This week I’ve been installing an exhibit of NC veterans’ photography and writing about their invisible wounds for a project that I created and direct called Invisible Wounds of War. During the first year that I created the exhibit, one of the veterans said to me, “You know, we all have invisible wounds.” Often our wounds, whether physical, emotional, mental, moral or spiritual, remain hidden from view. Many of us decide not to talk about them for fear of being misunderstood, judged or treated differently. We may go to a lot of effort to try to hide them, which often only serves to increase feelings of shame. Because the mind judges our internal pain as unpleasant, we may become invested in turning away or trying to escape the pain, when what is called for is turning toward it. Working on this project again this year has reminded me again of the power of mindfulness, writing and photography to support the healing of invisible wounds. When one person shares their story, it often inspires another to investigate their own invisible wounds and begin to heal them. It is human nature to feel that we are the alone in our struggle, yet by the very nature of being human, we are all struggling with something. Sometimes we stand in the same room with someone with the very same struggle and never realize it, because it goes unspoken. We can use mindfulness practice to begin to turn toward our inner pain with kindness and compassion. Just as an external injury to the body needs care and attention, so does our internal pain. With sustained effort in our mindfulness practice, we can learn how to skillfully turn toward the pain, allow the feelings to rise, crest and fall like a wave, and give the pain the kind and compassionate care that is required for healing. We can also turn toward our wounds to facilitate healing through writing and photography. What one step can you take this week to begin to turn toward your own invisible wounds with kindness and compassion and begin to heal them?
The only way we have of influencing the future is to own the present, however we find it. –Jon Kabat-Zinn
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION:
“Healing Bodies & Souls through Writing and Photography”
PainPathways Magazine Fall 2016.