"Neuroplasticity is the ability for the brain to physically rewire itself. By changing your mindset through practices such as meditation, gratitude, acting selflessly, etc., you can cause your brain to change physically and make more neural connections."
Tree of Life 2019 Whitney Wood Bailey
The Joy Fields Exhibit
Julie Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art
I have been meaning to visit the Julie Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn, Alabama, for some time now, and a few weeks ago, I did just that. I walked into the museum to be greeted by the exhibit, The Joy Fields by Whitney Wood Bailey, and the painting above called "Tree of Life." I love when God surprises me as this month's theme was Sitting with Joy.
Not only was the title of the exhibit a Godwink, but the artist's healing journey from chronic illness through neuroplasticity hit home! I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation as part of my own healing journey, and I am fascinated by the brain's ability to change through these types of activities. I talk about this in my post, How to Sit with Anxiety Like Its Family.
Bailey researched the science of neuroplasticity and used her painting as a pathway to rewire her mind-body connection. After she participated in a neuroplasticity-based program, she stated, "A new kind of joy, one that is not dependent on life circumstances, began to seep into my life, bringing energy, wildness, and vibrancy into my work. I learned the power of surrender to my current circumstances, focusing on the beautiful aspects of my life which were directly in front of me. Through this alchemy, a deepening capacity for both joy and gratitude emerged within myself."
As I walked through the exhibit, some paintings appeared bright and cheerful while others looked dark and disturbing. Isn't that how it is with life? Sometimes joy shows up in our happiest moments, and other times it presents itself in sadness and sorrow. Finding joy is discovering our ability to BE present to what is.
And how can we do this?
I believe God gave us the miraculous gift of our complex mind, body, and spirit to help us find joy. I stumbled across a brilliant podcast, How God Works, connecting neuroscience and religion, often divisive subjects. However, Professor Dave DeSteno bridges the gap between the two by investigating why people who "take part in spiritual practices tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives."
I am also a firm believer that a regular gratitude practice can help achieve more joy in our lives. I am not talking about being thankful only when times are good but naming our gratitude even amidst challenging times. I wrote the post, Gratitude, to explain how I started my practice over ten years ago. Being thankful in all situations helps to ground us in the present moment.
How do you find Joy?
We are heading into a season that is supposed to be Merry and Bright and full of Joy! But maybe that's not how life is looking for you right now. And that's okay. Try a simple mindfulness exercise or meditation, write out a gratitude list that names your deepest struggles and sorrows, or throw up your hands to God and ask for divine love.
May you find JOY in all things and BE filled with God's healing grace!
Walking the Journey with You,
If you would like to join me in a year of sitting, subscribe below. I will feature one of the following topics in my monthly posts and suggest ways to sit with them: God, Family, Myself, Community, The Present Moment, Writing, Creating, Moderation, Gratitude, Joy, and Love.