Neuroplasticity and Spiritual Development

I recently read an article entitled “How To Draw Better.”  A few salient points made by the author, Jesse Miller, strike me as pertinent to spiritual development as well:

“Simply put, neuroplasticity means that our brains change their shape and structure as we learn new skills and information.

A scientific study into the development of drawing skills in students found that the best learners used a ‘strategic’ approach to learning. These students identified their weaknesses, and found tried-and-tested methods to practice and improve them. They also tracked the progress of their skills, and updated their practice methods accordingly.

Research has shown that the development of motor skills requires periods of rest between practices, when our brains can gather together and act on the information. Therefore it’s best to do this exercise little and often – practice it just once a day for as long as you can.

But recent studies into the neuroscience of creativity have found that looking at the works of others may indeed be essential to cultivating a creative mind.”

Surely, the soul, like the brain, is neuroplastic..or are the soul and brain one and the same?  In any case, the soul is constantly adapting.  Its development depends on spiritual practices.  It does not grow and thrive on prayer alone.

The soul needs quiet and solitude to create the environment in which the Spirit can work.

A person who desires to live deeply into her/his spiritual life would do well to delve into the writings of the mystics in diverse traditions and pull out spiritual practices that fit with their lifestyles and belief systems.

Learning to draw is similar to spiritual development. If you are intent on learning either skill you will both enjoy and benefit from reading this article:


Quilts: “Women Were Buried but Their Clothing Wore on”




Looking at Quilts
by Marge Piercy

Who decided what is useful in its beauty
means less than what has no function besides beauty
(except its weight in money)?
Art without frames:  it held parched corn,
it covered the table where soup misted savor,
it covered the bed where the body knit
to self and other and the
dark wool of dreams.

The love of the ordinary blazes out:  the backyard
miracle:  Ohio Sunflower,
Snail’s Track,
Sweet Gum Leaf,
Moon over the Mountain.

In the pattern Tulip and Peony the sense
of design masters the essence of what sprawled
in the afternoon:  called conventionalized
to render out the choice, the graphic wit.

Some have a wistful faded posy yearning:
Star of the Four Winds,
Star of the West,
Queen Charlotte’s Crown.
In a crabbed humor as far from pompous
as a rolling pin, you can trace wrinkles
from smiling under a scorching grasshopper sun:
Monkey Wrench,
The Path,
Fool’s Puzzle,
Puss in the Corner,
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul,
and the deflating
Hearts and Gizzards.

Pieced quilts, patchwork from best gowns,
winter woolens, linens, blankets, worked jigsaw
of the memories of braided lives, precious
scraps:  women were buried but their clothing wore on.

Out of death by childbirth at sixteen, hard
work at forty, out of love for the trumpet vine
and the melon, they issue to us:
Rocky road to Kansas,
Job’s Troubles,
Crazy Ann,
The Double Irish Chain,
The Tree of Life:
this quilt might be
the only perfect artifact a woman
would ever see, yet she did not doubt
what we had forgotten, that out of her
potatoes and colie, sawdust and blood
she could create; together, alone,
she seized her time and made new.

My Mennonite friends are modern women who powerfully engage the society in which they live.  The quilts they create reflect their deep spirituality in a contemporary context.  I invite you to feast your eyes and souls on their creations at:

I am a neophyte to quilting; nevertheless, I recognize the thread of spirituality that stitches together the stories of each piece, the thread of relationships to God, self, and others.  My friends’ quilts are infused with grace and stitched with a stunning love that quickens our souls and sustains us.  It has been my deep pleasure to witness them in the midst of this act of love.

If you wish to go beyond these humble insights from a non-quilter, feast on the experience of master quilters in this book:

with sacred threads bookcover 

photo credit: <a href=””>qusic</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

“Blessing For Artists At The Start Of The Day” From John O’Donohue

Good Morning Writers

May morning be astir with
the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the
eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some
unintended glimpse
That cut right through the
surface to a source.

May this be a morning of
innocent beginning,
When the gift within you
slips clear
Of the sticky web of the
With its hurt and its
And fixed fortress corners,

A morning when you become
a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend
from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved.

Until the veil of the unknown
And something original

To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

♣ John O’Donohue in To Bless The Space Between Us