Contemplative Doodling

11 Apr 2014

What tools do you use to focus your mind and overcome adversities? Do you walk, pray, listen to music?

Below is a guest article by my friend Shini Abraham. Shini has medical conditions that cause her to be in pain all the time. She has discovered that doodling is therapeutic and deeply spiritual; others are finding it helpful for their own reasons.

Living with chronic pain is no easy thing. This ‘thorn in the flesh’—that I must deal with on a daily basis—has greatly altered my life. I’ve ignored it, fought it, and struggled with it. While I continue to hope for a miracle, I do not want life to pass me by. Nor do I want to be defined by my pain. So I’ve chosen to make peace with it instead, and embrace it as part of ‘the now’ of my life.

Pain is a teacher. Pain is the ‘darkness’ in which I’ve discovered treasures previously hidden. Even the most painful scars, ploughed deep, can burst forth into flowering and fruitful vines. I am made to thrive—not just limp through life!

Lectio Divina (divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading that is transformational. Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 specific steps:

  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Contemplation

I respectfully add to this list of spiritual disciplines, a fifth:

Why doodling? I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t tried…

Years ago, in an attempt to stay focused during a nasty pain episode, I sat down with a clipboard, a piece of paper, and a favorite pen. I picked a phrase to meditate on. ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength.’ Joy was the last thing on my mind then. I was struggling with pain and deep exhaustion, the kind that left me empty.

With a shaky hand, I began doodling. My mind began to wander through the ins and outs of that phrase, into depths I’d never had the patience to explore before. I found myself outlining my hands so they looked like they were clapping joyfully and I doodled all around this, filling every space.

Slowly, truth about joy began oozing like warm honey into conscious spaces as I acknowledged them. I found myself sinking into it, exploring it from different angles. Savoring it. Taking time to ponder. Making room for understanding. That joy isn’t influenced by external circumstances, I had always known. But this was coming alive for me in an entirely new way.

My spirit soared, transcending every physical limitation. In the presence of my Maker, I glimpsed the eternal being I was created to be, if only for a moment, leading to a lasting shift in perspective and attitude. Peace in embracing the season I was in. Acknowledgement of where the boundaries lay. Contentment. Faith in the One I live for. All aspects of joy deep within.

At the end of the day, duco divina isn’t just about doodling.

It’s a call to us all to find that tool/method/discipline that helps us stay focused and engaged in meditation or prayer in our yearning for deeper connection with Truth as well as quality time time with our Creator.

You can read more on Shini’s website

Also check out her book, Treasures in Darknessduco divina This book is a compilation of personal contemplative doodles and writing that was birthed out of a desire to encourage others on similar journeys. The ‘raw’ writing and doodles represent milestones in a journey of living with chronic pain. The hope is that within these pages, you may find something you can relate to—those ‘connecting points’ that say our struggles are similar, but we’re not alone. There is hope. In finding those connections, may you too be inspired to thrive and share the stories of your journey with others, in your own way!



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