“All problems are psychological, but all solutions are spiritual.”
Thomas Hora, MD
Whether agnostic, humanist, spiritual practitioner or someone who is actively engaged in some form of organized religion (atheists are invited too) having a consistent practice of prayer and/or meditation can improve one’s health and overall wellbeing. What exactly am I talking about when I say prayer/mediation?
Prayer is simply when I speak my truth, my struggles, my hopes, and my fears or simply send positive energy out to the universe, source, higher power or the God(s) of my understanding. I personally thrive with a more structured approach and use works like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, The Little Flower, St. Francis of Assisi, The Recovery Bible, or any devotional like Our Daily Bread, or Forward-Day-By-Day. These works are not substitutes for my honest sharing with that great universal source which I simply call God. They assist me in reflecting on how my personhood interacts with that power and others through a specific passage or reading. Prayer for me is all about how I can be a better person today. I engage in this practice daily between 30-45 minutes.
Meditation is when I sit quietly, focus on nothing, let my thoughts come, still my mind and receive from the universe, source, higher power or the God(s) of my understanding. Since I am not yet free from the “monkey mind”, I find it useful to use a meditation app or one of the meditation videos YouTube to guide me through this process. I actually enjoy more variety in my meditation practices and use various types of meditation styles including visualizations in my routine as opposed to my more limited resources for my prayer time. Regardless of the style of meditation, I employ I always feel better for having engaged in this practice. I generally do 10 minutes of meditation daily. I didn’t begin with 10 minutes; I started with 30-second breathing exercises and worked my way up to more time as I continued the practice.
As a result of the consistent application of these practices, I improve cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, improve my body’s ability to heal or protect itself. Additionally, I can work through difficult decisions, free my bodily systems to work through traumas, lower blood pressure, and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. These practices are holistic approaches that impact the whole person. This is not just my personal experience; these are the things that can be and have been measured through scientific study. If prayer and meditation did nothing else, then to make me a more compassionate, caring and all-around better neighbor, they would still be worth doing.
Prayer and meditation allow me to be free of the constraints of time and space, where I become one with whatever that life force of the universe is and unites me with the rest of humanity. In a world so full of divisive, partisan/religious cliques, we could use a little more connectedness.