I once heard a talk given by Larry Dossey, an M.D. who has written quite a few books about the effective power of prayer and meditation in physical and psychological healing. The title of the talk, interestingly enough, was "New Age Guilt." After detailing a whole host of empirical studies showing the effectiveness of prayer and meditation in bringing about healing, Dossey then went on to present a long list of well-known spiritual teachers and masters - from ALL religious traditions - who died from various illnesses: cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc. His point was that the reality of healing involves at least several different factors, some of which we can control, and others of which we cannot.
I am convinced that consistent prayer, meditation and positive thoughts - as well as a healthy diet, good exercise and ample time spent in the Great Outdoors - DO indeed elicit greater health. However, to make this principle into an ironclad LAW - with the currently popular "Law of Attraction" being one prominent example - is simply to fall into yet one more embodiment of our own American Puritan mindset and heritage being applied in our lives. If we do end up falling into ill-health, such a "law" can - and often does - lead to just as many crippling feelings of guilt as any explicitly religious fundamentalism ever produced.
I'm reminded here of my days spent in the evangelical Christian Charismatic Movement, when "faith healing" was all the rage. If we prayed for a healing and didn't receive it, the blame was laid upon us for not "having enough faith" or not "spending enough time in the Word (the Bible)." We are tempted to fall into a similar guilt pattern in our present time, when young, beautiful, healthy "Law of Attraction gurus" preach to us at every turn about a supposed ironclad connection between health and positive thoughts. However, it is simply one more variation on our stubbornly-embedded American Puritan heritage.
Here is my prescription: Yes, let us focus on positive thoughts, faith, a healthy diet, exercise, and time spent in the Great Outdoors. But let us also FALL SO MUCH IN LOVE with the beauty and grandeur of the larger cosmos - and with our own unique contribution to the joy of the Creator's Self-Awareness and Celebration - that we have very little time or energy left over to focus on the results (or non-results) of our own health-based practices. If we do end up experiencing physical or psychological suffering, let us not give in to the temptation to "beat ourselves up" over our seeming failure. Let us instead merge our suffering with the suffering of the Creator - both God and Goddess - and allow the Divine Suffering, like a sequence of cosmic labor pains, to bring to birth a new and transformative consciousness within and among us.
Photo: A windy day up on Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, January 25, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.