Yes, fans, it's Q & A time again. This time I'm answering a bunch of huge, existential questions and if I really had all the answers I could start my own church or perhaps people would start thinking I'm the Messiah. Which I'm not.
How can spirituality impact healing and recovery? Are there any studies about this?
First let’s define spirituality. In my book it’s a felt connection to something Beyond, to something Higher that transcends our individual little selves. I think it also means how we view life, where we find meaning, what we believe about pain in life, what we believe happens when we die. These are spiritual questions and different religions have different answers.
Our answers to these spiritual questions greatly impact our healing and recovery. If we believe that life should be daily candy and unicorns then we’re going to be pretty pissed when we get a flat tire—or a cancer diagnosis.
But if we believe that everyone gets some sewage thrown their way and that it’s up to each of us to find meaning in it then we’re going to have an entirely different life experience.
And yes, there are many studies out there and all you have to do is Google “spirituality and healing” and then settle in with enough food and water for a year because that’s how long it will take you to read through them all. Studies are criticized because the bottom line for many science peeps is that human consciousness is derived from the brain, and that its effects are confined to the brain and body of an individual. So forget about prayer because anything you do can’t affect me. But studies show prayer makes a difference.
They are basically saying, “It’s not possible so why study it?” A little close-minded, don’t you think?
I don’t practice any organized religion right now, but I’m feeling the need for a spiritual element in my life. How do I go about finding out what is right for me? There are so many practices out there, I’m not sure where to start.
A good place to start is looking at the spiritual beliefs with which you were raised and asking yourself where are you with those beliefs now. You may be surprised to find that your beliefs have changed or even more surprised to find that they are the same. If you haven’t been raised with any beliefs, then what resonates with you? Ask yourself the aforementioned questions:
How do I view life? What do I think about pain and difficulty in life? What do I think happens when I die? Where do I find meaning in my life? What do I need to nurture my spiritual life? A supportive community? Spiritual direction? Solitude?
Don’t under estimate the value of a supportive community—a church, a sangha, a temple community. We love to think that organized religion is a bunch of mindless drones who all believe the same thing. Ha! Wouldn’t that be so much easier? In fact, my experience is that it is a group of people who are actively exploring their spiritual beliefs and seeking to live them out with support from one another. And it’s not that organized.
More questions next time!