By Melissa Turner
Executive Editor, Gandhi’s Be Magazine
The ancient scriptures read:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
—The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-5
As a journalist, I am a lifelong student of the written word and an avid photographer. I believe the spark of creativity is a natural gift of God’s divine power of Love and Truth played out on the stage of our lives that we might be a light in the darkness.
However, until we confront the dark side of our souls and come face to face with that which holds us back from a “Life Well-Lived,” our lives will continue to run on auto-pilot, driven by an underlying narrative of fear, limitation, lack, scarcity, and dis-ease. We may go about our everyday lives with a prayer in our hearts and a smile on our lips, but deep inside of us, it is those thoughts that become words and those words that become actions that ultimately determine our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual baseline, as well as the way in which we do or do not serve our purpose in the world. The choice is ours.
Choosing to Express Our God-given Light in the Midst of Darkness
It’s truly fascinating to consider the interconnection of words and images in our human communication systems. We have so many ways to express the same concept. Consider this simple yet brilliant example from Salman Khan describing the multiple ways we can use words, numbers, symbols, and images to describe the digit “five”:
All of these representations describe the same concept, just in different ways—multiple sides of the same coin. We might also reflect on the idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words” and realize a given picture will describe one unique set of a thousand words to you and another completely unique set of a thousand words to me, based on our own personal life experiences, beliefs, and perceptions of reality. As we consider the interconnectivity of this thought-word-image-action sequence on a personal, local, and global scale, we begin to grasp the essence of what might be coined as the term “photo-linguistics” and its impact on creating a lens and framework for reconciliation, transformation, and peace.
So taking this concept a step further, what happens exactly when we ascribe personal meaning to thoughts, words, images, and actions framed by a traumatic life experience? How do those words and mental images often associated with that kind of life-changing moment—fear, guilt, shame, insecurity—drive us to create a reality we don’t actually want, based on our “fight or flight” survival instinct. We may stuff our feelings of pain with food and struggle with overweight. We may experience chronic physical ailments such as inflammatory disorders or autoimmune disease. But more specifically, how do we allow these fear-based words and images (as projected by our life experiences and personal traumas) to stifle our God-given light and our purpose on this planet, and ultimately our relationship with God and with others?
Example 1: One person has fond memories of riding in a car as a child. For him or her, the word or image of a “car” is reminiscent of the sense of freedom and adventure they felt as they headed out on another summer road trip, traveling across the country with their family.
Example 2: Another person has traumatic memories of riding in a car as a child. For him or her, the word or image of a “car” triggers a painful memory of feeling trapped and fearful in that moment their childhood innocence was stolen by sexual abuse.
I reflect on the special souls who have endured the life-altering trauma of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse—this is a line that once crossed can never truly be crossed back over again. The trust is lost. The innocence is gone forever. Some seem to have a natural sense of resilience to overcome these things and find great success in life while others are stunted, stifled, and silenced by the pain they have endured. What is the defining factor? I was touched by a line in the documentary film “Pink Saris,” in which one of the leaders of the Gulabi Gang of Indian women activists had rescued a young girl who was so shy and introverted following her abuse. The “Pink Sari” leader told the young girl, “If girls spoke up, the world would change. Speak up, child. If you are shy, you will die.”
I think of the beautiful representation of Dr. Masaru Emoto’s research on “The Hidden Messages of Water” and how it speaks to the resilience of the human spirit when touched by God’s divine power of Love and Truth, and in this particular case, the gift of Gratitude above all. As Dr. Emoto demonstrated the power of words like “Love” and “Hate” to change the cellular structure of water, how much more are we human beings (knowing we are comprised of 80 percent water ourselves) changed by words like “Love” and “Hate”? Dr. Emoto’s groundbreaking work taught us the power of thoughts, words, images, and actions actually change us on a cellular level, ultimately improving or diminishing our everyday reality, and potentially effecting the output of our creative spirit and God-given purpose in this world.
However, no matter the darkness we experience in life, we have a choice to not allow the ultimate snuffing out of God’s light within us, that which the darkness does not comprehend. We have a choice to speak up, to co-operate with God in creating a better life for ourselves and a better world around us, and to allow our light to shine brightly and without restraint. We have a choice to speak with confidence the words of Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise.”
As Marianne Williamson so eloquently encapsulated:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Unleashing Our Own Story of Reconciliation and Transformation as We Work for Peace in the World
As Mahatma Gandhi so simply and beautifully reminded us:
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
As a journalist who also happens to be a passionate environmental and human rights activist, I was deeply touched by the documentary film “Born Into Brothels.” New York-based photojournalist Zana Briski traveled to the red-light district of Calcutta to document the lives of the prostitutes living and working there, but she eventually expanded her work teaching their children to create their own photographs with basic point-and-shoot 35mm cameras and capturing their everyday lives on film. The results of the photography project were astounding. It enlivened the children, opening a portal from their difficult upbringing and challenging surroundings to the true joy and simplicity of life as seen through a child’s eyes and their imagination of a whole new life ahead of them. Through the development of a non-profit foundation called Kids With Cameras, sales of the photographs went to fund the children’s future education.
A story of reconciliation and transformation lies before every one of us, no matter the path that life has led us to this point, this moment in history.
It is true: there are so many people struggling in the world right now. Relationships. Finances. Health. Job. Even our very planet is reeling from the impact of our collective fear, pain, and greed. Our human race is living “out of balance,” as the Hopi Elders have warned.
The overwhelming effect of all these struggles and conflict relate back to one key thing that is missing: a connection to God’s divine power of Love and Truth.
It is easy to slip into a mindset of fear, limitation, lack, scarcity, and dis-ease when we lose sight of where we came from and the purpose we were born with to impact our world. But when we focus on God’s divine power of Love and Truth everything begins to fall into place. It may not happen overnight or exactly the way we think it should, but the cogs do begin turning in the right direction.
May we begin this journey of peace—this retreat for inner peace and world peace—by realizing that we may not be able to go back to the beginning and start all over again, but we can choose the words that will write our story from this day forward to the very ending. Let us choose “Love,” “Truth,” and “Gratitude.”
Love & Light!! Namaste!!
Retreat Teaser Article Schedule:
Mon. Apri 10 – Melissa Turner – Photo-Linguistics: Looking Through the Lens of Peace – Do You See What I See?