February 8, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Learning about the healing power of light

Shirley Vogler MeisterOne day, I mentioned to my sister, Beverley, that the sun had just come out in Indianapolis for the first time in a while.

“How wonderful that is,” I said in my e-mail. “There are practitioners in our Broad Ripple area who use simulated sunlight to help people avoid depression. Wouldn’t it be grand to be able to feel blue then go to one’s lamp and feel better again?”

She responded by telling me that she learned about using light to help alleviate feelings of depression from a “Northern Exposure” TV program.

Now available on DVD, “Northern Exposure” was about the lives of a fictional hamlet called Cicely, Alaska. The TV show was broadcast from 1990-95.

“Alaska has many days of darkness,” Bev added, “so Joel—one of Cicely’s residents—advised someone to wear a light lamp to improve his disposition. I’m sure this is an acceptable practice. … When the sun shines, I open all my shades and curtains and let the sun in, and I feel better.”

Most of us appreciate sunshine and let the daylight into our homes as much as possible during the gray days of winter.

Sometimes when I am busy indoors, I will notice one or both of our cats soaking in the sunshine at a window. Then I open the blinds so they have different areas to enjoy. I also open the front and back doors so they can enjoy the great outdoors through the glass security doors.

Many animals gravitate to sunshine. We should too, although during the summer months protecting ourselves from intense sun rays is imperative.

However, we tend to forget or take for granted the healing powers of sunshine.

Recently, I read through several sources that daylight affects our hormone balance and our brain cells. The acronym SAD (seasonal affective disorder) refers to imbalances of the body and the mind when deprived of natural light. There are other forms of SAD, too.

Several companies manufacture lamps and light bulbs that relieve these symptoms. They can be easily researched on the Internet or through lighting experts.

I have not tried anything because we have enough windows to allow sunshine into our home. However, those living anywhere with minimal sun exposure could benefit from such light treatments. In fact, I wish they could be automatically used in confined or restrictive situations, such as offices, hospitals, schools, care centers and even prisons.

“Light” is a word mentioned countless times in the Bible, with the variations easily checked through a Concordance.

Christians most often refer to God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—as the source of all light, whether in nature or in our hearts and souls through meditation and prayer.

I especially feel that special godly light when at Holy Mass—and my favorite Biblical passage about light is from the beginning of the Gospel of John, which reads in part: “… this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:1-10).

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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