Archive for Mental health
There may always be a somber atmosphere at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall. That’s because this revered place so sacred to Jews represents the only remaining part of the temple which they believe the Romans destroyed in 70 AD. The “wailing” refers to the Jews’ mourning for the temple’s destruction. Up until now, privileges of special entrances and special clothing have been reserved for men only, based on the orthodox teaching that men and women ought not to pray together in some places, and that women should not be allowed to wear prayer shawls.
But there’s a crack in the old Wailing Wall tradition. On May 10 Israel’s attorney general brought turmoil to the Wall in an attempt to end gender segregation in public places like buses, health clinics, cemeteries and radio airwaves. Emboldened liberal women’s groups are now demonstrating and praying in shawls at the Wall, and conservative groups of young women are attempting to prevent them.
I don’t need to weigh in with personal opinions about other religious practices or how other democratic governments deal with religious diversity in public places. But spiritual seekers can agree that anyone can pray anywhere in their hearts and deepest thoughts, Wailing Wall or not.
I hope that people everywhere are exercising this right to pray regularly. Today we see more and more evidence that prayer not only brings inner peace and comfort but better mental and even physical health. Prayer, says one thinker I know, changes the course of everything
Prayer in the public square may still need to be a private, silent thing between oneself and one’s God. But we can cherish these quiet moments for ourselves and others. Individuals and whole countries have much to gain when they pray.
Confession One: In this gadget-loving world, I am not a gadget lover. Confession Two: I own two health-monitoring gadgets, nevertheless. Confession Three: I use all of them except one.
If you’re having trouble with the math, I’ll explain. I never step on my scale except maybe once per year (the fit of my clothes tells me all I need to know about that). But I do have fun wearing a pedometer when I take a walk and then measuring my steps at the end of the day. Otherwise, computer desk-itis and couch potato-hood set in. For me, the pedometer is a pleasant little nudge toward moving more in this sedentary life.
I was interested to read about, on the very same day I heard about it on NPR, the trend toward measuring personal health stats with more gadgets. It was in my new friend Ingrid Peschke’s blog.
I wonder, is scrutinizing the body with ever more statistics going to get us to better health? I have my doubts, and apparently Ingrid does too. Take a look.
Ingrid Peschke’s guest blog:
“Is monitoring your health just a bracelet away? It’s a trend that’s catching on to people’s wrists across the country. Similar to a trendy watch, these bands–like the Basis–monitor your sleep, heart rate, calories burned, body temperature, etc. With a USB or Bluetooth the gadgets send data right to your computer or smart phone, so you can monitor and track your stats.
“A friend of mine got a sleek white one as a gift and recently showed me how it worked. As an active mom, she was excited to more accurately know how many stairs she’s climbed in a day or how many calories she’s burned.
“Other monitoring devices are catching on, too. And some recognize that simply monitoring body activity isn’t going to cut it. Take, for instance, Huff Post’s recently released “GPS for the Soul” app that monitors stress levels.” Read more.
When asked “What is your faith?” you may answer like many others today, “Well, I don’t have a specific faith. I’m not a churchgoer.” Or you might say, again like many others today, “I don’t belong to any organized religion, but I do believe in spirituality. But that’s not exactly faith, is it?”
However, if you were asked, “Do you have values?” it would be hard to imagine an answer of “No, none at all.” Everyone seems to admit to having values like honesty, integrity, kindness and hard work.
Interestingly, the word faith doesn’t have to mean religion. It refers to where we place our trust, loyalty or reliance. We put our faith in whatever we think has power. This could be in material living and success, in medicine, in luck, or in God– however we define Him. And values have to do with what we deem worthy or useful. With these definitions we might agree that we all have both faith AND values.
Faith and values then are universal concepts. Faith and values set forth the deepest questions in life, and we all want better, clearer answers to these questions.
I recommend a good source of intelligent discussion of faith and values. Many thinkers and seekers of diverse views weigh in daily, and Editor Amanda Green has just been awarded 28th Woman of Achievement in Communications by the YWCA of Lower Cape Fear, her community near Wilmington, NC. Topics on politics, culture and ethics are also explored, and the latest issue presents a Pew poll on the power of prayer in healing.
