I am currently facilitating a discussion group on The Gift of Wonder. It is fun not only to revisit the book but to remind myself of the impact it had on my life and especially how some of the lessons I learned helped me find healing in the midst of the traumas of the last couple of years. Surprisingly, though I facilitated several virtual workshops on wonder and trauma, I never blogged about it so I think it is time to rectify that.
I started the last session by reminding participants of the traumas of the last couple of years – the struggle of lockdowns, quarantine and job losses precipitated by COVID; the horror of weather-related disasters like wildfires in Australia, Western U.S. and Canada; drought in Africa, the volcano in Tonga, tornadoes in the midwest; the challenge of Black Lives Matter and the inequalities of racial injustice highlighted by the pandemic. On top of all these the personal traumas of loss of family members and inability to hold memorial services, separation from communities, and the high anxiety of fear and worry about possible exposure.
I think most of us are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, (PTSD) filled with fear and anxiety. In the back of our minds is the quiet whisper Is God the saviour of the world or an uncaring monster?
Unresolved trauma incapacitates us. It makes us lose meaning and trust in the future and creates rigidity, fear and control. Fear paralyzes us and makes us resistant to the very adaptations that make it possible for us to respond with resilience and joy. Fear and trauma often result in violence to ourselves and others.
Wonder Changes Our Approach to Life
Wonder on the other hand changes our approach to life. It opens us to surprise, expectation, celebration, anticipation, unpredictability and mystery. It enables us to imagine new life, new opportunities and the possibility of new beginnings.
Wonder and joy replace rigidity with flexibility and make us aware that we are part of something much greater than ourselves. We all live in a world that is incredible, it shimmers with the glory of God, but we have lost our ability to appreciate that wonder and therefore to discover the blessing of the healing power it holds.
Interestingly the awe we feel in nature can dramatically reduce symptoms of PTSD, according to UC Berkeley research that tracked psychological and physiological changes in war veterans and at-risk inner-city youth during white-water rafting trips. I think it is why so many people are spending more time in nature as a response to the pandemic. It is definitely why I become a stronger advocate for awe and wonder walks every day.
There are three gifts of wonder that stand out for me as healing tools in our current situation.
The first is the wonder of balance. Humans are not meant to hibernate over the winter. Even though the last couple of years have felt like an eternal winter, believe it or not our souls have not been sleeping. Just as trees put down strong roots in winter, so our souls have found fertile ground for growth and renewal over this long winter season.
Awe begins when we slow down, make space for silence and listen deeply to God speaking through the world around us. “Being still brings with it a deep listening which is required if we are to receive the revelation glory intends for us” (Meister Eckhart), but it doesn’t end there.
We need to balance silence and solitude with community. We need to foster companionship no matter what the weather, no matter what the distance apart. Evidently, the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world and one of the keys to their happiness is that they rarely eat alone. And we should be – in person and online – eating together, laughing, having fun, expressing curiosity together, etc which are wonderful ways to bring healing in the midst of trauma. I still remember that first lockdown Thanksgiving when we shared a meal across zoom with my nephew and his wife in Australia. What a special sense of community and a delightful wonder it was.
I don’t think we are meant to live alone. The lockdown was particularly hard on people who did. As you know my husband and I live in a small intentional community. The delight of community meetings in our small community gave all of us the resilience we needed to stand firm throughout the pandemic restrictions. I encourage all of us to consider ways to live in community (and yes we do have a vacancy at the Mustard Seed House in Seattle if you are interested).
The second gift of wonder and healing is getting out into nature. I love my awe and wonder walks which I have just re-instituted after a forced gap caused by illness. Getting moving in the middle of winter may not sound wonder-producing for some of my northern hemisphere friends but we can make it so. Intentionally notice what isn’t noticed at other seasons. This is a season of rest but also of growth – not above the ground but underneath. Roots grow deeper in winter and we prune in winter. Dream, imagine and listen to your inner wisdom as you walk. It is growing deep into your soul. Imagine the resilience and sacred strength that comes as you explore the wonder of this very special season.
The third gift of wonder that provides healing is the gift of creating rituals. Creating rituals stirs our imaginations. We need rituals that remind us of what a fantastic world we live in, what an incredible God we worship and what impressive people surround us. We need rituals that anchor us in the security of God’s presence and at the same time invite us into the delight of living. We need rituals that help us move from grief to glory.
One of the forms of ritual I have created more frequently over the last couple of years is that of contemplative gardens. They give me awe in the creating as I consciously connect to my creativity and I dig deep into an appreciation of the wonder of what is around me. There is also awe in the connecting to the grief expressed & the joy experienced in the elements of the garden. This form of ritual invites the full expression of my long-suppressed emotions. Lastly there is awe in contemplating as I use my gardens for reflection and a focus for prayer each day.
You may not be a gardener and this form of contemplative expression may not appeal to you, but all of us have the divine spark of creativity within us and I am increasingly convinced that this is given to us to inspire wonder and through that wonder, healing. So I encourage you to take time this week to connect to the wonder of God revealed in the creation of ritual. Perhaps something as simple as lighting a candle or saying a short breath prayer. Whatever grounds you in the eternal presence and lifts your spirit with the wonder of God within you will help you find healing in the midst of trauma.
THIS Wednesday! Join Christine Sine and Lilly Lewin for a discussion on Candlemas and Cup Prayers in the Godspace Light Community Facebook Group. Can’t make it live? We post them after on our youtube channel, so you never miss the fun! If you can attend live, consider bringing a candle and a teacup or coffee cup!