Did you know that the words whole, health, healing and holy all share the same Old English origin? This word history is revealing. It suggests that our understanding of the interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit and how this relates to our health and even our holiness is not a modern phenomenon.
With the extraordinary advances in microbiology, genetics, and technology of the last century, conventional medicine began to undervalue the role of the psyche and the mind in disease or symptom causation. Now research and public interest are moving back towards these powerful mind-body-spirit connections and an integrated approach. We can see the detrimental effects of stress, loneliness or anger on health and well being. We seek relief.
Let us take the example of stress, so rampant in our current society. This fall at my church, I led a workshop on the Science, Psychology and Spirituality of Stress. We discussed three points: 1. Stress is an “inside job.” Stressors in our environment do not create the same stress in each of us. Our minds automatically and instantly evaluate each stressor based on our individual life experiences, beliefs, thinking and the influence of our unconscious selves. Fortunately, we can learn to be more conscious of this process and thereby lessen the stress response in our bodies. 2. The Body Keeps Score is the title of a recent book that best summarizes my second point. Often we are not aware that we are stressed, but our bodies register the stress. This can present itself either as symptoms (such as chronic headaches, pain, or gastrointestinal disturbances) or as chronic illness. Again, we can learn to be more aware of our bodies and to listen or feel for these physical manifestations of stress. It is our bodies' way of "telling" us we need to make some changes in our lifestyle. 3. God can help us help ourselves. I described two types of prayer: an on-the-go type of prayer to help us stay in the moment, and Centering Prayer, a Christian meditative prayer practice.
As you probably noticed, this brief summary about stress doesn’t include specific recommendations or steps you can take to manage your stress. But my hope is that it has spurred you to learn more about mind-body-spirit interactions. Try a new step to move towards serenity, health and God. See the SUGGESTIONS below for ideas on how to start.
1. Read any of the books listed on my Resource list.
2. Start praying more. Make a personal commitment to pray daily for a specific number of minutes at a specific time of day. If you think your mind is constantly in overdrive, either lamenting the past or worrying abut the future, maybe you should consider a quiet, receptive type of prayer. Read about Centering Prayer and give it a try. I have written about other prayer styles in prior Blogs (1, 2).
3. Reflect on the concept of body awareness. This is foreign to many of us. Consider learning how to do a “body scan,” which is a relaxing practice wherein you sequentially focus awareness on one body part at a time. Click here for one example of many that are available online.
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God bless each of you.