Many of us have lives filled with commitments and long to-do lists, leaving barely enough time to pause and reflect on the present or recent past. Our minds are consumed with the day’s to-do list instead of the moment’s space and value. As we burn through the hours of the day, we sometimes experience comfort in checking off the day’s achievements, for example, exercise, meditation, or healthy food choices. We may be pleased about getting seven to eight hours of sleep the night before. But despite the contentment from some things going well, we may still experience discomfort, despair, or anxiety.
The FEARLESS approach to having a long and healthy life is not all about diet, exercise, avoidance of toxins, sleep, and stress reduction. The last two pillars of the acronym, social energy, and spiritual connectivity, are more intangible concepts, difficult to measure. I posted an article about the importance of social engagement last week. This article addresses the role of spiritual connectivity in the pursuit of good health.
Spiritual connectivity can exist in many forms and does not have to be a specific religion or faith. My spiritual connections are faith-based and help me integrate the myriad of daily thoughts, activities, and challenges with compassion, gratefulness, and optimism.
Studies show that people suffering from terminal illnesses who believe in a higher power have better responses to treatment. Another report I read stated, “clinically depressed adults who believed their prayers were heard by a concerned presence responded much better to treatment than those who did not believe.”
The POP! (The Power of Prayer)
Prayer is difficult to measure or study, but studies support its positive impact on feelings of hope, gratitude, compassion, and empathy. It has many different constructs rooted in religion, traditions, and customs, based on a foundation of the existence of a higher power that influences life.
We don’t understand many things concerning what happens to the people we care for or us. Parents, friends, and doctors don’t always have the answer to our questions which can lead to hopelessness and detachment. Spiritual connectivity can allow us to see beyond the unanswered questions and take a helicopter view of the situation.
I don’t know anyone more faith-driven than my mother, even in the worst circumstances. My youngest brother had cancer in his early 20s and was told by doctors that he had only months to live if he did not get treatment. He had a deadly, fast-growing type of lymphoma in his lungs that was 12 cm in diameter and pressing on his windpipe, making it difficult for him to breathe. The emotional impact on my brother and our family was indescribable, but my mother was the rock. I was suffering from knowing too much, a doctor, three years out of training. I called some colleagues in cancer research at the University of Illinois Hospital to get their opinion, but they had no good words for my brother’s outlook, even with treatment.
The oncologist my brother saw was phenomenal in his care for him and presented the chemotherapeutic options, all of which had many potential side effects, some of which were life-threatening. My mother showed all of us (I have a large family) the value of spiritual engagement. She told me that she asked God to heal him but said it was okay if He didn’t. She went on further to say that instead of asking God, “Why him?” she asked herself, “Why not him?” She believed that everything happened or would be allowed to happen under God’s will, and if it was time for my brother to go, she accepted it. Her faith helped me cope with the situation of the potential loss of a brother 15 years younger than me, who I had a hand in raising. My faith deepened through this experience and helped me through difficult times to follow.
My brother survived five different toxic chemotherapeutic agents and was cured of his cancer several weeks later. That was more than thirty years ago. I had dinner with him and his wife last night.
Religion / Faith Not A Prerequisite…
Spiritual connectivity is not limited to any religion or faith. For some, it may exist in another form of contemplative process. Yoga is a centuries-old practice through physical postures, concentration, and breathing patterns. The Yogic system helps to increase flexibility, release tension, focus, burn toxins, and achieve calmness, relaxation, and clarity.
FEARLESS- A Collective
The FEARLESS approach is not an all-inclusive model but covers many pillars supporting good health and well-being. Spiritual connectivity is the last pillar but not the least important. The trilogy of mind, body, and spirit share equal divisions in the holistic construct of health.
The eight focus areas in the FEARLESS model intersect and integrate at multiple levels. Mindfulness and meditation relieve stress but also can enhance spiritual connectivity. We are better at making decisions related to food choices, exercise, and daily commitments when we deeply believe in ourselves and our purpose. Belief in an existential force makes it easier for us to reflect and support others and believe in ourselves. Forgiveness is a powerful spiritual tool shared by several religions and aligned with tension release, wellness, and self-preservation. It is more difficult to forgive ourselves if we cannot forgive others.
Here are some shares on cultivating spiritual connectivity:
-Establish a daily time and space to focus on spiritual connections.
-Try to align meditation with your spiritual engagements in terms of timing. For example, I start my day with two to three minutes of deep breathing, followed by 15 mins of meditation, followed by prayer.
-Combining your spiritual engagements with others who have similar connections (church community, yoga classes, etc.) can upgrade the experience and integrate the pillar of social energy.
-Prayer, for those who are faith-based, can be executed any time and any place. Your relationship with your Creator has no guard rails concerning time and place and how you communicate (unless you believe it does).
-A healthy spiritual connection helps you achieve mental clarity, accept your shortcomings, understand your purpose and strive to be your best self.
I’ll end by sharing my mother’s life-long affirmation:
Heavenly Father, I place myself and all my affairs squarely in the palm of your hand, with child-like trust, knowing that only good will come of it.