When I first started down the path to health and wellness, I wondered how spirituality fit in. It’s interesting, because for years in the ER, I heard people talking about spirituality.
Here are a few tidbits which are not exact, but as I recall them.
“I guess I am paying for my sins, by getting this disease.”
“God is angry with me.”
“I don’t want any medical treatment, as God will protect me.”
“If I accept medical treatment, will God think I don’t trust him.”
“Why won’t God save me?”
“What have I done to deserve this?”
These are but a few of the most common responses that I have heard over the years. Even after all this time, to talk about them, gives me goosebumps.
When I first started down the path to health and wellness, I was probably most intrigued by spirituality and health. There are so many connections between what we believe and what we become. We are what we believe that we are and we become who we believe we will become.
For many, this is the right to self-determination. It is an American ideal. Americans lifted the regulations of caste, monarchy, and the limits that aristocracy placed on the World and envisioned a new World, where freedom rings and opportunity abounds. This American ideal is the hearts of all of us. It is, however, this spirit of self-determination that has the potential to heal and to hinder.
If we place limits on ourselves, like “I will end up this way, because my parents ended up this way.” Or, “I’m only as good as my genetics,” then we have hinder our personal growth. Self-determinism also has the potential to create a sense of “capped out” or “as good as I can expect.” When we view our Worlds as somewhat fixed or pre-determined whether by God or by biology, such as genetics, we lose our souls.
On the contrary, when we grow in our faith and understand that we are spiritual beings, connected to our God, one another and our Earth, we open the door to possibilities, hope and joy. Oxford dictionary defines spirit as “the nonphysical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.” Most understand that a person’s spirit is more than just lividity, it’s radiance, beyond description that exists in all people. It defines who we are and differentiates us from one another. It also helps us to connect with one another.
A person who is alive, meaning their brain is working, their bodies are physically functioning, but they are truly in a coma, are devoid of their spiritual presence. They have all the capabilities of the body and mind, physically, but there is no spirit. We can create robots and someday will even have robots that will learn and become almost life-like. But, we will never be able to create spirit. We will have a mathematical algorithm that will for all intents and purposes appear very much alive, but spirit is more than just one’s faculties.
Oprah Winfrey has done a tremendous service to the World, by helping people to understand spiritual. During a daylong visit to Stanford University, she delivered “Harry’s Last Lecture on a Meaningful life.”
Kathleen Sullivan, from Stanford News, had an incredible write up from the event highlighting a few of Oprah’s key points.
- “A meaningful life comes from a deep sense of ‘who you are and why you’re here’.”
- “It comes from being in touch with, on a regular basis, the appreciation and the holy gratitude that should fill each of our hearts on a regular basis, just knowing what a privilege it is to be here and to be human.”
- “Nobody does it like you, and understanding that what you have to offer, what you’ve come to give to the planet is your gift, your offerings in a way that nobody else can, and how much that matters. It matters to you. It matters to the people that you love. It matters to our planet that you are here. It’s just a miracle that we get to be here.”
- “I’m not telling you what to believe, or who to believe, or what to call it, but there is no full life, no fulfilled, meaningful sustainably joyful life with a connection to the spirit…”
- “You must have a spiritual practice. What is yours? Well, for some people it is going to church if that’s where they nurture themselves. I believe that creativity, artful expression, prayer, conscious kindness, empathy, consistent compassion, gratitude – all spiritual practices in the way of becoming more of who you are.”
- “Gratitude journaling has become a spiritual practice that leads to a more enhanced and meaningful life, and you can start it today…I guarantee if you did it for a week you would see a difference, because every day-and I’ll do it when I go home – I write down five things that I am grateful for, or that brought me joy or opened my heart space.”
Oprah isn’t the only person who believes in the power of spirituality. The expression of gratitude and kindness towards others isn’t just playing nice and making more friends, it goes well beyond that. Being kind, generous, expressing gratitude, love and forgiveness lead to a more satisfied life and improvements in overall health.
There is some preliminary research that suggests that grateful people may have better sleep, healthier hearts and fewer aches and pains.” “Gratitude can make people happier, improve their relationships, and potentially counteract depression and suicidal thoughts.”
Spirituality is “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”
According to research from Barna.com, “66% of American adults believe that people can be physically healed supernaturally by God.” “Only 19% are strongly skeptical of this capability, while 15% somewhat disagree.”
So, ⅔ of Americans believe that a higher power actually plays a role in healing. This is not insignificant and represents a huge challenge for health care.
How can we, as medical providers and health professionals, seek to heal, when we are either being undermined or at the grace of a higher power that we don’t even discuss with clients or patients?
I am one of the ⅔ of Americans who believe in this higher power to heal. I believe it fervently and am willing to offer proof for how it occurs.
