Protest, distrust, hatred, and violence scarred the year, but the President thoughtfully shared his impression: “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.”
Abraham Lincoln’s gracious assessment of 1863 is immortalized in the opening line of his first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. And it offers insight into a healing response to this year’s unrest.
Over 150 years have passed since Lincoln’s establishment of an annual, national observance of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” In 1863 that day came just one week after the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg where Lincoln gave his celebrated two minute address. The War Between the States would go on for another year and a half.
What prompted Lincoln to articulate such a “healthful” outlook, where many saw only servitude to gloom and despair, was an intensified appreciation for blessings and their origin. Read more…
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” This maxim for life is inscribed on a tin plate that has hung on my office wall for years. It’s a thought-provoking kick-in-the-pants that jolts me out of occasional mental stupors induced by the complaints of aging that try to get the better of me.
The potency of youthfulness is once more center stage at the 22nd Olympic Winter Games. And while the speed, grace and acrobatics of the world’s top competitors might seem to be out of reach for us ordinary folk, the vivacity of youth on display in Sochi can’t really escape anyone with the right attitude.
The Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger” is a high ideal that speaks more to mental acuity than physical prowess. Dr. Doug Gardner of ThinkSport Consulting Services, says, “In reality, sport is 100 percent mental. Our thoughts influence our actions and our actions influence our thoughts.”
Taking it a step further, spiritual explorer, Mary Baker Eddy contends, “Thought is the essence of an act, and the stronger element of action.” Read more…
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” Abraham Lincoln’s gracious assessment of 1863 is immortalized in the opening line of his first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.
150 years have passed since Lincoln’s establishment of an annual, national observance of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” In 1863 that day came just one week after the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg where Lincoln gave his celebrated two minute address. The War Between the States would go on for another year and a half.
What prompted Lincoln to articulate such a “healthful” outlook, where many saw only servitude to gloom and despair, was an intensified appreciation for blessings and their origin. He saw “bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.” He writes in his Thanksgiving Proclamation that these abundances are “so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
Such an attitude as Lincoln’s serves as a timely example for all of us. Read more…
There is a closet in our home around which carbon inscriptions appear, ancient hieroglyphics dating back to earlier times. On closer inspection, one notices they are merely pencil markings with corresponding notations, each signifying the height of one of our boys at a specific occasion in their past, such as “Easter ‘08” or “Graduation”.
This ritual is as much about recollections as it is measurements, a tribute of sorts to our sons’ identities as well as the growth of their frames. I think of it as a “living” memorial.
Measuring physical characteristics usually begins before birth when the obstetrician gauges a baby’s heartbeat. And of course at delivery time the question asked is, “How much does he weigh?” Follow-up queries also point to a fascination with bodily assessment: “Does he have hair? Is his skin clear? His eyes?”
This routine is carried on throughout adulthood, especially as it relates to a person’s health care. There is a plethora of things to measure starting with blood pressure, body mass index and the like, all part of the effort to prolong life and add to its quality. What is often left out is any evaluation of spiritual qualities and their connection to the advancement of health.
“The measure of Life shall increase by every spiritual touch,” once wrote Mary Baker Eddy, pioneer in the study, teaching and application of spiritual principles and Christian practices to health and healing. Her work in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries challenged patients and medical practitioners of her day to reexamine the matrix through which health is achieved and measured. She concluded one’s spirituality and health go hand-in-hand. That’s sensible.
Don’t most of us evaluate life more in spiritual terms than physical ones? When thinking of a friend or family member, it’s the spiritual qualities that really define them for us, attributes like compassion, intelligence, joyfulness, etc. Life is more about our connections to the sacred and one another, to the moments and events in our daily experience that shape us.
It seems practical that if the yardstick by which we measure our lives is for the most part spiritual in nature, we should approach our health in a similar manner.
Dr. Christina Puchalski is working on that. The director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health at George Washington University in Washington D.C., is a forerunner in the movement to integrate spirituality into health care in both the clinical setting and in medical education.
