Why Mindfulness And Spirituality Are So Important To Our Health
By Aditi Sivaraman, Legends Report Writer
Mindfulness, Spirituality and Awareness are ideas that are interconnected that the true individual meaning of each is inherently lost in translation as we use these words interchangeably in our day to day language. Mindfulness is attending to what is happening, and Spirituality: the quality of the human soul or spirit existing on one or various planes. Over recent years Mindfulness has had its own modern-day interpretations with leading figures such as Lissa Rankin and Deepak Chopra using copious methods to help people get more in touch with their spiritual selves but still deriving practice from its original roots stretching back over 2,500 years ago.
“As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy.”
― Walter Landor (Founder of Landor & Designer)
The Origin of Mindfulness & Spirituality
Mindful and spiritual practices trace back to thousands of years of holy scriptures and markings and hence there is not one specific origination point of mindfulness but rather the development of several different practices through various religions enabling the worldwide spread of mindfulness. In recent years there is some evidence to suggest that Buddhism and Hinduism was the spark for the practice of Mindfulness however, some scriptures suggest activities of mindfulness that predate the birth of Buddha and the Hindu society.
Around 2,500 years ago, there was a large rise in the Hindu religious movement which allowed for the expansion of a variety of different types of mediation one including mindfulness which became interlinked with Buddhist texts which referenced an idea called ‘Sati’. ‘Sati’ was a word in Pali (an ancient northern Indian language) that roughly translate to ‘awareness’ the state in which the body is engrossed in the actions and acknowledges subtle change every passing second. Other mindful practices also trace back to Christianity and Daoism, however, at this point the purpose of Mindfulness is clear: to end pain, suffering and become more in touch with ourselves as beings on another level.
Even to this day, that is the main goal to achieve by any means with modern-day therapists teaching clients how to become more thoughtful by discussing any issues or difficulties they are facing by involving the client to speak up on how to focus on the positives and remove any negative thoughts or feelings. In Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ meant discipline in Hinduism. This word is applied to various contemplative practices, designed to unite the human soul with a higher god and is closely linked to Sufism with the purpose of connecting you with the divine in Islam as well as ‘Visappan’ meaning discernment meditation which helps to connect more deeply on an intellectual plane.
"Be Still and Know I am God"- The Bible, Psalm 46:10
Key Figures Pioneering Research
There are some key figures who are paving the way for a more mindful outlook on life and have done copious amounts of research into the effect of mindfulness on medical conditions.
Lissa Rankin, who is a certified physician in the USA, uses the phrase ‘mind over medicine’ to describe how her role as a doctor had changed significantly over her career and how patients attitudes towards the healthcare system affected their wellbeing and treatment.
She researched through over 3,500 documented cases of patient records to discover that many of the extremely rare medical conditions she described them as having ‘spontaneous remission’ without the use of drugs or other medical treatments but by rather having a positive outlook on a healthy path to recovery and her results were both fascinating and extremely shocking!
Her delve into her research led her to find the true power of the human mind over the body to self-heal for those who have a chronic illness and those who are healthy.
Both extreme cases have a link to do with the characteristics of ‘spontaneous remission’ which explore in great depth the attributes of what a truly ‘healthy’ person should be living like and how even the healthiest patients (those who eat well and exercise) are sometimes the most vulnerable to disease.
In her TED Talk, she describes how the ‘inner pilot’ light is something we have to be able to control in order to have the strength to see us through the good and bad situations in life and later describes how our body has only two main ‘settings’ as it were, one of which is a self-repair mechanism that helps us shut down. However, she states that many of us spend our lives constantly in the shutdown state which causes us to become more anti-social and withdrawn from social interaction as well make us feel less motivated towards our work. Her research has had a huge impact in the medical world as she also finds new meanings in the ‘placebo effect’ and how it is not just used in drug trials but in other aspects of medicine and how many research developers are only scratching the surface of what type of control the mind has over the body and the true potential of self-healing. The ideas themselves are not about taking away healthcare and medical practice but stimulate discussion on how healthcare systems can be improved to make it less stressful for patients through more open discussions and various other techniques.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” - Lissa Rankin
The video below is a TED Talk about Dr Rankin’s discovery of mindfulness and self-healing: Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves?
Another figure is Deepak Chopra, who explores the key difference between being mindful and being aware and he describes us as ‘tiny particles’ who are part of the quantum world. Although some of his work has become quite controversial especially with those who work in the field of physics, some of his work has actually helped both adults and children alike through his habits for healthy ageing, lowering blood pressure etc. as well as how to increase mindfulness.
His numerous research papers with his team have led him to conclude with the '6 Pillars of Physical Wellbeing' and found that using these ‘pillars’ in day to day life helped to balance out our circadian and biological rhythms within our bodies. He describes fully the meaning of having a healthy lifestyle stating that ‘only 5% of all chronic mutations are fully penetrant’ while the rest are able to recover through meditation, yoga and essentially by keeping our bodies active linking back to the meaning of awareness.
He links yoga and meditation to specific nerves in the body because of the breathing techniques and has been able to track which nerves are active during the exercises. Moreover, he talks about the need for food to become less manufactured and chemicalized and as a result, 30% of the microbiome in the industrialized world has disappeared because of the use of pesticides and so there needs to be a higher increase in more organic and sustainable products not only for us to have a healthier diet but also to stop further disintegration of the microbiome which according to Deepak’s research contains most of our genetic information. He states that although the genes we have are from our parents we can change the activity by changing little activities in our day to day lives.
"But in the mindful state, time doesn't really pass at all"- Deepak Chopra
His talk at the University of California is one of his most popular talks describing his research and his thoughts which can be seen below:
Mindful Practice And Techniques
At the end of a busy day, it is hard to think about mindfulness and moreover practice mindfulness however there are some activities that help to stimulate and engage your brain into thinking about mindfulness. None of the activities is strenuous but allows people to have a deeper understanding of their wellbeing and mindfulness.
One way classic practice of mindfulness is through yoga and meditation. Although this is something that seems simple at first it is much harder as it involves focusing on your breathing, your thoughts, sensations in your body and the things you can hear around you. Try to bring your focus back to the present if your mind starts to wander or a specific location or area which makes you feel safe and calm for example a beach, a park or even a simple location in your home all the time maintaining a steady pace of breath. Many people also find that yoga helps them to concentrate on their breathing which helps people focus on fine details and be happy of letting go and feeling free spiritually.
Linked to meditation is a trick called Body Scan. Essentially, this is where you move your attention (think of this as a glowing orb) slowly from the top of your head moving all the way down to your feet and you can focus on feelings of warmth, tension, tingling or relaxation of different parts of your body. If you are practising yoga the ‘Body Scan’ method can also work as you can feel your body moving, the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your hands against different textures on the ground or nearby surfaces, and the different scents circulating the room.
“Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.”- Buddha
What can we take away from this experience?
Mindfulness is something which we can all practice in the comfort of our own homes which is easier said than done but it can aid in improving our mental health significantly and help to keep has much happier and healthier. The Legends Report offers a wide range of support and resources to support you to practice meditation through mastermind sessions, workshops and more to help encourage a greater perspective of our minds and wellbeing. We build a community that is supportive and helps to encourage more people to share their thoughts. For more resources and information on supporting your mindfulness please contact us below.
"Happiness is an expression of the soul"- Aristotle
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