WHERE THE EVIDENCE STANDS : SPIRITUALLY AND LONGEVITY:

SCIENCE, SPIRITUALLY AND LONGEVITY: WHERE THE EVIDENCE STANDS

Editor's Note: totalhealth is nutrition and exercise for the body and mind. and meditation or prayer is spiritual nourishment. Dr. Khalsa will be addressing the mind-body-spirit connection for longevity in this and future articles.
Recent research at the highest levels of academic medicine has pointed toward a positive relationship between mind-body interactions, spiritual practice, genuine religious belief and multiple positive outcomes.

For the past 30 years, scientific inquiry by Herbert Benson, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, as well as recent work by Larry Dossey, M.D. and others, has elucidated the effects of meditation, prayer, visualization and other mind-body interactions. Meditation for example, not only creates health-promoting physiological changes, but also leads to the development of a relationship with the divine power within that we call God. When this occurs well-being improves and life is extended.

Spirituality is very important in modern society and is becoming even more so. A recent Gallup poll in fact disclosed that 90 percent of Americans pray on a regular basis and 74 percent consider spirituality to be the most important factor facing our nation today.

In a Newsweek a majority of American adults, 54 percent, reported praying on a regular basis and 29 percent said they pray more than once a day. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they believe that God answers their prayers at least some of the time. Finally, 79 percent said they believe God answers prayers for healing.

The therapeutic potential of spirituality and religion has been the subject of many reviews, dating back as far as 150 years. In that time there have been over 200 epidemiological, sociological and biomedical investigations that underline a positive relationship between religious belief, attendance at worship services and beneficial health outcomes. People with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer and colitis have all been shown to benefit from spiritually.
This powerful research may suggest that lade of a spiritual self-connection or perhaps infrequent religious observance can be regarded as a consistent risk factor for diminished overall health and premature death.

In the literature there are eight longevity studies that include a religious commitment variable. Religion was found to have a positive association with longevity. Indeed, the less religious were found to have mortally levels twice those of the more religious.

Many esteemed medical philosophers of our day have commented on the importance of spirituality and longevity. Deepak Chopra, M.D., the widely-read pioneer in the science of living long and well has stated, "My personal observations of people who live extended lives and more than that, extended happy, carefree lives, is that longevity becomes a side benefit of their own spiritually."

Recently my wife Kirti and I travelled to the holy city of Amritsar in northern India, about 20 kilometers from the border of Pakistan. The city of Amritsar is the home of the Golden Temple, or Harimandir. It is constructed of half-marble and half-gold and is a glimmering sight, vibrating almost as a living entity. Over the past 400 years, songs or shabads have been sung there in the praise of God for 24 hours a day.

On the morning of the third day I awoke with a deep spiritual insight. Like many profound occurrences in life, it now actually seems quite simple. I realized the one true immortal essence of reality. I had a personal awareness of God's creative self and, dearly, it was by His grace. I emphasize the word realize because to realize is more than to study, to understand, to intellectualize or even to know. It is beyond experience.

This realization imbued me with the identity of truth. This truth was the personification of my own spiritually and, beyond that, the awareness that my spiritual essence is the same as that of the creator. In other words, God and me-me and God, are one.

This experience of grace can happen to anyone. Although it can occur spontaneously,it is most often the result of a long-term disciplined spiritual practice, or sadhana. I believe that was the case with me.

Sadhana develops tape or psychic heat and allows positive changes to occur on many levels of existence. The key to it is repetition. Hence the practice of spiritual development is one of dedication. This makes perfect sense because every success involves commitment. Although all roads lead there, Rome simply wasn't built in a day. You don't wake up one morning and decide you want to be a doctor and the next afternoon hang out your shingle. It takes four years of college, four years of medical school, internship and residency. Muslims pray five times a day, Sikhs read five bands or prayers, Orthodox Jews have their morning rituals, Catholics say their rosary over and over again, other Christians read the Bible while Buddhists sit for hours and hours in meditation. Spiritual growth requires a daily practice.

In my own work of consulting with patients suffering from memory loss or chronic pain, and about which I have written in my books Brain Longevity (Warner Books, 1997) and Pain Free (Warner Books, 1998), I have observed the power of spiritual development first-hand. A significant number of my patients has obtained inner peace and true healing through forging a connection with their own soul. This helps transcend mental stress, chronic pain and attachment to illness behavior. Ultimately it allows the recovered to help others recover as well.

There is only one true immortal essence of reality; the Creator who is beyond all time and space. S/he is the doer of everything and is realized through grace. It was true in the beginning, it is true through all the ages, it is true even now; truth shall ever be. To the extent that people are able to tap into that true, divine healing flow of energy and make it their own, they will enjoy a healthier, happier and holier life. If medical intervention is necessary, the outcome can be enhanced. It is also quite possible that making spiritually a priority in their everyday life will bring them the benefit of more years along the way.
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by DHARMA SINGH KHALSA, M.D.

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