I walked in the sun and the rain. The sun shone and the rain fell simultaneously. I was thankful for my waterproof jacket. Having the right gear when you’re outdoors can make all the difference in the world.
This led me to think about how having the right gear in your indoor world can make all the difference too. The indoor world where your mind lives. What gear do you have to cope with adversity, setbacks, failures, even? What gear do you have to handle your own thoughts and feelings?
My husband asked me to blog on spirituality in healing. I published a paper which explored this topic (Williams-Orlando C. Spirituality in Integrative Medicine. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 2012;11(4):34-40.) When I think of the gear which may help us traverse our inner landscape, I think of qualities like love, kindness, forgiveness, trust, hope, faith, truth, gratitude, courage and joy.
These qualities may be considered as spiritual values. Independent and transcendent of any particular religion or belief system, these intangible and invisible qualities can help us at times, like a coat on a rainy day. Spiritual values may be useful gear for us in healing.
I like the way Caroline Myss defines spirit: “Your spirit is the part of you that seeks meaning and purpose. It’s the part drawn to hope, that will not give in to despair.” I like this definition because it speaks to our universal humanity, whether or not we believe in God(s), Goddess(s), Great Spirit or higher power of any sort.
Today I counseled a teenager who had “losing faith” written in blue ink across her fingers. I asked her about it, and I asked her how she would find faith again. Here the discussion turns to what rejuvenates, refreshes, and recharges us, what feeds our spirit, and our happiness. What makes us feel strong and what makes us feel weak? What uplifts our spirit and what drains it?
I remember a time I was counseling a woman who was suffering from depression. A part of what I prescribed to her was to increase pleasurable activities. For her, this was playing the piano. Making it a priority to do something pleasurable each day feeds our will to live.
I often make use of lovingkindness meditation for people who are self-critical and “beat themselves up.” Lovingkindness meditation is the antidote to this poison. Lovingkindness meditation builds self-compassion and grows empathy.
My son taught me years ago that what teens often need from their parents is trust. It is a practice for parents. But it often helps you and your relationship to trust in your teen and trust in life itself.
In psychology, we look for gear which enhances emotional well-being, builds positive coping skills, reduces stress, and encourages self-care. Perhaps the greater the turmoil, the more sophisticated our gear needs to be. If you are climbing mountains rather than taking a stroll in the park, you really need good shoes on. You need a good tread.
Spiritual values are gear which may suit us up to be healthy and happy, peaceful and well, in our innermost tinkering. We may lean on spiritual values in healing. As my doctoral chair and celebrated pioneer in integrative medicine, Dr. Jeannie Achterberg, defined “Healing is making the heart comfortable.”