Yes, spirituality means something different to anyone you might note. It’s a personal thing. But that hasn’t stopped Dr. Puchalski and other physicians and researchers from finding a workable definition that helps in measuring the impact of spirituality on health outcomes and championing its inclusion in medical practices.
Dr. Puchalski calls spirituality an essential part of a person’s humanity and a critical factor in health and well-being. She shared this and other thoughts at the Fifth Annual Medical-Spirituality Conference sponsored by the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.
“Spirituality should be considered a patient vital sign,” she told attendees. This is just one of the recommendations listed in her book, Making Health Care Whole. “Just as pain is screened routinely, so should spiritual issues be a part of routine care.”
That is an intriguing idea: assessing the impact on the physical of influences that are outside the physical. It opens up many new possibilities in curing what ails us. “The experience of both patients and practitioners at the dawn of the twenty-first century is that the reductivist, scientific model is inadequate to the real needs of patients,” Puchalski writes.
Meanwhile, the pencil markings around our closet have reached as high as they can go. They cannot keep pace with our boys who have “grown up”, but whose identities continue to progress as the result of their spiritual nature. Perhaps the same can be said of medicine and the goal of health and healing: the measuring of physical characteristics and relationships can only go so far, before one’s spiritual identity must be considered and then embraced.
Steven Salt is a writer and blogger covering health, spirituality and thought. He is a Christian Science practitioner, curious about everything. You can follow him on Twitter @SaltSeasoned.
Ever think about the origins of the barber pole with its red and white strips and brass cup? It represents the bloody bandages of the barber profession from centuries ago which included performing surgeries and dentistry for customers. You can guess what the cup was used for.
Present day doctoring has advanced in so many ways since the days of knives and bloodletting. Now there is robotic surgery and nuclear medicine. The training and expertise needed by today’s physician attest to the skills required to operate complex instruments and the software that runs them.
And while the advancement of these innovating technologies has been welcomed in the health care community, experts are questioning whether the patient has been left behind in the push towards modernized medical treatment. Welcome to the world of the “iPatient”.
“The patient in the bed has become an icon,” according to Abraham Verghese, M.D., renowned physician, author, and senior associate chair for the theory and practice of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He spoke at the Fifth Annual Medical-Spirituality Conference sponsored by Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University.
Verghese suggests the purpose of admission to a hospital is to “render the live 3-demensional patient into a 2-demensional image.” In other words the patient is viewed from screens, displays and readouts. This rise in “remote diagnosis” is to help speed the treatment process, especially when several specialists are involved. That can often lead to stress and other issues that adversely impact healing, according to Verghese.
The work that goes on behind a monitor and in the conference room on behalf of the patient can actually promote a feeling of inattentiveness on the patient’s part. A sense of isolation and lack of connectivity ensue, feelings that do not encourage healing. “We are hungry for Love, for the white-winged charity that heals and saves,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, a late 19th/early 20th century pioneer in the research linking consciousness and spirituality to well-being.
A 2-demensional patient is really a misnomer. In fact a 3-dementional patient is also an inaccurate rendering of man and womanhood. The intangibles of being, things like love, compassion, confidence, hope and other qualities point to the multi-dimensional facets of the individual, aspects that cannot be ignored in securing healthy outcomes and furthering long lives.
Verghese points to the intricacies of patient care when referring to something as simple as a doctor’s tone of voice. He remarked during the conference that his or her bedside manner and attitude can have a placebo (positive) or nocebo (negative) effect on the patient.
A vocal advocate for patients, Verghese says that the new buzzword in health care delivery is “patient satisfaction.” While striving for quality has been the focus of health professionals for some time, patient-centered care is getting a lot of attention. Seeing the patient as an integral part of the healing process will help in the drive towards quality care.
Verghese quoted Dr. Francis Peabody, early 20th century internal medicine specialist responsible for establishing hospitals in the U.S. and China. He too was a strong supporter of the patient. “For the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” That’s the bedrock of health care.
Writing about the connections between health, thought, and spirituality