#GratitudeChallenge: From the Trivial to the Transformational

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My Massachusetts colleague, Ingrid Peschke, examines current gratitude fads.  She drills down to the profound, healing impact that true thanksgiving can have on our health and happiness.

She observes, “I’ve found that gratitude can be most beneficial when it feels as though there’s nothing to be grateful for.  In those dark moments, I’ve gotten better at detecting a deceptive view of my circumstances and focusing on the good instead.”  Here’s Ingrid…

My Facebook feed this summer included a steady stream of lists from friends who accepted one of the numerous gratitude challenges circulating social media spheres.  I read their posts with curious interest, but I secretly hoped I wouldn’t be asked to take on the challenge, too!

Sharing gratitude in an open forum can sometimes come off as trite.  Besides, people seem to be popping gratitude like it’s the latest wonder drug.  A recent Salon.com article addresses the current Western trend toward gratitude and mindfulness as a kind of “spiritual meritocracy,” or spirituality lite.  The author writes:

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Defeating fear of Ebola will help defeat Ebola

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© GLOW IMAGES (model used for illustrative purposes only)

I’m not an authority on dealing physically with contagious diseases but I do know about handling fear.  I’ve learned that stopping fear of disease can go a long way toward stopping disease itself.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group:  “There are two kinds of contagion, one is related to the virus itself and the other is related to the spread of fear about the virus.  Both contagions must be defeated.”

This Daily Mail article agrees that worry and fear are often unhealthy and linked to various health problems:  “Ebola: A crash course in fear and how it hurts us.”  (See related article, “Five Rock Solid Ways to Master Fear.)

Just how connected the contagion of fear about Ebola is to the actual spread of the virus is becoming more widely understood.  What happens in our thinking does not stay in our thinking.  Fears can be manifested in our bodies.  Protecting ourselves and our communities from Ebola and wiping it out, is as much about what we do mentally as physically.
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Is spiritual-based healing weird?

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Photo courtesy Zach Alexander, licensed under Creative Commons

My Texas colleague, Keith Wommack, uses a simple analogy to explain how spiritualizing our thinking to heal our body can go from new and strange, to natural and effective.  Here’s Keith…

While in a meeting, a newspaper editor, after learning that I practiced spiritual-based healing, said, “Since Christian Science is weird, it … “

The editor stopped mid-sentence, looked at me, and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to say weird. I’m so sorry.”

After the editor apologized several more times, I said, “Forget about it. It’s okay,” and we went back to our pleasant discussion.

The editor’s “Weird” comment reminded me of ’73.  In 1973, I was in Brad Shearer‘s kitchen.  Brad and I attended high school together.  He was a star football player who went on to play for the Texas Longhorns and the Chicago Bears.

While in Brad’s kitchen, I watched as he took a large glass measuring cup and cracked eight eggs into it.  After whipping the eggs, he opened the door of a small machine, placed the measuring cup inside, closed the door, and turned a dial.  A minute or so later, he opened the door, took out the cup, and began eating the eggs with a fork.  Weird!

Weird, because in ’73 I had never heard of, much less, seen a microwave oven.  How did those eggs cook in just a minute?

Just as the microwave seemed weird to me in ’73, the thought of providing prayer for illness or pain can seem the same to you when you first encounter it.  However, both are effective.  Both utilize laws.  The microwave transforms food. Spiritual treatments can transform people.  Both accomplish this from the inside out.

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Moving beyond drugs to find health

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As summer slips away again, I’m reminded of how walking along the seashore listening to the continuous sound of crashing surf can clear our head and allow fresh perspectives.

In the local Walgreens parking lot, I had a beach-like moment and found an answer.  A CVS store had opened up on the other end of the same block and I puzzled over how these stores were both thriving while selling identical merchandise.

As I stood listening to waves of traffic, the answer hit me:  drugs.  They are drug stores.  There’s an insatiable demand for prescription and non-prescription medication.   People’s search for health is relentless.  Everyone needs to be healthy.

But are drugs the only way?

Reports say a lot of us don’t think so.  In addition to mega-dollars spent on drug-based health care, Americans also spend almost $34 billion each year out of their own pockets on alternative treatments.  Even 3 out of 4 U.S. health care workers use some form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) to stay healthy.

Prayer is no longer listed as part of CAM but the statistics still show an increasing percentage of people pray about their health.

I’m part of those statistics….Continue Reading

Our ‘inalienable right’ to better health

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We have the right to be free of ill-health.  In that spirit, my California colleague, Eric Nelson, shared this.  I actually saw the play he refers to when it had its world premiere in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater.  I’m glad to hear these comments from the playwright.  Here’s Eric…

Tony Kushner can write. In fact he writes so well, he has received a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards and, just last year, an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay (“Lincoln”).

Tony Kushner also recognizes good writing.

During a recent radio interview to promote the west coast premier of his latest play, “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures,” he made a point of praising the prose of someone whose work features prominently in the play’s title: Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Church and author of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.”

“Mary Baker Eddy was a really wonderful writer,” said Kushner. “And she writes gorgeously. [Science and Health is] endlessly quotable. And I sorta fell in love with it. I didn’t become a Christian Scientist, but I found it tremendously moving.”

To commemorate the upcoming celebration of our nation’s independence, here’s a timely sample from “Science and Health” that relates both to humanity’s continued quest for freedom and, as Eddy puts it, our “inalienable right” to less suffering and better health:

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Is Prayer No More Than a Placebo?

