Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inspiration for the Day, December 19, 2010: 

from "Prayer Is Good Medicine" by Larry Dossey, M.D.

"'If only I'd been further along my spiritual path, the biopsy would have come back negative,' one of my patients once said. Why do we blame ourselves for getting sick? I call this New Age guilt, and it is currently epidemic in our society. The accusation can also come from others. I call this New Age blame.

"Sure, disease can be a reflection of the psyche. For example, people who experience a tremendous degree of psychological stress at work and have no control over the demands of their job have a higher incidence of heart attacks. Also, it is well known that individuals who are burdened with a sense of stress and anxiety and who are cynical and angry toward life in general - the so-called Type A personality - are more likely to die younger of heart disease.

"But examples such as these do not mean that all diseases are correlated with psychological problems or spiritual failure. Many great saints and mystics died from dreadful diseases, sometimes at a young age. . . . If 'being spiritual' immunized one against illness, the saints and mystics should have been healthy and long-lived. The fact that they often were not shows that one can attain great spiritual heights and get very sick.

"Why did the cells in the stomach of Ramana Maharshi, the most beloved saint of modern India, become cancerous, and why did this God-realized man die a painful death from stomach cancer? Why did the Buddha, the Awakened One, die from food poisoning? Why was Saint Teresa of Avila afflicted with crippling arthritis? Or why did our biopsy turn out positive - in spite of the fact that we may have done immense spiritual work in our lifetime? In each instance, the cells in the body are just being themselves, doing what cells do, which sometimes involves malfunctioning.

"In the past half-century, medical scientists have discovered the most intimate connections between mind and body. These insights, marvelous as they are, should not be extended too far. The correlation between mental and physical health is general, not invariable. Even if we do our spiritual homework, it is not always the case that we will be blessed with good health.

"In the first verse of the first chapter of the book of Job we read, 'Job . . . was. . . perfect.' And later on, 'In all this Job sinned not.' Job's story shows that perfection, personal disaster, and physical illness can go hand in hand. Sometimes our body's cells are just going to be themselves and break down, no matter how spiritually advanced we may be.

"Almost everyone experiences illness sooner or later. When we ask the inevitable questions - Why is this happening? Why me? - we should resist blaming ourselves for causing the problem. When our organs, cells, and molecules malfunction, rather than criticize them we might thank them for sustaining us as faithfully as they have. . . . "

"We ought to take a less demanding attitude toward our bodies. Our bodies might be grateful. Nobody likes to be told they have to be perfect all the time."

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