Finding Your Spiritual Experience
Life and health are often measured in tangibles. Blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI all attempt to quantify the value of the diet, exercise and lifestyle habits we have developed to reach our health goals. However, as important as these measures may be in tracking our physical progress, they often fail to recognize the less tangible actions we take to improve our emotional and spiritual connection with ourselves, others, nature and whatever we choose to call our Higher Power. Connections that I wholeheartedly believe are just as, if not more, valuable in ensuring the physical and emotional wellbeing that bestows a healthy, happy and meaningful life.
Measuring the Value of Meditation
Fortunately I am not alone in the belief and several enterprising scientists are now attempting to quantify the benefit of such connections. A study recently published in PLOSone has found that activities like chanting and meditation boost the activity of genes involved in several beneficial processes, which improve energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and chromosomal telomere maintenance. These practices also have the added benefit of reducing the activity of harmful ones that trigger chronic inflammation, which is known to contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, IBD and cancer. Further, the results also seem to improve with time and, according to the study’s authors, “the more you do it, the more profound the…changes.”
The Benefit of Your Spiritual Experience
Personally, I try to develop my spirituality with the practice of journaling and various forms of moving meditation (yoga and exercising out of doors). Others may prefer involvement in a community of individuals who similarly seek awareness through religious practice. In my opinion, neither is inherently better than the other and their impact is highly dependent upon each individual’s constitution and preferred approach to enlightenment. However, a recent article published in the New York Times makes a case for organized religion in the quest for improved health. According to T.M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford and the author of “When God Talk Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God”, “Religious attendance – at least, religiously – boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.” Ms. Luhrmann believes that with the capacity to use and get caught up in our ‘imagination’, we are able to learn and experience God in a way that meets our expectations of God’s character and, as this becomes increasingly intimate, symbolic healing occurs and illness fades.
I highly encourage you to read these two pieces to better understand how practices such as meditation, chanting, yoga, journaling, church, etc. may help advance your health and if they may add value to your wellness routine.
Whether done alone or amongst others, I believe that seeking a spiritual experience and advancing our awareness is a critical component in the journey towards lasting health and wellness.