Narratives of Spirituality

Narratives of Spirituality

Jennifer Lynne Bird (Oxbridge Academy, USA) and Eric T. Wanner (Palm Beach Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 39
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1931-8.ch001
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How does spirituality inform narratives? Some readers may view the experiences survived by the authors as a series of random coincidences, but because religion plays a large role in the lives of both authors, they believe that their experiences happened for a reason. They are not trying to convert you to a certain religion but simply want to show the power religion can have. It is recommended to take out all prejudgments on this issue and read the chapter as is. After that, take out of it what you wish. When the authors conducted a research study, they discovered potentially groundbreaking implications for the fields of patient education and health education. The official narrative of the research follows the research project from the initial idea to the final statistical analysis. The unofficial narrative of the research illustrates all the moments that cannot be captured in a statistical table as the authors answer questions, share stories, and provide information of what they learned.
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Strength From Spirituality

This chapter symbolizes the strength of spirituality and what it can do from the perspective of two people who had near death experiences and life changing events. People might refer to a situation like this as a “Godwink” since they happened to collaborate in this writing. These are each very unique situations and the authors prepare you to ride first class in their experiences.

Godwinks are coincidences that symbolize signposts from God showing people the right path. Rushnell (2012) defines a Godwink as, “your destiny will not arrive in a limo to pick you up. Determining where you want to go in life is your job. And once you do – once you pull yourself from the curb and head in whatever direction your inner compass is telling you to head – the signposts will unfold…godwinks, all along the way. That’s a promise” (p. 73). Godwinks enable people to see patterns in their lives. Godwinks can also provide hope for people unsure where the path of life may lead next or why certain things happen. Hale (2014) believes, “call it synchronicity or fate or, as I call it, divine order; every moment of your life pushes you toward your greater calling” (p. 12). In a moment we may not know why something happens, but the reason why it happened becomes clear later.

Life can feel stressful and chaotic at times, and Godwinks bring order to the chaos. As Heard (1995) writes, “synchronicity draws recognizable patterns on a sometimes chaotic universe. Writers need to pay attention to these synchronistic moments and events” (p. 104). These Godwink moments provide faith that the puzzle pieces of life will eventually fit together, maybe not in the current moment, but someday soon. Zimmermann (2002) reminds us to trust the journey because “the stars have lined up, and we had nothing to do with it. Some call it grace; some call it synchronicity; some call it serendipity; some call it a connection with the divine; some call it coincidence; some call it luck. If we stay open to life, unexpected gifts begin to appear” (p. 160). Sometimes we don’t know why things happen. We don’t get something we want, or a prayer goes unanswered. But looking back and mapping the Godwinks of an experience can show that perhaps not getting the thing we originally wanted led to something better down the road. Or as Hale (2013) powerfully states, “on the journey of life, sometimes it takes losing our way to find ourselves” (p. 177).

And sometimes losing our way can help us find our greater purpose in life. As Warren (2012) believes, “you will be most effective when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart’s desire, and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences. The better the fit, the more successful you will be” (p. 246). He elaborates, “this custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:

  • Spiritual gifts

  • Heart

  • Abilities

  • Personality

  • Experience” (p. 234).

For both of us as the authors of this chapter, we have used the SHAPE theory to inform our practice of research and writing. We find strength in spirituality and possess a passion for research. Eric’s abilities as a physical therapist and Jen’s abilities as a college English professor enabled us to learn from each other as we designed unique interdisciplinary research. We have the common personality trait of compassion for people, as Eric has made a positive difference in the lives of his patients just as Jen has made a positive difference in the lives of her students. And our individual life experiences led us to see research as part of a greater life’s purpose.

Because we as the authors advocate the sharing of stories, we each share a story of how following the advice we share in this chapter helped us. Both of us have strong religious beliefs, and by telling our stories from a spiritual perspective we do not tell anyone else what to believe. Because research and writing feels like a larger purpose instead of just work, it translates into appreciating the moments when the puzzle pieces of ideas click into place to form projects that will help people. As part of our research we asked physical therapy patients and college students to write their stories, so we need to feel willing to write ours. Both of us survived incredible ordeals and our paths crossed so we could share our knowledge and help others.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Godwink: A moment where synchronicity occurs in the form of a coincidence; instead of being interpreted as a coincidence, the event is perceived as a message from God.

Thinking Like a Turtle: This philosophy means taking on one task at a time, which can lead to less stress.

Physical Therapy Outcome Measures: Tests used by physical therapists to measure the progress a patient makes, such as such as the DASH (Disabilities of the Arm Shoulder Hand), LEFS (Lower Extremity Functional Scale), NDI (Neck Disability Index), and Modified Oswestry (for back pain). Physical therapists choose which outcome measure to use based on the body part where the patient experiences pain.

Narrative Medicine: The field of medicine, used by programs such as the ones at Duke University and Columbia University, which encourages medical practitioners to use theories from the fields of literature and composition to enhance comprehension of the stories patients share.

Journal Writing: The process of a person responding to prompts and writing about his or her thoughts and feelings. While journal writing is typically associated with writing classrooms, writing teachers including Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, and Donald Murray advocate that journal writing can be done by anyone, anywhere. Journal writing can be adapted to create pain journals, where patients record the level of pain felt and the actions which caused the pain. Pain journals can subsequently be shared with medical professionals to enhance the healing process. Students in an English classroom, patients in a physical therapy clinic, and readers of this chapter in their living rooms can pick up a pen, paper, and just write.

Neck Pain Journal: Jen created a journal of what she was doing when her neck felt pain. Eric read the journal and adjusted Jen’s treatment plan to make her neck feel better.

Multigenre Writing: Discussed in the field of education by Tom Romano, a multigenre paper consists of two parts: creative writing in multiple genres and the writer’s analysis of the genres.

Writing Voice: Voice in writing describes how a writer uses word choice and tone to compose a journal entry or other written composition that reflects the personality of the writer. Just like each person has a unique speaking voice, each writer has a unique writing voice.

Spirituality: Regardless of religion, spirituality and a belief in a higher power can lead to increased health and provide both hope and strength for patients.

Wanner-Bird Healing Survey for Pain Recovery: An original survey designed by Dr. Eric Wanner and Dr. Jennifer Bird. This survey features both numerical subjective questions, where patients are asked to respond to statements by circling a number from 1-5, and written subjective questions that score patients’ written responses on a rubric with a score of 1, 3, or 5. The rubric incorporates both the technical and artistic dimensions of writing.

Artistic and Technical Writing: Artistic writing focuses on the writer’s tone of word choice, also known as voice, while technical writing focuses on the writer’s specificity of word choice. English teachers design rubrics that incorporate both artistic and technical writing.

Multigenre Healing Project: Jen and Eric designed a multigenre project where Jen wrote about her neck pain and Eric provided the end notes analysis. This different perspective on multigenre projects connects the fields of education and medicine and leads to greater patient awareness.

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