According to interfaith minister and author Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon, when we immerse ourselves in creative acts, we can quiet the noises around us from our “wild and wired world,” and truly calm ourselves. With these creative acts, we also can cultivate a spiritual practice.
In her book Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation, Oman Shannon quotes the 20th-century Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, who said, “Through the spiritual life we gradually move from the house of fear to the house of love.”
Oman Shannon believes the same can be said about the creative life. Through creating, she writes, “we can enter the stillness that characterizes prayer and the ‘house of love.’ We can open ourselves and experience spaciousness.”
In Crafting Calm, Oman Shannon shares a variety of creative activities, stories and resources that help readers relax, comfort ourselves, get clarity and connect with others. Ultimately, connecting to our creativity can help us connect to our spirituality. In other words, crafting can become a spiritual practice.
Here are three exercises from her book to bring you calm and comfort and help you connect to your spirituality.
“Gardening is a wonderful practice for bringing one back to the present moment,” Oman Shannon writes. She suggests creating a prayer garden with plants that are meaningful to you.
If you follow a specific religion, you might pick the plants that are mentioned in your favorite passages of your holy book. For instance, the Old and New Testaments include lilies, papyrus and olive. Once you choose your plants, you can create labels that include those passages.
When creating your garden, Oman Shannon suggests pondering these additional questions: “What do particular scents – lavender, rose, peppermint – remind me of? What fragrances, or scents, do I need to surround myself with right now? What would calm me and why? What in my life feels sweet right now? Spicy? Energizing? Calming?”
According to Oman Shannon, whatever approach or shape your garden takes, there are important lessons to be learned. “Whether we create a simple prayer garden, consciously choose outdoor plants that remind us of the ancient wisdom in the Scriptures, or work with herbs in a windowsill, we will be rewarded with nourishment from nature and the lessons nature can teach us.”
A portable shrine can serve as a comforting tool, which soothes your mind and heart, Oman Shannon writes. You might not know it but you’re probably carrying around a portable shrine right now. Oman Shannon notes that a shrine could be anything from “a sacred symbol on a keychain” to “a collection of photographs of your beloveds on an iPhone.”
Cultures all over the world use shrines, and they do so in unique ways. In Central and South American countries, people use tiny matchboxes. Oman Shannon bought one with a “worry doll,” a clay angel pendant and a red seed. On the matchbox, it says, “There are moments in which you need a peaceful vibe, a touch of good luck, and someone to tell your worries to. Use this emergency kit to balance those tough moments! An angel for peaceful thoughts, a Lucky Bean and a Worry Doll.”
When creating your own portable shrine, Oman Shannon suggests considering what brings you the most comfort and what would symbolize that best.
All of us, Oman Shannon writes, have some sort of “blankie” that brings us comfort, whether it’s a sweatshirt or specific throw. Years ago, she bought a blanket for her young daughter that includes phrases such as “I am filled with unlimited possibilities,” “I am a true miracle” and “I am a bright light in the world.”
Her daughter not only sees these words (which serve as an important reminder), but she also feels them, “as they are in every way wrapped around her.”
Oman Shannon believes that our need for these words and blankets doesn’t dissipate as we get older. “…[I]f anything, we perhaps need them more as we navigate a world that doesn’t stop to communicate what a bright light we are in it.”
Depending on your expertise, you can create an affirmation quilt or embroider your affirmations into a pillowcase or other lightweight fabric. Or you can use fabric paint or pens on a fleece blanket.
When considering what words to pick, Oman Shannon suggests asking these questions: “What words will serve as your strength, your shield, at this time in your life? What words comfort you; what words do you need to wrap yourself up in right now – literally?”
Creativity offers a bounty of benefits. By using our hands to craft meaningful objects and environments, we can soothe ourselves and cultivate a spiritual practice.