While modern medicine has proved effective in curing many diseases, it fails to provide a holistic approach to the health. It is increasingly recognized that diseases and health are not only a matter of body, but also of mind and spirit. World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as,“a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This implies that we should look beyond biomedical sciences to attain mental and social well being including spiritual aspect. However, what is the meaning of spirituality, how it influences our health, and what should be done to develop spirituality is a matter of current interest to both health care providers as well as the patients in particular and civil society in general.
It is difficult to define spirituality. It is the person’s inner truth or blissful experience. Through spiritual pursuit, a person tries to connect with a supreme divine or what most people call almighty God. Such people resort to techniques like silence, prayer, meditation and yoga mostly as individual or collective practice, usually under the directions of a spiritual Guru.Others believe in the self-less service to the mankind as a major pathway for seeking god. They adore ‘goodness’ to see God.
Spirituality and religion are interlinked but different concepts. Both of them have the same objective of connecting to divine power. However, since the spiritual pathway is an abstract concept, different religions were established by mankind. They prescribe certain code of conduct, practices and rituals with the aim of bringing self realization or oneness with God. Many of the religious practices are supportive of good living including good health. For example observance of ‘fasting’ during Ramzan in Islam and performance of Pooja, Hawan etc in Hindus, prayer service in Christianity, Langar Seva found in Sikhism, non-violence and vegetarianism amongst Jain community etc. are the examples to show how various religions propagate good living and good health.
Spirituality aims to focus on cultivation of universal values by practices such as yoga, prayer, silence, meditation often combined with self-less service to the mankind surrendering one’s ego. Many of the religious practitioners also believe in spirituality and some of the spiritual practitioners also believe in religion.
- More and more number of people are subjected to lifestyle diseases and mental stress. Western medicine can offer limited help either in treatment or prevention.
- For patients who are suffering from chronic illnesses such as end stage cancer, spiritual care works well in alleviating their suffering. It prepares them for a peaceful death.
- Modern medicine has made significant contribution by introducing new modalities of treatment and investigative procedures. Ironically, the high end technologies like imaging and artificial ventilation have resulted in commercialization and often exploitation.
- Recent research has shown that religious practices can be helpful in curing and preventing physical and mental illnesses.
- Religious beliefs provide inner strength and social support in coping with the illness and providing recovery or relief.
- Spirituality and religions can play important role in promoting healthy life style.
- When medical care becomes unaffordable, futile, and of no use, spiritual care is absolutely feasible, and logical solution.
Most often physicians are not trained in providing spiritual care.
- At least, a physician should be aware of the spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs of patients and their families.
- He should be able to obtain a spiritual history, listen to patients’ fears, hopes, and sources of strength. This can not only comfort the patient but also alleviate his suffering to a great extent.
- The physician should assist and support incorporating spiritual practices as appropriate and acceptable for the patient.
- He should involve members from religious and other support groups in the treatment plan and health promotion activities in the community
Spiritual care should ideally encompass the whole lifestyle of a person. Lifestyle means the way in which we live and work. It includes the way we eat, dress, talk, think and behave in public and private lives.
- Ahaar (Eating) - What we eat, how much we eat and how we eat.
- Vihaar (Relaxation) - The way in which we engage ourselves in relaxation, entertainment and leisure time activities.
- Vichaar (Thought) - Our mental make-up, emotional control, attitude and outlook to life.
- Vyavhaar (Action) - What we actually behave or practice in public and private life.
Do you eat well? What do you eat? How much do you eat and how do you eat?
Reflect on your routine and decide for yourself. The ancient Indian Yoga goes to the extent of classifying people in three categories: Satvic, Rajassic and Tamassic based on the food and lifestyle.
Traditional Indian food is found to have high nutritional value. Realizing the havoc created by many of the diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, mental health problems; the world is switching over to vegetarian food which is balanced diet in terms of much needed nutrients. People have shifted to food rich in fibre, antioxidants and immune suppressants which are available in plenty in common food items.
Sedentary lifestyle is the culprit behind several problems. While regular walking, gym, acrobatics and a host of exercises are of great benefit in building the body, the practice of Yoga and meditation are especially helpful in keeping the body fit as well as in combating stress.
In the world of stress and strain caused by hectic activities, rat’s race for meeting the targets, the need for adequate rest and relaxation cannot be overemphasized.‘’All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” is an old saying.
How do you enjoy your leisure time? Take away time from TV sets. You may like to engage in a variety of hobbies.
Chanting of Mantras, listening to Gurbani, devotional or classical music, especially early morning is a blissful experience. Participation in activities like Satsang, Bhajans, discourses by religious leaders are helpful in utilizing your leisure in a meaningful manner. Cultivation of hobbies such as music, painting, photography, gardening, keeping pets are some good hobbies to keep you engaged, active and happy. Taking breaks from routine work, trekking, tours and travel are other methods to rejuvenate you from ‘burn out’ phenomenon which is most common in modern living.
Spirituality can help you to cultivate ‘a sound mind in a sound body’. How can you possess good mental health? How can you feel free from worry and tension? Cultivate emotional control.
- Are you short tempered?
- Are you upset when others criticise you?
- Are you too ambitious? Unwilling to accept defeat?
- Are you aggressive,neutral,or shy?
- In case you come across any comment or criticism from your opponent or even friend, do not react. Just take a deep breath.
- Appreciate their point of view. If you do not agree, agree to disagree.
- High Expectation is the root cause of disappointment. Be realistic in setting the goals –one at a time. At the same time, put your 100% in achieving the goal.
- Once you achieve, celebrate your success.Thank God. Even if you do not succeed,you will not mind or feel guilty.
- Do not compare yourself with others –identify your unique qualities. Do not be a ‘football’ to what others‘play’.
- Positive thinking holds the key:
- See problem as a ‘challenge’
- Accept failure as you accept success
- Accept criticism as a genuine tip for improvement
- There is always a learning and a meaning behind which you will realize later
- Take one step back to move two steps ahead
- Count on what you have, rather what you don’t have
- Conquering EGO is the biggest challenge.
- The more you are competent, bigger the ego
- Be truthful, humble and fearless! (Mahatma Gandhi)
- See positive role models who are remembered long
Spiritual practice in the modern context is incomplete without one’s engagement in a social service in a selfless manner. You may not always be able to reach your goal. You may even face a lot of hurdles in your pursuit of goals, but do not give up.
The essence of Bhagavad Gita is“Do your duty sincerely without bothering about the fruits or consequences.”All those leaders who have created history are known for their selfless service to the cause of humanity.
Discover the true joy of loving, caring and sharing.
Love is the fundamental and universal human value. ‘Love thy neighbour’. ‘Love All and Serve All’. Through love you can cultivate other universal values like Truth (Sathya),Righteousness (Dharma),Peace (Shanti) and Non-violence (Ahimsa).
Conflicts are unavoidable. How to handle conflict really matters. Use appropriate method of conflict management that results in “win – win” situation for everyone. Ultimate happiness lies in the welfare of entire humanity. This is the core message of spirituality.
There are four cornerstones of developing spirituality for promoting good health:
- Sadhana (rigorous pursuit and practice)
- Satsang (company of likeminded people, aided by your role model or Guru)
- Seva (Selfless service)
- Surrender to Almighty
Strategy for promoting good health should follow a holistic approach. It is here that spirituality can really offer help. It holds that highest quality of health is a feasible approach. You should consider fitness of body, mind and spirit as one integrated concept. Taking care of your health is extremely important because unless you address this you can’t attain higher values of life.
“Shareeram-adhyam khalu Dharma Sadhanam”