Spirituality and Religion

Spirituality and Religion

Spirituality and Religion
How does spiritual or religious beliefs affect one's overall wellness? Religious or spiritual beliefs can lend meaning to one's life and aid in recovery from illnesses, grief and depression. Drawing on prayer, meditation, nature or spiritual texts can increase one's religious or spiritual health.

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    Illness often causes people to question their spirituality. A common feeling in these moments is some level of disillusionment and betrayal. Giving voice to these feelings of outrage may be helpful, but you may find it difficult to find someone who is able to hear your anger without trying to talk you out of it. Your pain may frighten them, and they may shush you, tell you there’s a plan to the world that we cannot ever understand.

    They may be right, but their reactions may not be helpful to you in the moment. A professional healthcare chaplain or another trusted counselor can be a useful confidant in times like this: chaplains understand the position of faith from which you have begun, and are prepared to bear witness to your anger. They will not try to dissuade you from feeling your feelings, but they will accompany you through them.

    While some find the experience of spiritual distress disorienting, and cause to doubt that there is any goodness in the world, you may find yourself experiencing the exact opposite things.

    Amazingly, even if you never described yourself as particularly religious -- even if you never once considered the presence or absence or temperament of God -- you may find yourself thinking thoughts about God pretty frequently these days.

    Perhaps this experience is, for you, definitive proof of the nonexistence of God. Perhaps it is just as definitive proof of God’s existence and benevolence. Perhaps, however, this experience raises more questions than answers. Perhaps you’re furious at God and wondering if you are even allowed to be furious at God.

    If you are a member of a particular faith community, you may find a conversation with your religious leader to be helpful during this time. He or she can help you understand exactly what your tradition teaches about how one should deal with anger towards God.
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    Spiritual well-being affects overall quality of life, which includes the following areas:
    • physical well-being: functional ability, strength/fatigue, sleep/rest, overall physical health, nausea, appetite, constipation, and aches and pains
    • social well-being: family distress, roles/relationships, affection/sexual function, appearance, employment, isolation and finances
    • psychological well-being: control, anxiety, enjoyment/leisure, pain distress, happiness, fear, and cognition/attention
    • spiritual well-being: meaning of illness, uncertainty, hope, religiosity, transcendence, and positive change

    Spirituality is that part of yourself that helps you find meaning, connectedness and purpose in your life. It can include the practice of a philosophy, religion, or way of living. During difficult times, people often look for meaning and connectedness in the greater scheme of things to help them understand and cope with their experience. Serious illness can be one of those times.
     
    Research shows that spirituality is related to better health outcomes. Spirituality seems to help people cope with illness, suffering and death. Spirituality also influences end-of-life decisions. All people, with or without a connection to organized religion or any spiritual practices, seem to benefit from finding their own sense of meaning, purpose and connectedness.
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    A , Health Education, answered

    For some it's ecstatic; others find it a deep source of comfort through periods of intense suffering. For me, it's an ongoing dialogue in my head, which is both verbal and directly intuitive. I derive a real sense of connection from the conversation, but I can never be absolutely sure I'm not just talking to myself. For you, I'm sure the relationship is entirely different. Maybe God's companionship is something you experience only once in a while. It could be as subtle as seeing a glimmer of divinity in your child's smile or hearing God's whisper in the gentle song of the mourning dove. Or, it may be as overt as having a date night with God by watching a particularly charismatic minister on television. Whatever your experience ends up looking like, know that it is intensely personal and absolutely unique. You and God are one of a kind.

    In many ways, your relationship with God is similar to your relationships with people. Ideally they're all built on intimacy, trust, understanding, and love. One thing to remember is that you are a crucial part of the team. God loves you no matter what, but for you to experience that love fully, you need to participate. Do you invite God into your life? Do you do so only when you want something you can't get for yourself? Also, what do you bring to the table? Are you honest, receptive, and generous in the relationship? Are you committed to union? Relationships grow through the participants' spending time together.

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    A , Health Education, answered

    Religious beliefs may be chosen but spirituality is inherent in everyone and everything naturally. It originates in the source of our creation and manifests through the miracle of life; acts of great compassion and altruism; marvelous creative expression; and an appreciation and gratitude for beauty and honor.

    True, some may portend to disregard spirituality such that they may proclaim not to "choose" it; but our sense of spirituality---of the desire to belong in the Universe---is preprogramed within each one of us. It is what enables us to love, to laugh, to sacrifice, and to persevere under extraordinary circumstances.

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    A , Alternative & Complementary Medicine, answered
    Do we have proof that God is exerting an influence toward good? No one can convince another person that good will triumph over evil. The reality is that humans grow through experience. When the sinner grows tired of doing wrong, he tries on the experience of doing good, and in time a saint is born.

