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Posted: October 28, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

A Time for Inner Renewal

Such a busy life! Get my son off to school. Race to work. Write, review manuscripts, attend meetings, answer voice mail, email, snail-mail. Race to karate -- oops, almost forgot it’s my turn to car pool. Race to grocery store and home to make dinner. Share with my partner about our busy days. Walk the dog. Can it be bath time already? Read to my son. Stumble off to bed. How did I miss that part about stopping to smell the roses?

With the days growing colder, it is a good time to regroup, think about priorities, and reflect on what’s next. I look over at my new book (written with Tina Amorok and Marc Micozzi), Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine (Elsevier/Churchill Livingston). I feel deep satisfaction as I weigh it in my hand, admire the cover, feel the smooth texture of the paper. This little volume represents a lot of work; all that racing was good for something. I open the book, and I find myself bathing in a sea of refreshing reminders of how important and easy it is to renew myself. Here are some of the nuggets that are helping me:

• Accept that stress is a part of life. How I respond to stress is a matter of choice. By framing my life experiences as opportunities rather than limitations, and by seeking meaning in each of my actions, I notice great benefits in my feelings for myself and others. Physician and author Larry Dossey reminds me of this as he calls for a greater understanding of the meaning of health and healing.

• Take time to center and catch my breath. Writing from a Buddhist perspective, Sogyal Rinpoche reminds me that eliminating frantic, negative states of mind and cultivating serene, positive ones transforms my experience, promoting healing of my entire being. Jon Kabat-Zinn, famed for his meditation research, suggests that the cultivation of "inner technologies" may be more useful than any external technology designed to better our lives. While I’m not throwing out my personal computer, I am taking more time to pause and reflect.

• Engage in relationships. We humans are social creatures, and our connections to one another make all the difference. Cardiologist Dean Ornish has gathered research revealing that loving relationships are the most important factor in promoting health. Jean Watson, a teacher and nurse, reminds me that the virtual communities now available through the Internet can also foster our feelings of connection and belonging. (See, I knew I was right about keeping my computer.)

• Practice love, gratefulness, and forgiveness — not as abstract concepts, but as everyday lived experience. Social epidemiologist Jeff Levin points out the health benefits of altruism. Just giving love to another person can promote my own health. The Zen-trained Benedictine brother David Steindl-Rast reminds me that we can be grateful even in difficult times: "The gift within every gift is opportunity. In troubled times, the opportunity is to do something about it."

• Foster friendships with animals. William Benda and Rondi Lightmark remind me that our relationships with animals are healing. They review a series of studies showing improvements in physical, psychological, and spiritual health as a result of human connections with dogs, cats, horses, and other warm and cuddly creatures. Buddy, our six-month-old pug, leaves no doubt in my mind that pets are healers.

• Take time in nature. Harvard psychologist Sarah Conn teaches that the healthy human identity is constantly transforming in relation to our sense of connection to the earth. How many times have I been able to change my mood, my sense of purpose, and my feeling of balance by simply walking in the woods and listening to the trees as they speak their silent language?

• Move, dance, and play. Don Johnson, leader in the somatics movement, reminds me to notice my breath, posture, and bodily movements in order to enhance life experiences. Plastic surgeon Loren Eskanazi observes that something as traumatic as surgery has restorative potential when seen as a transformational process. Renowned dancer, healer, and cancer survivor Anna Halprin speaks of the role of dance as integral therapy, arguing that artistic expression helps connect us to our souls. Salsa, anyone?

So where does all this lead? Will I become less busy? Probably not. But maybe I’ll remember a little more about embracing the gifts of life in each moment. Renewal comes in many forms. It’s the hugs from my son, the deep listening of my mate, the meaning I derive from my work, the grounding in my body as I exercise, and the visionary dreaming of my soul as I take the time to smell the roses.

_____

Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., is vice president for research and education at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and senior scientist at the Complementary Medicine Research Institute of the California Pacific Medical Center.


This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, www.SpiritualityHealth.com. For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see www.SpiritualityHealth.com/subs. Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at www.caregivershome.com. Contact staff directly via email at ASKspirituality@spiritualityhealth.com.

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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