The first proof is the existence of miracles. In my clinical practice of Emergency Medicine of 10 years. I have witnessed many things that I can’t explain. They are not from this World. Supernatural things. Miracles. From people who were doomed to terminal cancer who suddenly no longer have cancer to comatose patients that return to life to everyday when a child takes its first breath without ever having breathed before. These things to me go beyond genetic mapping and coding. They are inexplicable. They can not be accounted for today or any day through medical science alone. If you are not someone who believes in miracles, you are not alone, but the vast majority of Americans do. In fact, 80% of Americans believe in Miracles, according to Pew Forum on Religion. In this study, a miracle was defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as an “extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing or accomplishment.” That doesn’t mention supernatural, but there it is either way, something extremely outstanding. If you still don’t believe in miracles, then check out “Miracles We Have Seen” by Harley Rotbart, MD. This is a book that brings together 83 stories of patients perceived by their physicians to have had a modern miracle. https://aansneurosurgeon.org/departments/miracles-seen-americas-leading-physicians-share-stories-cant-forget/. If you are reading now and struggling with a disease or ailment, I don’t want to give you false hope. But, without hope, what’s the purpose in trying anyway. In fact, without faith and hope what’s the purpose in living. God knows we will all face adversity.
The second proof is Harry Harlow’s experiment with monkeys. We get pretty bombarded with scientific materialism. In fact, this is the case against God. Materialism is the idea that things must be made of mass, must be seen. If we can’t see it, measure it in some form, then it must NOT exist. Thus, God must not exist. Harry Harlow was revolutionary in proving that the attachment between a mother and a child was not JUST about milk. It was widely believed, at the time, that babies become attached to mothers because of the provision of milk. I need, you have. Today, his research is regarded as cruel and inhumane and has no need for replication. BUT, the implication at the time was in contrary to popular belief which was that babies only need milk. Through social isolation, he demonstrated in monkeys that the isolated monkeys changed behaviors; self-mutilating, staring blankly, circling cages, and even died after refusing to eat. In addition, Harlow showed that monkeys couldn’t be tricked into an artificial mother or inanimate mother, they needed the real, living thing. Harlow proved that the relationship between a mother and a child is more than just food, water, nourishment. He proved in the existence of a supernatural force uniting a mother and a child that can NOT be quantified. We can place no measurement on it, but it exists. It is LOVE. It is maternal touch. This force connects all of us with one another. It is a spiritual connection.
When we are detached, devoid of human contact, we suffer increased incidence of disease. Social isolation increases the risk of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses. In fact, poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increase in risk of incident coronary heart disease and 32% increase in risk of stroke. If social isolation leads to death in babies and heart disease in adults, then we have further proof that we need each other, in the form of the intangible. We need love. We need companionship. We need the power of spiritual connections.
Here’s the final proof, at least for this podcast. String Theory. It was first introduced in the 1960s, as a theory of strong nuclear force. It’s defined by Wikipedia as “a theoretical framework in which the point like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings…It describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other.” Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity helps us to understand the space time continuum, as it relates to gravity. This is why people who travel through space may age at different rates that those on the ground. Most of us have seen movies that have made this concept less foreign and more real, especially in light of the possibility of going to Mars recently. Quantum mechanics is used to “describe the physical phenomena using known probability principles.” There are problems that exist between the two, which makes it difficult to understand the universe. String theory “describes how strings propagate through space and interact with each other. In this way all of the different elementary particles may be viewed as vibrating strings.” This theory is fascinating as of course, it indicates that our bodies atoms are then tied to the universe through invisible strings. We are then, in a sense, puppets with strings of the universe. Of course, that doesn’t prove that God holds the strings, but it certainly doesn’t disprove it either.
In the end, we are connected with one another through love, strong string theory. We bear witness to miracles that we can not explain. We yearn for love and affection. Through regular practice of gratitude, love, and kindness, we can open the door to deeper connections with ourselves, one another and the puppet behind the strings, in my mind God. There is no doubt, we all need each other.
We also need a health and wellness plan that understands and attends to this important interconnection. We need a wellness plan that understands that no matter what we eat and no matter how much we exercise, we are no different than Harlow’s Monkeys. We will die without connections with one another. This is why spiritual connections are one of the 5 Pillars of Health at Doctor of Living. You can bet that every single wellness plan created at Doctor of Living will have attention given to your spiritual connections. We care about your nutrition and physical activity, but that’s the easy part. The hard part, is healing your spiritual connections and developing a plan for how to strengthen them.
Follow us on Facebook at fb.com/doctorofliving, @doctorofliving on IG. We are also on LinkedIn. We offer wellness plans for individuals, physician wellness coaching, and business consultations. We are available to you anytime for questions.
Thanks for joining me. Be well!
Signing off, Dr. Jeremy