I’m unashamedly plugging this online medium where my own column on Christianity and Health is published toward the end of each month. (Search blogs for Cynthia P. Barnett) Clearly, I hope to make you a frequent reader!
Zambian nurses graduate: Away with stress and sickness!
Here are some thoughts on two important health topics, stress and spirituality. Specifically, getting rid of stress in crises and the specific spiritual qualities that get us out of the sickbed. Feeling better already, you say? Well, read on!
From guest blogger Don Ingwerson, former school superintendent in California, writing in “The Way Up and Out of Stress..’
“Years ago, I had my office and car windows shot out because of community resistance to a school that I was closing. This created a fearful condition for me and for my family. As I tried to resolve this stressful situation, a painful and unbearable thumping in my head developed. I was able to handle it, as I’ll explain in a minute…” Read more.
And from guest blogger Tony Lobl of England who writes in “Nurses and the Spiritual Need: Is it Time to Make Time for Spiritual Care?”
“What do prayer, unconditional love, forgiveness, life’s meaning and purpose, and spiritual practice have in common?
“They are five “Spiritual Concepts Western Medicine Must Embrace” according to Karen Wyatt MD writing on the [allnurses.com] website.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, in the comments section a number of detractors are energi[z]ed by the presence of the word “must” in the article’s title…”
[Later in the article Dr. Wyatt concludes, "It is time for the medical profession to wake up and recognize that the new frontier of medicine in this century lies in spirituality and spiritual energy."] Read more.
Some are continuing to observe our National Day of Prayer for the whole month of May. So here’s another thought on that.
Today’s Guest Blogger Dave Horn writes:
In light of the school tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last December, should official, organized prayer be returned to public schools?
Dennis Kruse thinks so. As chairman of the Indiana Senate education committee, he made national headlines in January when he filed a bill allowing Hoosier school districts to require recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, with exceptions for parents or children who don’t want to.
In 1962 and 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court removed both official prayer and devotional Bible reading from public schools, but many senior citizens remember when reciting a particular prayer was a morning exercise in school, along with saluting the flag and collecting lunch money. For some this prayer was the Christian “Lord’s Prayer,” while for others in communities with many Jewish families, like New York State, the prayer was written to be more inclusive.
Today’s opponents of that Court decision claim most of America’s problems are moral, and school children need at least a few moments of spiritual education each day. Proponents of the ban point out that prayer in school is already legal. Since students can already pray on a voluntary basis (silently and/or in a non-disruptive way), formal recitations are unnecessary.
The Bible reminds us Jesus loved little children, and many religions point to childlike simplicity, innocence and purity as a gateway to heaven. Whether school prayers are official or voluntary, childlike prayer is almost always trustful, expecting only good.
Before we grown-ups resume debate over school prayer, let’s turn back to the freshness of our own childhood mornings. Let our own prayers be childlike, unwavering, spontaneous and reliant, until we feel certain that “…that hand which bears creation up shall guard His children well.” (Poem by Philip Doddridge, adapted for hymnals)
It’s a little word, really. One that often gets overlooked in the drama of an exciting story as it’s told or recorded. The word is a soft one to say; it’s a meek word. But more than most, it’s a mighty word.
The word is PRAYER. I nearly missed it myself, buried at the very end of the newspaper account of “Danny,” the Boston Marathon bombers’ carjack victim. In Eric Moskowitz’ description of this harrowing experience, we follow the event from the Tsarnaev brothers first taking over the Mercedes at gun point, to Danny’s eventual escape to freedom. While the carjacker/bombers stopped for gas, Danny bolted from his Mercedes toward a nearby Mobil station across the street.
“I didn’t know if it was open or not, said Danny. “In that moment I prayed.”
The station was indeed open, and he was able to call 911 on a portable phone given to him. He referred the officers to a Mercedes tracking satellite system, leading to the eventual capture of the bombers. Danny was safe.
