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Friday, August 1, 2014

"Finding Spiritual Whitespace" (Bonnie Gray)

TITLE: Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest
AUTHOR: Bonnie Gray
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2014, (272 pages).

We are all busy. We all have our own things to do. Packed calenders, filled schedules, you name it, we are all stretched to maximize all of our time and to minimize wastage. We have become so proficient in filling up all of our spaces but often paying a heavy price: We do not know how to rest. As Sabbath beckons each week, sometimes, we wonder whether we are able to find a place and means to rest. We need help. we need a way to recuperate from the madness of busyness. In the words of Bonnie Gray, we need to find "spiritual whitespace" which is her way of saying "we need to find a place to rest."

Bonnie Gray has personally heard stories and experienced her own trauma about needing to find spaces to rest when the demands are high and the energy levels are low. With a constant drive to get things done, she allowed the demands of work to dominate, resulting in severe post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Rather than a book that talks about rest from an expert, this book is about one person's journey of recovery from PTSD to restfulness. It comes out of a deep search for newer places of rest. It invites readers to come alongside and share the search process. It is a spiritual journey that breaks new ground for the author and hopefully for readers. More importantly, it reminds us that just because there is a blank space or empty schedule does not mean we need to straightaway fill it up. Some things are meant to be cherished as blank spaces so that it can spur creativity and beauty, not cluttering with work or accumulating stuff. Five "whitespaces" of rest are described.

Firstly, rest is a choice. In getting to spiritual whitespaces, Gray learns it first-hand what it means to be "nothing special" when family sees members' worth based on what they can do rather than who they are. Growing up in such a culture, Gray becomes more appreciative of the need for extravagant whitespaces that are beautiful in themselves. The world is so busy that one has to make a deliberate choice to let spaces be what they are. In doing so, we can find a place to unwind, to heal, and more importantly, to be ourselves and to confide with God. Choices include what people to be with, which places to go, what activities or interests to participate, what things to do, and things that stir our senses such as color, food, music, nature, etc.

Secondly, rest is freedom. It is a freedom to simply rest and relax in God without feeling guilty about it. Gray suggests "five movements" in order to create "white spaces of self-care" and to deal with insomnia both physical as well as mental.
  1. Be kind to our physical bodies
  2. Eat healthily with pleasure
  3. Enjoy being among friends
  4. Name our stresses
  5. Share our stories
Learn how to let go of clutter by releasing the past and embracing the future. While many things have happened in history, let us not forget about the potential of the brave new future. This can happen best if we are aware of the needed rest at present. Gray includes some practical tips about decluttering to help us let go so that we can move forward.  One of them includes moving the bookcase of books out of her bedroom so that more whitespaces can be created. Even eating can be a source of whitespaces. Learn to eat slowly. Learn to instill meaningful conversations over dinner without rushing. Other tips include taking and making phone calls to friends.

Thirdly, rest is intimacy as it gives us room to recognize what is more important. Like taking a walk to enjoy nature, to appreciate our walking buddies, to acknowledge the presence of God and people around us. One discipline is to "walk through your day" in which we can simply close our eyes and picture events and scenes before us through the day. Let that bring about prayers, feelings, thoughts, and many more.

Fourth, rest is a living journey with opportunities to build relationships. With adequate spaces, we can learn to listen to deeper stories of people. We can notice God's work in us and in our friends. We can notice God's story in us. We can discover God's amazing grace as we who are lost are found in God.

Finally, rest is an awakening in which we are challenged to put back rest in our busy lives. Any work of art is not a cluttered mess of details. It needs whitespaces in order to make the details meaningful and visible. It is a powerful antidote against stress and emotional trauma.  The world is already too noisy and busy. There is no need for us to add on to it. What the world needs is more quietness, more restfulness, and more "whitespaces."

So What?

This book is a reminder that whitespaces are essential parts of any book, any home, any office, any cupboard, any conceivable place we can think of. A page of words are meaningless without spaces and paragraphs to make the stories clear and comprehensible. A chapter is more enjoyable if it has adequate spaces (double space) and periodic paragraphs to separate two thoughts. A bookcase is more pleasing if there is a space that separates books of different genres. An office that is not cluttered with things make it more pleasurable to work in. A home that is clean and clear not only gives the occupants room to roam about, it makes the house looks more spacious. Sometimes, when we buy a car, spaciousness is an important consideration. Who wants to buy too small a car that one cannot accommodate enough people in it?

Indeed, Gray has reminded us the critical place of whitespaces in our lives, both physically. emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. While the idea for the book is a simple one, the problem with many people in society is that it has become taken for granted that we totally disregard the importance of rest. I agree with Gray that rest is very much a choice. When we have become way too busy for our own good, we have become slaves to the idol of activism, even the act of doing good works. Without enough sleep and rest, our immunity decreases. Our social skills deteriorates. Our attentiveness drops. The solution to the world's anxieties is not pills and skills, but a simple will toward being still at regular moments of our lives. If you want to begin to notice and to create whitespaces, perhaps begin with this book. It is not only cheaper than therapies and pharmaceutical products, it is a lot more natural and pleasurable. Make space for this book in your bookcase.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Revell Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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