Spirituality of Healthcare.

Human existence is the ultimate Divine endowment, the mind being its celestial connection to cosmic authority. The physical body is the absolute expression and its biologic functioning an undeniable extension of the astounding energy that we call life. The role of mind and spirituality in dealing with health and illness is akin to that of electricity illuminating a city.
The ones who treat can only heal when they realize that critical reality.

Even though there is no universal definition for spirituality, almost all cultures and religions relate to the presence of a ‘living consciousness’, a spirit within every human being that is relevant to life within or beyond the celestial system. In a larger concept of ‘being’ and a broader realm of existence, it relates to the meaning of life, a soul beyond the physical body, an inter- connection between different beings and them with the Reality at large. In Hindu perception, spirituality covers the philosophy of Dharma, Karma, cycles of birth and death and the ultimate salvation (Moksha).
  Brilliant observations and inferences of the several genius philosophers and thinkers have educated us the many basic facts of life through recorded history. As we remain mesmerized by their wisdom and acknowledge their teachings with humility and gratitude, we also develop a certain sense of submission to an inconceivable authority that transcends beyond the reach of human comprehension, making our understanding more pristine and sublime. And such reflective experiences enrich our attitude and mold our minds through assimilation of a certain ‘obscure yet palpable element of spirituality’. As much as we can attribute all our materialistic developments to the courtesy of scientific inventions, when dealing with matters of life and that of mind, we are enforced to transcend our sphere of perception to a much loftier realm. Once we accept an entity that we call ‘soul’ and its nature as 288 justified and explained in our scriptures, we may become more at ease accepting a spiritual dominion beyond our reach. It is common knowledge that we have not even scratched the surface of that metaphysical plane, nor perhaps we never will.
     It is encouraging that modern science is gradually and graciously accepting an intellect beyond their grasp, even granting it to be a concession, facilitating an amicable synchronization between ‘science’ and ‘spirituality’. If human life and perhaps its soul is the ultimate entity in the ever evolving process of creation and evolution, it behooves us to imagine that there may be a vested purpose, a designated destiny, an imaginative intent, established, structured and manipulated by an Ultimate Reality which will always remain inconceivable to the miniscule ability and grasp of human intellect. At the same time, if the wealth of knowledge amassed by the spiritual minds can accommodate and take advantage of the scientific information accumulated through the human socio- cultural enhancement, this global human family of ours stands to benefit immensely. As we approach the subject of healthcare, a common and widespread perception is that of the biologic well-being of an individual, relating to the best possible working of the body under normal environmental conditions. Any disturbance or imbalance to such status of ‘health’ due to internal or external reasons would result in illness and when such cannot be mitigated by treatment or adjustments within the body itself, it will lead to death.
     Many of the old-world countries especially India and other Eastern concepts of health have always emphasized the role of the mind, its importance and of spirituality in the maintenance of a robust status of physical welfare. Western, ‘modern’ medicine for centuries hardly considered such philosophy as of any significance. Perhaps because of the systematic methodology of Allopathy that established its dominance and universal popularity through fundamental and corroborative research data before incorporating a certain modality of treatment, mind and its function was not recognized as crucial in the physiology and pathology of the body. Mind, consciousness, feelings and spiritual attitude not being measurable entities were often excluded as important in a person’s health and well-being. And as the west controlled governing most of the planet, the knowledge and wisdom of the rest of the old-world was pushed aside and often into oblivion. At least until very recently.
     Fortunately for all concerned, and due to a variety of reasons like technology helping to link distant continents and their wealth of knowledge, universal migration of people along with tolerant, unprejudiced acceptance of information have come to the benefit of improved healthcare. Thus the perception that spirituality occupies an integral aspect of human health has been established and is steadily gaining recognition. The dangers of drug-induced complications, the overuse, abuse and mixing of several drugs leading to unwarranted, iatrogenic manifestations have guided the caregivers to exploring safer means of management and harmless alternatives. Perhaps deviating from the subject but nevertheless of grave implications are the overwhelming chemical, nuclear, and several such sinister environmental dangers that impose threatening consequences on human cells leading to diseases. A spiritual approach and modification to adapt and combat such challenges are distinctly bound to enhance the existing health status.
     The incorporation of ‘Alternative Medicine’ as an accepted mode of treatment in the maintenance of health, prevention of diseases and treatment of many illnesses is a welcome addition. The introduction of Ayurvedic practices, the flourishing commercial popularity of yoga, the launching of even an International Yoga Day, understanding that prayer has a distinct role in the mental status of humans and consequently on physical health, institution of meditation as an essential addition and an acknowledged assumption of mind control are ample evidence of the universal approval of spirituality’s unquestionable significance in human functionality. It is established and accepted in the modern scientific field that there is a distinct interaction between the functions of the body and mind, that spiritual and religious commitments do influence our health, and that nature and God, health, illness, treatment and spirituality are all indisputably intermingled.
     In a holistic approach to health that is essentially based on the fundamental inclusion of the tenets of spirituality, the emphasis is on a balanced physical and spiritual well-being in which environmental factors, nutritional observance, as well as cultivating balanced physical, mental and spiritual disciplines are essential. To attain such an optimal global status it is imperative that we incorporate and integrate all the modern scientific understanding and the age-old wisdom that can adequately nurture the needs of the body and mind. Until recent times, practitioners of modern science often ignored the religious beliefs and spiritual practices of patients, considering them as inconsequential or superstitious in the healing process.
     The Institute of Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center, established in 1954, recently commemorating its sixty years of growth, is a glorious example of pride and commitment in its meritorious service with its motto of ‘Faith and Meaning Impact Health and Healing’. Its challenge was to envision and build a religious program at the Texas Medical Center. In 2003, projecting a broader perspective, the name was changed to The Institute of Spirituality and Health. Its fundamental philosophy is based on the proof from research that a strong and consistent spiritual outlook is correlated with various measures of health and healing from physiological measures, to recovery time, and even to longevity. The institute has succeeded in its endeavors to initiate and continue to expand on 290 its efforts to educate the healthcare providers to instil and incorporate the element of spirituality in providing service. I have been very fortunate to be invited to serve on its board.
     And as we gain more information through advancement of scientific knowledge and as ongoing research illuminates intricate interaction between the fluctuations of the mind and its influence on bodily functions, maintenance of health and optimal standard of living are bound to improve. There is also huge potential from the developing fields of Behavioral sciences, Cybernetics, Molecular Genetics, Neuropsychic sciences, cell biology and possibly several more that are not even in the conceptual horizon at present.
     In summary, we are at the threshold of a momentous and promising breakthrough in our healthcare concept, of maintaining an optimum milieu of life, preventing diseases and treating illnesses incorporating the millennia old wisdom of our forefathers, that spirituality is essential and of supreme importance to tame the mind, and that the mind has an essential role to keep the body functioning at its best.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

2 thoughts on “Spirituality of Healthcare.”

  1. I read the beginning. That humans are some ultimate evolutionary development is likely incorrect, so we may not be here for a purpose, but the search to connect with the spirit needs no justification anyway.

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