MINDFULNESS AND SPIRITUALITY

In this last installment of my Mindfulness series, I would like to talk about mindfulness and spirituality.
I believe that we all are spiritual beings, but I do not mean it only in the traditional manner where people would say that in the context of their closely held religious beliefs. I mean that we all are beings who are transforming and growing in our personal journey along the river of time, that old torrent that flows only one way.

Mindfulness is simply a state of mind.  It’s a tool that anybody can use to achieve calmness, by choosing to anchor in the present moment, observing the full human experience without any judgement.  Mindfulness lets us become aware of our consciousness, that enigmatic part of ourselves in-between thoughts, that can be called our spiritual self.

Exploring this link between mindfulness and spirituality gives us a rare opportunity not found in the everyday hustle and bustle of ordinary life. It is the opportunity to understand ourselves in a deep and authentic way that science and most organized religions cannot provide. Spending time through mindfulness in our spiritual area makes us feel far more empowered and stable than when we are jumping from thought to thought and swayed by feeling to feeling.

It is within the spirituality found through mindfulness that seeking out and finding gratitude (in even the most challenging of times) becomes a natural habit to us.  It is this spirituality that makes us see the miraculous in each snowflake and in a baby’s first smile. It is spirituality that makes us able to see the gestalt (that part of the whole not seen by adding the individual components) and give us answers and deep truths we could not come by any other way.

Most importantly perhaps, when we experience our spirituality through the application of everyday mindfulness, it helps us to set the stage for awe—that feeling of amazement at an encounter with something-larger-than-ourselves that is beyond the ordinary ways we understand life.  We cannot comprehend that something-larger-than-ourselves with our usual cognitive tools, as it is too big for us. In a recent experiment, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands made half of their study subjects listen to a ten-minute-long mindfulness tape, and the control group listened to non-mindfulness radio.

They were then asked to rate from a scale of 1 to 7 pictures meant to inspire awe (like Earth from space, majestic mountains and the Grand Canyon). The mindfulness group experienced much greater awe from looking at these pictures

This contact with our spirituality has practical benefits as well.  A University of California, Berkeley study shows that experiencing the kind of awe we get from being in the presence of great art, or nature, or when we are feeling spiritual, causes the body to have lower levels of cytokines. Cytokines trigger inflammation in the body, and thus feelings of awe (or spirituality) protect the body from chronic disease.
I have greatly enjoyed this journey with you to learn what we can from this state of mind called Mindfulness.  My hope is that you will continue to strive to be more and more mindful, as happiness and health then surely follows.

About Dr. Pieter Strauss:

Dr. Strauss was born in South Africa, emigrating to Canada with his family in 1995. He has a private practice in the Fraser Valley and sees patients with mental health issues in his community. He was Head of the Psychiatry Department at a regional hospital with a staff of nine psychiatrists until last year when he decided to focus on his practice and his work at our hotel. Dr. Strauss has always been interested in long-term human relationships and envisioned enhancing relationships.

Saturday, December 12 2015

Posted by: Dr. Pieter Strauss

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