We may never fully understand the power of prayer to save, redeem, and heal. Many may overlook or even pooh-pooh this small word, although it is evidence of trust in a higher, more spiritual means of deliverance. Some may even dismiss spirituality; they may be caught up in materialism or secular perspectives. The very idea of God or Infinite Good can be discomfiting to such as these. They are unused to praying when in trouble.
But many, like me, have been saved, redeemed and healed when we turn to it. Danny can say he’s one of us.
Let me introduce you to a great online newsletter—full of varied perspectives on faith, values, and from my monthly column, health from a spiritual point of view. See www.WilmingtonFAVS.com for the full piece, or get a glimpse here:
Stress relief…in a bottle?
I am not kidding when I say that you can now buy stress relief in a bottle. Mine is tucked into the shower cubby where it promises to “clear your mind so you can relax.” The label adds, “Breathe deeply for best results.” The name of this elixir? Why, “Stress relief,” of course. (Full disclosure: it’s a body wash and foam bath. Find it at your local mall.)
Stress is trending today as a serious topic and a suspected cause of many ills. Sleep disorders, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, accelerated aging, even premature death—stress worsens or increases the risk of each, experts agree. One physician, Dr. Edward T. Creagan, has found stress management to be vital to our health, predicting, “Stressed today, sick tomorrow.” He describes an experiment where subjects jot down their recent illnesses and then recall whether a stressful event came first. Most report that it did. This was especially true with astronauts, students and athletes, whose pressured lives seemed to produce more respiratory illnesses.
With all this stress, can a mere potion provide a cure? (If so, you’re gonna need a bigger bottle.) Read more
What do we make of the child who grows up to be a terrorist? What do we do with the memory of two young men, Americans really, who bombed and killed their own innocent countrymen?
We can pray to support them as God originally made them, innocent children. We can pray that they come to their senses, whether on this earth or beyond. We can pray, as the father of the Prodigal Son must have: that after waste and weariness, sorrow and repentance, they come to themselves and come home.
When they do, we’ll be waiting as he did, with open arms.
*”Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”(Proverbs 22:6, attributed to Israel’s wise King Solomon who had many, many children)
For the residents and runners of Boston perhaps the most important marathon now is the marathon of prayers offered up from across the world. May our Boston friends find comfort and recovery from the unspeakable events of April 15.
I came across this uplifting piece by a colleague, herself a runner.
From Georgia’s Stormy Becker Falso:
“May each one stand, walk and run again with God as their strength, courage and joy…” Read more
With all the shock and misery each shooting brings with it, let’s never forget the remarkable responses some are capable of. We can only call it Amazing Grace.
This piece by guest blogger Dave Horn reminds us. He writes:
On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA. Gunman Charles Roberts IV took hostages and shot ten girls aged 6–13, killing five, before committing suicide. That same evening, a local Amish man visited Roberts’ parents and wife to assure them of forgiveness. The following week, when the killer was buried, several Amish attended the service, including parents of some of the slain children. For a few days, forgiveness was national news.
Forgiving is part of the rhythm of Amish life. Many of their European ancestors died at the stake or were beheaded for practicing adult baptism. So it’s in their DNA to forgive opponents.
But what about the rest of us? How should we cope with anger, resentment or a desire for revenge?
Many psychotherapists discuss forgiveness with patients only in a religious context, and that’s not surprising. A survey* conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that “Protestant and Catholic groups showed higher levels of forgiveness…compared to the non-religious group,” and “personal religiousness and spirituality explain some of these differences.”
But forgiveness may do more than get you into heaven. It may improve your life here on earth. Many studies available on the Internet conclude that hatred is bad for health; forgiveness relieves hatred, and spirituality enables greater forgiveness.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered a link between Christianity and science, agrees that health and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. “If you have been badly wronged, forgive and forget,” she writes. “God will recompense this wrong, and punish, more severely than you could, him who has striven to injure you. Never return evil for evil; and, above all, do not fancy that you have been wronged when you have not been.”
*National Survey Results for Protestant, Catholic, and Nonreligious
Experiences of Seeking Forgiveness and Forgiveness of Self, of Others
and by God, by Loren Toussaint, David Williams