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Recently I attended the Nevola Symposium at Colby College in Waterville. It is an annual event sponsored by the Thomas Nevola, MD Memorial Fund, Maine-Dartmouth Family Practice Residency and Maine General Medical Center. Nevola, who died very young, was an energetic and devoted physician who had a passion for “spirituality and health care,” the underlying theme of the conference. “Pathways to Joy” was this year’s focus, and the keynote speaker was Lisa Miller, PhD, Supervisor of Clinical Psychology and researcher at Colombia University.
She quoted statistics from research she and others have done with adolescents, showing the importance of spirituality in the prevention of substance abuse and depression. Youth are hungry to explore and develop a connection with a Higher Power and a sense of meaning in the Creation. I could not help but think how much of mainline Christianity has lost touch with a couple of recent generations of youth. Miller pointed out that unlike most other countries, in the U.S., higher degrees of education correlate with lower degrees of spirituality. Somewhere along the line, all the cultural emphasis on learning about science and technology has lost God.
The Symposium encouraged restoring or recovering spirituality in the practice of health care. I participated in a break out session on “Joyful Dances of Peace from Different Spiritual Traditions,” led by a former nun who called our activity “meditative body prayers.” She taught us “attunement,” through repetitive movement with singing from Indigenous, Buddist, Jewish, Islamic and Christian/Aramiac traditions. Perhaps we might learn to recover these traditions in our own worship.
Another break out session was led by a Brewer poet, who inspired us to express creativity through the use of words. He referred to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a classic text and guide to artistic expression through writing. (See her Basic Principles in a companion article.)
The Symposium inspired me to pursue the path we have begun in the “Artful Spirit” project. Our church is indeed a gallery where all the gifts of the Spirit can be encouraged, shared and shown. The exhibits that have begun to adorn our walls are only the beginning of the rich tapestry God has given to the members of our parish, and now the neighborhood beyond our walls. This is not just about looking at a pretty picture on the wall.
I believe there is a sacred spark of creative energy in every living creature. Each human being is created in the image of God, which translates in the image of Love. Visual and performing arts are some of the ways that the initial thrust of creativity is experienced. Writings in the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer were expressions of many peoples’ deep emotions and thoughts. So, “Write a poem,” my workshop session leader encouraged. “Read it in church, along with letters to the Early Christian community, and the Psalms!”
The development and expression of spirituality has always been an important part of holistic health care and healing. God uses multiple pathways to bring us health and healing. (God is the “Lord of the dance,” you will remember!) Music, dance, theater, photography, woodworking, fabric, sculpture, painting, cooking, writing, filmmaking, gardening, and many, many other ways exist for the Spirit’s energy to surface. As Julia Cameron writes, “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”
Have a creative Summer, Rick
- Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
- There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life —including ourselves.
- When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
- We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are intended to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
- Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
- The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
- When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
- As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
- It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
- Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.
(From Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way)