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My Massachusetts colleague, Ingrid Peschke, discusses how prayer can pick up where placebos leave off.  Here’s Ingrid…

Debates abound on the power of the placebo.  There’s one man who has made it his mission to try and settle that debate, or at least shed significant light on it.

Described as wanting to “broaden the definition of healing” (The New Yorker), Ted Kaptchuk is considered the leading researcher on placebos as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard.

Kaptchuk’s research points to a question often left unanswered in medical treatment:  To what extent does a patient’s thought affect outcomes? The unseen, yet powerful elements of healing, such as hope in a certain result, may, according to his research, “fundamentally contribute to the improvement of patient outcomes” (programinplacebostudies.org).

Kaptchuk was one of the experts on a panel discussion I attended at Harvard designed to explore the topic, “Placebo and Prayer:  Why Prayer Practice Might Help.”

I’ve heard skeptics compare prayer to placebos.  And while I’m no expert on the placebo effect, I have had a lot of experience seeing the effects of prayer on health.

I would suggest the prayer referred to as placebo is based on blind belief.  That kind of prayer, I will agree, is no different than placebo.  But the prayer that has depth of conviction, that seeks to understand and appeal to a distinctly divine Mind, ceases to rely on the human mind for healing.

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Genetic choice – our thinking can change our genes?

@Glowimages 02A14S9A.I write about how our thinking affects our health.  A previous post, Expectation: the ultimate placebo effect shows how thinking can be effective medicine – even when patients are told beforehand about a placebo, yet still expect and experience good results.

But what if a problem is genetic?  Is that conclusion that last word?  NO.

Can our thinking still have an effect?  YES.

A book that has something relevant to offer here is the Bible.  It gives examples of people who were “born” with certain conditions and then cured through an entirely new spiritual perspective of their well being.

A newer book, written over a hundred years ago, (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy), states:  “Heredity is not a law.”  It explains how changing our mental response to that subject – changing how we think about theories associated with our genetic inheritance – can help heal and even prevent disease.Continue Reading

I Was Addicted To Gambling — Here’s How I Overcame It

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© GLOW IMAGES

My London colleague, Tony Lobl, gives a heartfelt account of how spiritual growth enabled him to gain control over his thoughts and actions.  He was permanently cured of the disease called, addiction.  Here’s Tony…

When did I cross the line and become “an addict”?  Perhaps during my final year at high school.  Day after day, I’d play hooky from class to join a covert clan of gamblers playing card games in the seniors’ common room.

It didn’t seem like an addiction at the time — as a good bluffer, I’d regularly turn a healthy profit.  But it wasn’t the money that drew me; it was the buzz of pitting my wits against my peers’.  However, the fact remained that the writing was on the wall.  On days when luck ran out, I’d still carry on until I lost everything, including my bus fare home.  Thankfully my father never asked why he had to pick me up.

Despite my lax approach to classes, I got into University.  For a few years, an array of extracurricular activities kept the gambler at bay, hidden within.  So did a couple of cash-light years following graduation, as I pursued a vain dream to be Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan.

But the desire to gamble remained and quickly resurfaced when I finally got a job at a video production company.  Instead of saving my money, I immediately began feeding it to voracious slot machines in London.

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To be healthy – focus on HEALTH, not disease

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If your test comes back negative, you’re glad because “They found nothing.”

Is that really true?  Was nothing found?

Yes, the diseased condition or problem they were looking for isn’t there.  Then what is there?  Health.  And health is not nothing, it’s something.  Something was found.

It’s popular to think of health just as the absence of disease.  I remember being struck by this years ago while in a “health” food store.  Every product was geared not on wellness, but on treating or warding off sickness.

Most agree that our health care system is primarily designed for the treatment, management and sometimes prevention of disease rather than establishing and maintaining health.

Recent efforts to promote healthy lifestyles as a path to wellness mostly emphasize nutrition and exercise.  There’s been little shift in how we think of health.  People still see these lifestyle changes as strategies to evade disease.

Accepted logic says that disease is inevitable and you deal with it either through mainstream or alternative treatment, management and prevention.  But that’s upside down.  What about gaining a better understanding of health itself?

Health and wellness are our normal state of being.  Shouldn’t we begin with health as inevitable, lasting and powerful and disease as a detour?  Or at least with health as the rule and sickness as the exception?

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Owning our Health: Time for a little Ecotherapy?

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In Minnesota, we’re just emerging from a winter of winters.  Twin Cities statistics (kept since the 1870s) rank 2013-2114 the ninth coldest average temperature from December-February (9.7 degrees) and the fifth highest number of sub-zero days (50).  It’s time to warm up to the concept of being out in nature again!  My colleague from British Columbia, Anna Bowness-Park, shares how the great outdoors is great for our inner and outer health.  (Spoiler alert:  there are terrific quotes at the end!)  Here’s Anna…

The understanding that nature benefits our mental and physical health seems obvious.  However, the outdoors is now being touted as a new therapy called “ecotherapy” – or restorative contact with nature.  What scientists have been studying is what our mothers and grandmothers already knew – that being outside is good for us.  In fact, being out in nature, according to studies, is as good for us an anti-depressant or some other medications.

And, there’s another new term coined by scientists who are studying the effect of a lack of nature in our lives.  It’s called “nature deficit disorder”, which of course ecotherapy is called upon to correct.

What these new names do for me is to complicate and medicalize what should be a natural and simple activity.

For many people, being outdoors can be a restorative – even spiritual – experience, whether it is conscious or not.

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