For a number of years I offered programming for women who were deeply grieving; all of them had experienced significant and, in many cases, lifelong trauma. I heard in their life narratives elements of my own story; I heard their soul pain, for in many ways it mirrored my own. I recognized that because of my own trauma, because of my own soul pain, and because of the soul healing work that I had been doing personally as well as with others, I had something of incredible valuable to offer. I knew I could address their soul pain; I knew I could help them to heal at the deepest of levels. Because left brain psycho-educational approaches had been of little value to me in that regard, I suspected that such approaches would also be of little, if any, value in helping the women to address and heal their souls’ pain. Although I knew that left brain hemisphere strategies supply cognitive information and that the women needed knowledge to help them to understand the various aspects of trauma and recovery, I also knew that, to touch their souls, I needed to incorporate soulful techniques. I was familiar with the research that correlates right brain hemisphere techniques with healing and knew, at a personal level, what the right brain creative endeavors, including the arts, music, dancing, drumming, visualization, and guided imagery, had provided to me.
I dared. I introduced them to the arts and other right brain healing strategies. They became my teachers, my guides. They taught me much about trauma, abuse, grief, sorrow, regret, and shame. They taught me much about love and beauty and soul. The right brain strategies gave their souls voice.1 In turn, they gave voice to the ever-increasing awareness growing within me.
At the start of every new program, I invited each woman to identify what spirituality meant to her personally. Before doing an artful activity to further explore this concept, and as a way to have each woman recognize her own knowing and honor her own strengths in this area, I gave each a blank sheet of gold-colored paper. I asked the women to list all of the words that are necessary to include in a personal definition of spirituality and then to create a collage to depict their definition. When they had completed the activities, I invited the women to share their words and the pictures that represented them, while a co-facilitator transcribed the words that reflected their “inner knowing” onto a flipchart.
After completing seven programs of Journey to Hope and Healing: Beyond Trauma and Abuse2 I engaged an assistant to examine the lists and identify any themes that might have surfaced. Definite themes emerged—themes that indicated that the women in these groups saw spirituality as different from religion. They viewed spirituality as a personal and individual journey that they described as a discovering of the Divine within themselves, within others, and within all of creation.
You might like to complete a similar collage and then reexamine it. Does your collage include pictures to indicate a difference between spirituality and religion, or do you see these concepts as being one and the same? Does your collage include pictures that depict a belief that you are an important aspect of your definition of spirituality? Do the pictures on your collage reveal an acknowledgement that other human beings are also important in a definition of spirituality? Does your definition of spirituality, which you expressed through your collage, reflect aspects of nature, the elements, and the animal and bird kingdoms? Does your collage in some way depict a connection between you and the Creator?
How do you visualize this connection? Return to your art supplies and complete a further art activity. To do so you will need a number of colored markers and a poster-paper-size piece of paper. You might also like to gather some decorative materials, including glitter dust, ribbon and stickers for this activity.
Before you begin, sit for about 10 minutes in silence, listening to some meditative music. Allow the music to fill you. Allow yourself to become one with the music. As you do so, ponder, “How am I connected to the Divine?” “What does my connection with the Divine look like?” Allow the answers to flow through you. Do not try to control the outcome. When you feel ready, draw, design, or decorate whatever images come to mind. Continue the process until you feel complete. The feeling of total completion may come before the feeling of total satisfaction. If you feel this incongruence, just allow it to be so.
When you feel complete, take a break. Perhaps go for a walk in nature, and after an hour or so return to your creation. Record in your journal the answers that surface as you reflect on what your creation reveals. What feelings did you have the first moment that you looked at the picture? What thoughts followed these initial sensations?
What does your creation look like? What does it reflect to you? What colors appear? How did you image the Creator or Creative Force? Are aspects of the cosmos or a greater universe present? Did any symbols appear? Did you design circles, squares, triangles, hexagons, octagons, swirls? Did you draw a sun, stars, moons, or other images of light? Did you draw a rainbow? Did any of the elements surface—fire, wind, water, rocks; the heavens, Earth? Did you draw trees or other plant life, insects such as butterflies or dragonflies, birds, or animals? Does your creation contain images of buildings or sacred sites?
