Monday, December 3, 2012

Spiritual Mindfulness - A Healing Consciousness

Interest about the place of mindfulness in health studies has grown over the past 30 years with much of the research finding that mental and physical health is related to mind. The often studied placebo effect illustrates that health outcomes improve significantly when the patient believes medication has been administered, when no medication has. The effect of mind on health is continually evidenced in medical research. It is an evolving form of caring for health worth watching.

Mindfulness as thought of in modern psychology typically involves three components:

  • Being in complete attention or awareness
  • Being in the present moment
  • Being nonjudgmental and without elaboration or biased interpretation

The idea of mindfulness is to allow one’s thought and consciousness to be free of limitations imposed by educational and social boundaries. It is to be aware of what is presenting itself for consideration such that intelligence is active rather than suppressed or dormant. Perception, conclusion and action can then result from intelligence rather than bias.

For example, centuries ago authorities ‘mindlessly’ rejected the mindful presentation that the earth is a sphere circling the sun rather than the belief that the sun passes over the earth. Sure enough, we see a flat world if we look over a prairie or a large body of water. So, the conclusion that the world is flat has viable, visible evidence. Yet, the higher evidence of the earth as a sphere circling the sun opened a boundary that allowed further discovery. More importantly, the opening of that boundary teaches the vital point that there is always more to understand about infinity.

Foundational work on the topic of mindfulness has been done by Ellen Langer, professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of multiple books and articles including: “Mindfulness,” (A Merloyd Lawrence Book; Perseus, 1989.) In it she translates for general audiences much of her scholarly, award winning research.

Dr. Langer points to some practices which stand in the way of a mindful response:

  • repeating what was done in the past
  • considering the situation at hand similar to others that have been handled
  • limiting thought through belief of limited resources and time
  • not recognizing influence of context

She recognizes that health is one of the areas in which mindful approaches would benefit mankind.

Langer discovered during various experiments that elderly residents of nursing homes had improved health and longevity through increased liveliness, awareness and control of their circumstances. In one experiment, certain residents were given a plant to care for and this group showed definite improvement compared to those who were not given a plant.

An active, caring mind made a positive difference.

Langer also became aware that mind rather than physiology is at work when a placebo brings about a positive result. She writes on page 190 of her book, Mindfulness; “Placebo effects are real and powerful. Who is doing the healing when one takes a placebo? Why can’t we just say to our minds, ‘repair this ailing body?’ Why must we fool our minds in order to enlist our own powers of self-healing?”

Again, mind rather than a pill makes a happy difference.

Such discoveries continue to generate research on understanding how mind heals where attention to a material body was previously the general focus of medical research. The exploration has brought together academics and spiritual thinkers and a closer look at both eastern and western traditions.

My interest in spiritual mindfulness stems from personal experience with spiritual healing. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control shows that almost half of Americans pray for healing and I am one of them. Researchers of the role of the mind in health and the role of spirituality in healthcare like influential advocates Dr.’s Larry Dossey and Herbert Benson are finding that those who engage in spiritual activities have better health results than those who do not. Spirituality and prayer can be a powerful form of mindfulness.

Consider these questions: What role does active spiritual thought have in bringing about health? Does it have real power?

In other words, if mindfulness can bring about improvement in health, is there a mindful awareness of spiritual power that brings to bear a factor beyond the brain, physiology or biology?

For example, The Holy Bible provides readers with these statements:

“I am the Lord that healeth thee.” (Exodus 15:26)
“I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord;” (Jeremiah 30:17)

These powerful affirmations are then illustrated by the healings of various prophets and followers of the Word. Christ Jesus and his students encouraged yielding to a divine power that heals and saves us from limitations in the ever present Now.

My eyesight was corrected by mindful attention to spiritual intelligence. I had worn eyeglasses for over 40 years and required fairly heavy bifocals for reading and driving. After losing my glasses at one point, I obtained a new prescription for trifocals and a statement from the physician saying that my eyesight would continue to decline. It sounded like a sentence, and I knew the sentence did not come from God. I chose to break free from limiting thoughts about the future of my eyesight.

A statement, “There is more Christianity in seeing and hearing spiritually than materially,” awakened my understanding that spiritual power is real and available to heal. Over the next weeks, I began to find that I could remove my glasses frequently for my daily work. Several months later I took the eye exam to renew my drivers’ license and passed without glasses. I have not needed aid for seeing in any way since then.

The statement comes from a book written by spiritual teacher and healer Mary Baker Eddy titled, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This work has renewed my interest in the teachings of the Bible and shown me a kind of mindfulness that merges Dr. Langer’s findings with spiritual presence.

As Dr. Langer’s work shows, awareness of the resources and truths around us as contrasted with mere acceptance of unhappy or unhealthy circumstances can change not only our outlook, but also our experience. How high can we look for those truths? The possibilities are infinite.

Blog author, George Gregory, loves to talk with others about the power of spiritual consciousness in healing.  He is a Christian Science practitioner and represents Christian Science with the media and legislature in Iowa.

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