Moving from Religious Trauma into Soul Healing, Part III: Beauty

Never lose an opportunity of seeing something beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.     

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

File:Ely Cathedral Nave Ceiling, Cambridgeshire, UK - Diliff.jpg

Photo by DAVID ILIFF

Beauty is the basis of my spiritual discovery process.

I found the Anglican church on a trip to England, back in ’07, a time of big transition. My then six-year-old and I visited St. Martin in the Field and read the names of long-ago ancestors on placards in the narthex. We toured medieval graveyards. We toured Ely Cathedral, with origins around AD 672, home to St. Catherine’s Chapel, a stained glass museum, and towers reaching some 215 feet. We stared up at the ceilings, decorated in ancient paintings of the ancestry of Jesus, and felt our simultaneous smallness and our connection to all that has ever been.

Back in the states, I wandered into a small Episcopal church and heard Bach and a homily delivered in Latin and German. The smell of incense wafted by as people knelt on prayer benches. Ministers, dressed in robes, gave communion at a carved altar while someone played Mendelssohn on a massive pipe organ.

For a girl coming out of the cult of fundamentalism, with its stripped-out, prefabricated buildings and its scorn for arches and sculptures, and organs, the beauty of this new place called to me.

I was that girl in the Church of Christ, but my parents were strings players. Nobody could fool me into thinking that marble statues or Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus were evil. I already knew that truth lived at the symphony – just as truth lives in the inherent beauty of the universe. I knew better.

Beauty saved my life. It gave me a reason to keep moving forward when I was surrounded by people who taught suppression and denial of the self. When I felt trapped in that cultural prison, believing I was worthless if not married by the age of 23, I could always plug into music as a meditation, and reconnect to universal love.

File:Century Tree.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Century_Tree.jpg

Beauty = Truth = Innate Knowing

We all know beauty makes life worth living. The wonder we have watching the sun rise: this is truth. The goosebumps we get listening to a choir of children’s voices: this is truth. Sometimes I see intricate floral masterpieces rendered in tattoo ink and realize: this is truth. Not just formal works of art, but the arrangement of grasses in my neighbor’s xeriscape. We all seek this kind of truth, and we can trust it.

What causes me to experience beauty is an innate knowing of the right direction for me at a given moment . . . which may differ from the right direction of my friends or family. The beauty experience whispers the next right thing.  More like this . . . More of this . . . Keep reaching for this . . .

If I listen to the voice of beauty and follow it, I always find something I needed. I’m learning to trust this inner wisdom. When I do this, I reach for the divine.

Here are some things to consider in your own search for beauty.

  1. Your immediate environment: How pleasing is it to the eye?
  2. The sounds in your space: Do they bring you joy?
  3. How often do you let yourself absorb art of any kind?
  4. How lovely are the words you read or hear or write?
  5. How often do you absorb the natural environment (sights, sounds, smells, textures)?
  6. What do you do to create beauty?
Contact Deborah Read Wife Material

“I’m not creative.” 17 Signs of Artistic Abuse

Artistic Abuse

What is artistic abuse? Creative expression heals. Everyone has an inner artist. When we nurture the inner artist, we heal. Artistic Abuse (or Neglect) is communication (direct or indirect) that discourages, shames, or minimizes a person’s creative self-expression. Artistic abuse affects us emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Art saves lives . . . or at least makes them worth living.

But lots of us say, “I’m not creative.” We don’t get our hands into the clay because we’ve never done that. We say, “I’m tone deaf,” so we never take piano lessons. We limit ourselves to activities that can be counted or checked. Why? A long time ago, someone mistreated our inner artist and we shut it down out of self-preservation.

We Need Art Like We Need Water

We so profoundly need art that shutting it down is like smoking or eating only hot dogs. When schools eliminate  or downplay art and music, they send a message to children like, You don’t really need this . . . You can survive on hot dogs.

Julia Cameron writes extensively about how to recover from artistic wounding – and her work inspires me to think: children need their parents and teachers to feed them art. Children need their parents and teachers to value the artistic and give it a place of reverence in their lives.

So, as a parent or an adult child, allow yourself to go through the following list with an open mind. My novel, Wife Material, is all about coming to terms with artistic abuse. Only by looking at our past honestly can we revive our shut-down, wounded, inner artist.

You’ve probably been artistically abused or neglected if:

  1. Someone said, “You can’t sing (or write, or draw),” or, “You’ll never be very good.”
  2. Someone laughed at your early story-telling (not in a good way).
  3. You fear anyone seeing your paintings, reading your writing, or hearing your music.
  4. You feel intense shame about any artistic “failures.”
  5. You were told that art/music wasn’t a “real career.”
  6. You learned to view artistic expression as sinful, dangerous, or even selfish.
  7. You got punished for a disappointing performance.
  8. You got forced into artistic activities you didn’t want to do (I’m not talking about high school art class here).
  9. You felt exploited for an artistic talent (e.g., coerced to perform when you felt unsafe; used as a “show pony” to make someone else look good).
  10. Your artwork was intentionally destroyed or invaded by someone who knew (or should have known) you wanted to keep it safe and/or private.
  11. Someone ridiculed you for being artistic and suggested it made you less masculine.
  12. You learned to overvalue your business skills and mathematical ability and undervalue your poetry.
  13. You stop yourself from playing the piano because it feels like “a waste of time.”
  14. No one supported your learning a musical instrument in childhood – or your musical training was encouraged for a short time and then allowed to drop away.
  15. You were not taken to concerts or art museums. No one pointed out beautiful architecture or sound or literature.
  16. You stop yourself from reading fiction because it feels like “a waste of time.”
  17. Someone in authority ridiculed others (e.g., siblings, people on TV) who made music or expressed themselves artistically.

I’ll be back soon with steps you can take to recover from artistic abuse. For now, take a few minutes to journal about this. Then contact me if you’d like to explore further. I’d love to help you get started on your first work of art. Or read Wife Material to see if it inspires your own creative rebellion.

Contact Deborah Read Wife Material