Does the image that poured from you and which is now portrayed before you whisper of an innate knowledge of a connection between Creator, you, others, and all aspects of creation?
Reflect on what is revealed and then journal your impressions.
Turn your picture and examine it from top to bottom and from side to side. Identify any new images that appear. Hang your picture on a wall and step back. From several distances, identify and journal any new images, thoughts, or sensations that come. Reflect on what is revealed. Journal any further impressions that present themselves.
Were you able to externalize in art form a connection with the Creator and the Creative Force? If you were to use this picture to define this connection, what would you write? As you gaze at your creation, do you experience an increased sense of Oneness with the Divine?
Consider your life and life circumstance. As you do, ask yourself, “Where is God in all of this?”
Did you have an Aha experience? Note in your journal any new insights that you gained. Write in detail any plaguing questions that surface. You will want to return to these questions in the future. Each time you do so, ask the same question of yourself and record your new answers. Then return to this first set of answers and compare the two sets. In that way you will be able to use this exercise as a measure of spiritual progress.
Did you initially experience a powerful and positive image and/or sensation that you immediately rejected? In other words, did your right brain—your soul brain—resonate instantly with the symbolic messages in your drawing? And, upon receiving this right brain knowing, did your left brain immediately challenge it?
As I stated previously and will reemphasize in future chapters, soul recognizes truth. Soul knows truth in an instant. Soul messages encourage us to look at the truth, to examine who we really are. Soul is always encouraging us to reevaluate the direction of our lives. Soul is always trying to move us forward in a positive way.
Learning to recognize and then to trust our first thoughts is powerful. When we have been wounded, we lose trust in ourselves and in our own abilities. Reawakening to the voice of soul helps immensely in alleviating the anxiety that comes with feeling broken and disconnected. A soul thought always encourages, always tells of the awesomeness that we are. Soul thoughts communicate: “Wow! You can do it! Go for it! You’re worth it! Do it!” Soul thoughts are based in love, in abundance, and in goodness. Soul messages reinforce Oneness.
Return to your drawing and label it My Divine Connection. Reexamine your initial response, your gut instincts, your first thought as you saw your own drawing. Trust this response. Trust that what is revealed is of great significance. The power in knowing and experiencing Oneness is to know and experience love and belonging. When we truly know, understand, and experience our Divine Connection, fear no longer controls us. Love is always about belonging. Fear is always about separation. The more we feel separate and apart from the Divine and from the Divine Energy in All, the less we trust the universal order. The less we trust the universal order, the less we are able to take risks. The less able we are to risk, the less able we are to move our lives in the direction of healing, in the direction of our spiritual purpose.
1. Simington, E. 2003. Art as Voice for Inner City Adolescents. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. St. Francis Xavier University: Antigonish, NS.
2. Simington, J. 1999-2003. Journey to Hope and Healing: Beyond Trauma and Abuse. Simington Consulting: Edmonton, AB.
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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jane A. Simington, Ph. D., is the owner of Taking Flight International Corporation and the developer of both the Trauma Recovery Certification Program and the Grief Support Certification Program. She is the president of the Canadian Association of Trauma Recovery Providers. Dr. Simington compliments her academic background in both Nursing and Psychology, with an extensive knowledge of alternative and complimentary methods of healing, including the uses of energy-transfer-healing, dream interpretation, art and guided imagery.
Dr. Simington is adjunct faculty at Union Institute and University in Cincinnati Ohio, and St. Stephen’s College at the University of Alberta. She regularly facilitates programs and training sessions for a variety of other colleges and institutes, including Nechi Institute for Training and Health Promotion for Aboriginal Peoples in St. Albert, AB. and Grant Mac Ewan College, in Edmonton, AB. Dr. Simington is a frequent conference presenter, and workshop facilitator. Her numerous professional publications focus on her research and clinical interests in wholistic health, personal empowerment, spiritual well-being, dying, grief and trauma. Her work is featured in her books Journey to the Sacred: Mending a Fractured Soul, and Setting the Captive Free, the booklet, Responding Soul to Soul, the award winning films, Listening to Soul Pain and Healing Soul Pain and on CD’s Journey to Healing, Releasing Ties That Bind, and Retrieving Lost Soul Parts.