After 11/9, I was in self-imposed solitary confinement. I felt like America had picked up a gun and shot me through the spirit, lodging a bullet in my soul. I had no idea how to recover. The day after the election, I thought I should go to a beautiful, uplifting place. If it weren’t pouring, I would have retreated to the woods to walk for hours - - perhaps for days.
Instead, I went to my local hospital. Sound strange? My blood pressure was high and I did need to take many deep breaths but I wasn’t sick. I was headed to the Chapel of Light, a non-denominational chapel at the University Medical Center of Princeton(1) where I spent that whole afternoon. I’ll walk with you into the chapel in a moment but first look at the picture of it above.
If, like me, you feel traumatized by the election result, let’s together use that photo to envision light. Soothing words help but light-filled oases (real or envisioned) act as metaphors for a better, healed tomorrow. As Belleruth Naparstek states: "It is a sweet irony that something as gentle and undervalued as imagery can carry so much clout for healing such a miserable tenacious and painful condition as post-traumatic stress.(2)
Are you one of the many of us experiencing Post-Election Stress Disorder(PESD)(3) ? If so, read or, better yet, have someone slowly read this script to you:
Relax, listen to your breathing. Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Breathe deeply in and out. Now, in your mind’s eye, approach the Chapel of Light’s glass doors. Notice how the glass is etched with tiny streaks like teardrops or icy, illuminated rain. Open the door easily, slowly, and walk into the small, round, light-bathed chapel and feel warmed. Imagine that you are in an all-white womb that’s enveloping you. As you tiptoe up to any of your womb-room’s long, white-upholstered benches notice how the floor shimmers in response to your movement and to light.(4)
Take off your shoes. Fold your coat into a pillow and place it carefully at one end of the bench. Lay down there, fetal position, and imagine your head come to rest. Look straight ahead and see a 15-foot-high curtain of gold-colored beads sparkling in front of you like an ephemeral tapestry woven from the threads of life.(5)Imagine that the tapestry is a warm blanket of golden silk. Have someone for whom you long or grieve (now gone) gently swaddle you in that blanket. If you wish, say something to that person. Have them whisper back with love and reassurance. Then only if you want to - - breathe deeply, sigh or weep . . .
When you are ready, imagine looking up and seeing an amorphous, bright, gold circle emerging from the ceiling’s dark recess. Envision that it is your spirit being reborn out of a world of deep darkness. Now turn your head and notice the chapel’s multi-colored tiny windows high up, tinted so that light enters the room, changing its hue throughout the day as the sun crosses the sky. Remind yourself that, from the day you were born until the day you die, the sun WILL cross the sky. Fall asleep envisioning light. Then, when you (and we) are ready, prepare to wake, open your eyes and begin again. (6)
1. Chapel of Light, University Medical Center of Princeton
2. Healing with Imagery: The Brain’s Own Natural Bag of Visual Tricks
3. Post-Election Stress Disorder (PESD)
4.The floor is made of specialized Sensitile Terrazzo floor tiles that shimmer in response to light and movement.
5. The chapel’s curtain of gold-colored and clear beads are encoded to represent the books of the Hebrew bible, the New Testament and the Qur’an.
6. I hereby give permission for all readers to print and display the Chapel of Light photo (above) next to their bedside to ‘envision light’ upon wakening every morning.