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Contents

  1. Viewing options
  2. Holistic Nursing & Spirituality
  3. Holistic Spirituality

Spiritual and social health are interconnected, since it is through our committed relationships that we find the greatest opportunities for spiritual growth and for learning how to receive and impart unconditional love. In addition to the observance of spiritual and religious traditions, working with spiritual counselors and support groups are common methods of creating spiritual and social health, as are the opportunites afforded us through our friendships, marriage, intimate relationships, and parenting.

A variety of self-care approaches, including prayer, meditation, gratitude, and spending time within nature, can further deepen your awareness of yourself as a spiritual, socially-connected being, and are increasingly being recommended by conventional and holistic physicians alike. There are many effective ways to pray, both for yourself and for others. Many people find great benefit using the prayers from their religious upbringing.

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Others make prayer a time of personal conversation with God, stating their need or concern and asking for divine intervention. Others find talking a walk in a place of natural beauty to be a form of prayerful worship. Simply taking the time to acknowledge all you have to be grateful for and giving thanks can be effective as well. Choose the form of prayer that feels most comfortable for you, then establish a regular routine of repeating your prayers daily. There are a wide variety of meditative techniques to choose from and, as with prayer, choosing the one that you are most comfortable with will provide the greatest benefit.

Meditation can be performed while sitting, lying down, or while walking or jogging. Some people also prefer singing or chanting a word or phrase that has spiritual significance to them. What all meditative techniques have in common is conscious breathing see above and a focus on what is happening in each present moment, until the mind becomes empty of thoughts, judgments, and past and future concerns.

A simple way to meditate is to sit comfortably erect with your eyes closed, while paying attention to your breathing. Observe yourself inhaling and exhaling, allowing whatever thoughts you have to pass you by. In the beginning of your practice, you will find your mind wandering. Each time this occurs, gently refocus on your breath. To improve your concentration, you can also silently repeat a word, or mantra, such as love, peace, or Jesus. Eventually, you will experience longer periods of silence between each thought, although it may take months before this occurs.

Try to sit for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day, but if you find yourself too distracted or pressed for time, end your session, instead of sitting restlessly. Claude Levi-Strauss, a social anthropologist whose special field of study included the structure of language, pointed out the polarization or duality in our thinking as evidenced by our language. We tend to define something by what it is not. We tend to juxtapose a concept with its opposite, in order to show what it is. Thus, conscious or unconscious judgments are built into virtually everything we define in terms of this polarization: black versus white, male versus female, young versus old, clergy versus laity, sacred versus profane, and on and on.

Little or nothing escapes these distinctions. Descartes is largely responsible for this tendency in Western thought, for Cartesian philosophy aimed at separating all that was spiritual from all that was material. Residual Manichean beliefs developed this tendency even further, inferring that everything belonging to the physical and material world was inherently sinful, and all that belonged to God was therefore immaterial and unphysical.

It soon became evident, however, that this medical model had serious flaws. Strains of bacteria became resistant to drugs. New diseases replaced those stamped out by immunization. Social evils persisted and intensified. Harmful side effects of drugs such as Thalidomide were becoming manifest. Surgical intervention sometimes created more problems than it solved. Holistic thinking — that is, treating the whole person, including beliefs, socio-cultural experience, environment, and interpersonal relationships — began to emphasize personal responsibility for change and the active participation of patient and physician alike in the process of healing.

This shift to a holistic approach to health occurred at the same time that other disciplines were discovering the limitations of dualistic thought and reductionist philosophies. The question arose more and more frequently as to where matter ends and the world of energy and the immaterial begins, as physicists discovered that once matter is reduced to atomic particles, further reduction changes these particles into energy.

As the new physicists studied the implications of their findings, their language began to sound reminiscent of what the mystics in both Christian and non-Christian traditions had been saying all along. We were moving into a holistic age in which we no longer saw things two-dimensionally. We saw this shift in thinking not as a secularization of spiritual matters as has often recently been charged but rather as a Christianization of much of what we had formerly regarded as merely secular. New theologians in the Church, as well, were beginning to perceive how all of creation is involved in the continual and ongoing process of the Incarnation.

I was amazed to discover in the writings of Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Teilhard de Chardin, and many others, points of view that supported the new findings and speculations in both the Church and academia. Indeed, many of the ruinous effects we are seeing in our environment and social structures today are the result, not of New Age thinking, but of a kind of crystallization of outmoded mechanistic thought that was totally unconcerned with the interconnectedness and spiritual dimension of all of creation.

Whenever our perceptions undergo a transformation involving such a drastic reorganization of previously assimilated ideas and experience, it creates a temporary destabilization such as the deionization of particles or when electrons form new valences. It is similar in some ways to the anarchy and social breakdown that accompany political upheavals. But from this destabilization, as we grope to redefine our realities and structures, new forms emerge which reach beyond the limitations of the old and reshape the eternal realities into new concepts.

Any form which becomes solidified inclines towards rigidity. Inflexibility becomes brittleness. An inability to adapt or change can only lead to extinction as we have seen from history, systems theory, and the biological sciences.

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Holistic Nursing & Spirituality

Change is difficult, demanding, and often disturbing and perplexing even on a very private and individual level. But it is even more difficult for time-honored institutions to change. In order to survive, they, too, must evolve and take new information into account. We have a tendency to want to hold onto what has been triedand-true in the past. However, there are times when some of the axioms which fell into the category of the tried-and-true outlive their rationale. For example, we may strive to preserve elements once necessary or useful for the development and maintenance of a civilization, a church, or a political order beyond the time when some need or purpose was served by doing so.

Once there is no longer need for a particular form, it becomes obsolete. When this happens, we are faced with clinging obstinately to the old, even when it becomes unreasonable or destructive to do so — or finding ways of incorporating new material that are consistent with both the new findings and the unchangeable realities that underlie the old forms.


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Thus, perhaps, we can prevent our structures and symbols from becoming idols as we must move in our thinking to the possibility of interpretations beyond what we now know or have ever known. For we refuse thereby to become so fixed and locked into our own opinions that no further room for growth, interpretation, or adaptation is possible. In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had become a classic example of hardened and inflexible thinking.

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But they had crystallized into a set of such rigid conventions that the true meaning of spirituality somehow got lost in the process. It is not to those who were satisfied with this established form of religiosity that Jesus gained access.

For they alone were not threatened by the idea that conventional society with its conventional religion left much to be desired! On the other hand, the conversions of those who had much to lose Saul, for example were far more drastic and involved far greater upheaval. Saul, who became St. For unless we become as little children, we will never discover the inner realities which go beyond mere acceptance of externalized conventions. Children play with great intensity and enthusiasm.

Holistic Spirituality

And although they take their playing very seriously, they do not take themselves as seriously as adults tend to do. If a child fails to reach his objective, he merely approaches it from another angle or tries another method. In any event, the learning process is in itself part of the fun, and so he begins again with a sense of adventure and continuing discovery.

The cardboard sled may not actually slide. And he might never really get to China by digging a deep enough hole in the backyard.