    The poet Rumi, to whom I return season after season, wrote, "I live on the lip of insanity, knocking at the door, searching for reasons. / The door opens. / I have been knocking from the inside." It may sound strange, but evil becomes much less threatening when you stop seeing it outside in "them" and go inside yourself. There really isn't a "them," there is only "us," the spirits who delight in our freedom to do and feel anything, from the most sublime acts to the most atrocious. Jesus and Buddha didn't walk around teaching, "Become as good as I am." They looked into the common condition of humanity and became it. Total empathy led to total compassion. The empathy grew from tearing down the walls that the ego has built. The compassion grew from the inrushing of feelings that couldn't be denied. "Ah, so I really am you" is the revelation that every saint has in common.
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    A , Alternative & Complementary Medicine, answered
    In India it has been taught for centuries that the soul has two faces. One face is turned toward God and knows itself as being made of the same holy essence. The other face is turned toward creation, and although it knows itself as divine, it can experience birth and death. The eternal face is Atman; the face that accepts birth is Jiva.

    Although they are both aspects of your soul, without Jiva you would never have left God and eternity to enter your body. Without Atman you would never know that something sacred lies behind the mask of the material world. I often marvel at the ingenuity of grace, which contains infinity in the finite, bliss inside pain, clarity despite the fog, love despite conflict. This is God's magic act, to make us so that we will be both born and undying.

    Affirm today that you have seen through the illusion. The magic has entertained you enormously, but now you've seen how the trick works. In the end, once Jiva has gained every drop of spirit that the world has to offer, the division is no more. Jiva merges into Atman. The soul has only one face, again and forever.
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    A , Alternative & Complementary Medicine, answered

    Here’s a quick exercise that demonstrates why we need to give back for receiving this gift of prana:

    Take a reasonably deep breath, about half your lung capacity, and hold it. Without exhaling, breathe in again and hold it. While still holding your breath, inhale again to your full capacity and hold it. What would happen if you didn’t exhale? Eventually, you’re forced to exhale. You have to, or you’d be very uncomfortable.

    Just as you can’t continually breathe in without breathing out, you can’t draw in and utilize this gift of spiritual energy without giving something back, in some form of service. The prana builds up in your energy body and creates congestion; you become uncomfortable. It is an abundant universe, and you are free to learn how to draw in and use prana for your own personal health and spiritual development. But as you use and accumulate it and learn more about it - which is to say, as you develop spiritually - you take on a responsibility to pass it along in the form of service, good works, and regular practice of positive virtues.

    Here is an example. There are two basic ways to lift weights. Bodybuilders engage in a routine that focuses on building specific muscle groups in order to look good. They lift lower-than-maximum weights at a slow or measured pace with many repetitions to build that lean bodybuilder look. This routine doesn’t necessarily translate into high performance in athletics, but bodybuilders are judged not on what they do but how they look.

    Powerlifters and athletes in training for specific sports, on the other hand, perform weight-lifting routines designed to build up what they call functional strength. Their workouts are designed to help them perform their athletic movements better. For example, football linemen lift very heavy weights in short, explosive movements with few repetitions. These exercises build the specific muscle groups they use in their competitive endeavors, and they mimic the movements used on the football field. Powerlifters and football players are judged not on how they look but on what they do, how they perform.

    In accumulating prana, you are building “spiritual muscles.” You can use them solely for your own benefit, to “look good.” Or, you can use them to develop spiritual “functional strength,” which helps you perform service and good works, which ultimately return to you.

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    A , Alternative & Complementary Medicine, answered
    Let others see you as you truly are. At many points on the spiritual path you will feel exalted and holy. You will know without a doubt that spirit is in you. But showing this to others is difficult. Should you behave like a saint? Should you wait until your family notices that a holy person is sitting at the dinner table? Goodness is shown through good works, but spirit is transmitted through love. Without expecting anything from anyone, find a way to express the exaltation that you feel inside.

    God and Spirit, show your love through me.
    This is all I want or have ever wanted. Make a secret pact with me.
    Let someone in my life feel your touch
    As I feel it myself:
    Intimate, tender, joyful, and healing.
    When this happens, don't let them see me,
    But only you.
    No one needs to know that I am in you and you in me.
    We'll keep our secret until eternity.
    Amen.
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    Spiritual distress is an outcome of spiritual struggle, which is defined as having high spiritual needs and low spiritual resources with which to address those needs. Spiritual distress occurs when a person is experiencing the following:
    • struggling with such issues as the meaning of life, death, or their belief system
    • feeling angry towards God, a higher power, or the universe
    • dealing with questions about pain and suffering 
    • feeling as though one is being punished by or abandoned in the midst of their illness or pain

    Spiritual distress may come from not being able to participate in spiritual or religious activities that have been important to you. You may not feel comfortable with the changes that your chronic pain has brought to your life.

    Chronic pain is an experience not just of your body but also your mind and spirit; the three work together. By focusing on all three areas you will be able to find the best ways to manage your pain.

    If you are experiencing spiritual distress, remember that it can be an absolutely normal feeling for someone who is living with chronic pain. It is important that you find support and resources that will help you to manage and reduce your distress. If you have a spiritual or religious leader, he or she might be the person you feel most comfortable with in discussing these feelings.
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    A , Health Education, answered

    Finding a spiritual community is important for some in order to feel spiritually connected to others who share a common goal or mission. It may be within this bond that some find acceptance, comfort, or unconditional love. Enacting spiritual rituals with a group or community may offer self-discipline and focus as well as heighten the spiritual experience when the energy levels generated compensate for one another. Still others may find solace, healing, and kinship within a spiritual community. Some people have discovered a true purpose or clarity of their own identity for belonging to a spiritual community.

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