PETALUMA, CA, Feb. 2, 2015 – A recent article in the Sacramento Bee gives a well-deserved shout-out to a local Eagle Scout who has carved out enough time from his high school studies to build a “sensory garden” designed to help people recoup cognitive and physical functions lost through injury.
“Garlic and citrus plants invite patients to take a nibble, while celery gives off a prominent scent,” writes health reporter Sammy Caiola. “A variety of coral bells with a felt-like texture is soft on the fingers, and a pot of bright pansies catches the eye.”
As you might imagine, though, the effect of these interactions goes a lot deeper than just getting fingers to feel and tongues to taste.
“This is a great opportunity for [patients] to stimulate the senses in a variety of ways,” says Alyssa Rose, a recreational therapist quoted in the article. “Being able to connect to the natural world is a very healing opportunity…”
Reconnecting with something we’ve lost and perhaps thought we’d never regain can indeed be healing. But could it be more than a disconnect with our physical senses that can throw us off stride? Sometimes losing contact with the more spiritual aspects of life can be equally disconcerting, if not more so.
The question is where do we go to stimulate and rejuvenate these senses? If you ask novelist Anne Lamott, she’d likely tell you to pray.
“Prayer is… about getting outside of your own self and hooking into something greater than that very, very limited part of our experience here – the ticker tape of thoughts and solutions, and trying to figure out who to blame,” she said during an interview on NPR. “It’s sort of like blinking your eyes open… like when Dorothy lands in Oz and the movie goes from black and white to color… and you say, ‘Wow!'”
What we “see” when we open our eyes in prayer can be any number of things. For many, probably even most, it includes a new view of the Divine; of their relationship to a God who is infinite, who loves without condition; and of their own capacity to express this same love – to forgive, to be compassionate, to feel safe – or all of the above, all at once.
“The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, someone who spent her entire life exploring the practical applications of prayer, “a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.”
Prayer is a mental garden where we constantly encounter fresh ideas and begin to see life from a perspective that a purely matter-based vantage point simply cannot provide and, in fact, often tries to obscure – a place that’s always open, immensely accessible and free of charge.
Even better, it’s a place that can literally help us to see, smell, touch and taste better than we ever thought possible.
“A grateful heart a garden is,” writes poet Ethel Wasgatt Dennis, “Where there is always room / For every lovely, Godlike grace / To come to perfect bloom.” The same might be said of a prayerful heart permeated by the fragrance and color of humility, hope and healing.
Eric Nelson writes each week on the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Read similar columns on his web site and follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.