out muttering,’ What a load of rubbish.’ I was stopped in my tracks at the door. A still small voice inside said, ‘go back in there until you have found the solution.’ I was given such incredible insight into my problems at that time through the discarded builders’ rubble! Don’t discount how God can break through to you in the most obscure of places.

STICK WITH IT

Stand or sit in front of this painting and just look at it with an open heart for ten to twenty minutes, asking what am I seeing? What is this trying to tell me? Is there wisdom is it sharing? How am I feeling? What emotions arise when I look at this? How does this painting address my problem? Parts of us have been suppressed deep in our souls, is there anything bubbling up that is an insight?

PROBLEM SOLVE ON PAPER

TAKE A NOTEBOOK AND JOURNAL OR SKETCH WHAT YOU ARE EXPERIENCING. Start writing or sketching what is coming up for you. Sometimes the thoughts are so fleeing they need to be captured at once. Describe your feelings and what drew your attention. Are there any ideas that you are getting? Can you join the dots between two different thoughts or ideas? Once you have captured everything that has come up for you, go to the cafeteria or a quiet place and meditate on your sketches or writing, and you will be surprised at how you will be most likely to have solved your problem or found a new perspective to look at it through.

If you can get out to an Art Gallery, take a browse through online artists, or visit my Amazing Gaze Gallery to find some inspiration.

Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Resources for Healing Spiritual Wounds

What book or e-book would I recommend to my readers this week is the challenge for Welcome to My World? That is a tough question to answer as I have read at least five excellent books this past month in doing the research for my focus articles on Spiritual Wounding, Generational Trauma, and Child Abuse for April.

Healing Spiritual Wounds

I will tell you a bit about each of them, and you can decide if you want to read any. “Healing Spiritual Wounds,” by Carol Howard Merrit. Merrit shares her own story of living in a home where abusive parental practices took place following the teachings of their fundamentalist church. I followed her story through the process of her anger, grief, and shame to reconnecting with God and finding her healing in His love. Sadly, what she writes about has been common practice in many fundamentalist church groups.

Sacred Wounds

Another more practical book was Sacred Wounds by Theresa B Pasquale. This book deals with this sensitive subject, spiritual wounding, and trauma. She has shed a lot of light on the subject, which is close to her heart. She is professionally qualified to write on this subject, and anyone who has had to deal with spiritual abuse or trauma will find the book most helpful with examples from life. People coping with or helping people through their issues with religion and church would find the insight most beneficial. To know where to back off and where to support. Spiritual abuse had a lasting effect on people’s lives and how they can deal with their problems when their concept of God has been corrupted. If you need help for releasing some of these wounds, God has gifted some people to help you, I am happy to share this article by Justina Ford on being Confidently Visible Despite Spiritual Wounding.

Conditions of the Heart

Healing Power Through Spirit Born Emotions

For people who want to find ways to connect to God and heal from this type of trauma, a beneficial book with many different angles to approach healing is “Unleashing Healing Power through Spirit-Born Emotions” by Mark Virkler and Charity Kayembe.  One of the most exciting things in one of his approaches is that God speaks through images. As an artist, I have always found that I have been closer to God visually. This was in significant conflict with my upbringing when it was only The Word, which quite often, to be truthful, I did not understand! This book shows the numerous ways in which we can communicate with our Creator, which is really quite liberating.

What is the Bible and How Do we Understand it?

Life has certainly moved on since I was a child. Technology has changed so much of how we view the world that was not available to our forebears. The millennial generation thinks and experiences the world in ways that we never could. They also have many questions about the Bible and the Church, so my church here in Washington DC is doing a seminar on hermeneutics. We used the book by Dennis R Edwards, “What is the Bible and How Do We Understand it?His books on radical faith and the Jesus Way certainly shed a lot of light on many of the problems we have in applying Bible passages to modern life and made so much sense in light of the previous books mentioned.

The Body Keeps the Score

My research converged with listening to a weeklong series of lectures on Dealing with Trauma by a team from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. Their scientific experience verified what I had been learning from the above books but made the picture a lot clearer in the case of the developing child’s brain. Children are helpless to escape from traumatic or ongoing trauma, developing their own mechanisms, which become a learned behavior in their bodies. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk is an excellent resource for learning about this.

Deconstructing Old Beliefs

There are other good resources for counseling from Spiritual Abuse. Church as Refuge is leading the movement to bring this to light and bring healing to those who have been taught a theology that had made them doubt their relationship with God. Listen to a short video excerpt by Rev Megan Cox of “Give Her Wings” or check out the website if you know of someone who might need this kind of help.

Memory and Dream Artwork

In January, I signed up to attend classes for Memory and Dreamwork in Drawing with a lecturer at the Royal School of Drawing in London for May. In the very first lesson, I had chosen a nightmare of vegetables chasing me I had had as a small child to work with. Everything fell into place with the eating and stomach problems I had experienced when I looked through the lens of what I had just been reading and listening to!  My recent work with the elderly who had dementia made me acutely aware that unresolved trauma can severely impact you in old age. I wanted to deal with any issues that might arise if I got dementia, hence my research. By the same token, I wanted to bring this awareness to the forefront to help point people in the right direction to get the help they might need before it is too late.

I could not choose just one book because one book would not cover the scope of this vast subject with so many facets, as everyone is unique. These books are a good starting point for people interested in the topic or who know someone who is struggling with any aspect of PTSD. Soaked in prayer as to which one will be most helpful in moving you forward. It is also crucial to seek counsel to find therapists who are specialists in PTSD with the spiritual aspect. Being able to reconnect to God is part of the healing process.

It is crucial to seek counsel to find therapists who are specialists in PSDT with the spiritual aspect. Being able to reconnect to God is part of the healing process.

What are your thoughts on PSDT and trauma? Do you think they are original sin? Do you believe that the church can help or harm in the healing of people who have PSDT?

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

IS THE TREE OF LIFE IN BRAZIL?

Brazil rainforest
Amazon Fores Photo by David Riaño Cortés on Pexels.com

In welcoming you to my world this week I want to talk about the country I would most like to visit. I have always wanted to visit Brazil and see the Amazon. I have visited many countries in my lifetime, from the northern reaches of the icy, beautiful Scandinavian countries to the southernmost tip of Africa and Australia. I have seen the wonders of Europe; visited France, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands. I have been through the romantic scenery painted by poets and artists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In the east, I have seen exotic orchids in Singapore and Hong Kong and traveled around Australia. Born in Africa, I have visited most of the countries in Southern Africa. In the west, I now live in the USA and have visited Canada and several states. So, that leaves South America to be discovered. 

But the country I really want to visit is a country that has found the secret to living in the Kingdom of God, where people love one another, have compassion for the sick, weary, downcast, and outcasts. The Kingdom that brings hope and healing to those suffering from trauma and brokenness.

The country I really want to visit is a country that has found the secret to living in the Kingdom of God, where people love one another, have compassion for the sick, weary, downcast, and outcasts. The Kingdom that brings hope and healing to those suffering from trauma and brokenness.

How wonderful it would be if that Tree of Life, whose leaves bring healing to the nations, could be in the Amazon Forest and that the River of Life that flows from the Throne of God was the Amazon. In a country where so many indigenous tears have been shed and the blood of missionaries spilled wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Kingdom of God was to be found there!

Healing leaves, Brazil
“Leaves for the healing of the nations”

Jesus said how hard it was for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God, and it should be entered with the trust of little children. Perhaps our capitalistic and western viewpoints have clouded our vision of the Kingdom of God. Is it time to revisit the teachings of Jesus and look through a new lens focused on His love and compassion for mankind? What country would the Kingdom of God look like then?