SpiriitualtityIt is a fact that a well-developed spiritual view will lead to a happy, healing lifestyle. –Ian Gawler

The place of spirituality in Mind–Body Therapy

By Graham Clouston

The elements of Mind-Body Medicine are: Diet, Exercise, Meditation, Good Social Support and a Strong Spiritual Connection. It is the last, a Strong Spiritual Connection (spirituality), that is often the most challenging for followers of Mind-Body Medicine to conceptualise and practice. 

Many books have been written on the subject of spirituality. This short article is based on observations from my own journey, training, and personal experiences over my lifetime. Though not intended, the views expressed may be challenging to the belief systems of some readers.

In the meditation group that I lead we often have fifteen or so participants. If I were to ask each participant to describe the nature of their own spirituality there would likely be fifteen different answers. 

The observation here is that spirituality tends to be unique to and different for each individual. 

Religion and spirituality

Spirituality and religion are not the same but they are often, mistakenly, seen as one and the same. 

Spirituality 1Religion is centred round set belief structures/dogma/obligations/rules and is most often seen and represented by a “Church” which is a social grouping. You join, you accept the rules, you believe, you obey. In religion there is a risk of “going through the motions”, appearing outwardly to be very devout, but in reality not necessarily achieving spirituality to any degree. To be religious is therefore not synonymous with being spiritual.

That said, groupings with similar beliefs and thought systems, churches/faiths/traditions, can and do provide helpful support for individuals – a belonging and place to go. In that respect such organisations contribute positively to the Mind-Body Medicine element of “Good Social Support”.

Spirituality however is not dependant on “belonging” to any specific religion, sect, or tradition. It is an individual pursuit/calling/journey. 

The nature of spirituality

So what is spirituality and where does it come from?  

Spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

Spirituality LaoTzuIf we accept that spirituality is individual and personal, then we are not constrained by the rules or dogma of organised religion. If we look at the Divine (of or like God) and from whence Divine Energy comes we include, but not to the exclusion of others, God, Prana, Qi (refer to historic teachers: Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, Lao Tzu and others) or simply the Un-manifested Universal Consciousness as perhaps represented by the sun above and the earth below (Sky Father and Earth Mother). 

The great teachers, Jesus included, taught that the Divine Spirit is within, a part of us and not external to us. This is why spirituality, the connection with Divine Energy, is individual and personal. My view is that all Divine Energy emanates from the same one source, however that is labelled, styled and packaged.

Having identified what spirituality might mean for you, then live spiritually as best as you can. Try to lead your life mindfully with the Divine spirit in mind. As an example, the Buddhist “Eight Fold Path” may resonate and assist: 

  • Right view 
  • Right thought 
  • Right speech 
  • Right conduct 
  • Right livelihood 
  • Right effort 
  • Right mindfulness 
  • Right meditative stabilization. 

Meditation and spirituality go hand in hand

Spirituality Buddhist thoughtIf you have a good meditation practice (highly recommended) you will find that your spiritual connection will develop and grow. It is in meditation that one finds the deep stillness, a state that is receptive to knowing and receiving Divine Energy, a spiritual connection.

Daily practice in thought, in mindfulness, and in meditation, brings one closer to the Divine as conceptualised and experienced by oneself. This is the basis of a strong personal spiritual connection. It is private to and is relevant only to you, no one else. 

Many people who have recovered from serious, including terminal, disease attribute their recovery, in part, to having a Strong Spiritual Connection.