A major task in being human is to maintain balance between body, mind, and spirit. Living with a chronic illness can make that more difficult. The more we keep our minds filled with positive and loving thoughts, the easier our lives become. Spirituality can be valuable toward that goal.
Spirituality is not about religion. Our spirituality is about making a connection with our Higher Power, our inner strength, our spirit that we believe in and trust. It helps us tap into and strengthen our inner beliefs. People use many different words and symbols to talk about their inner life and spirituality. One commonly used way these days is to talk about angels as not only messengers of God but as people who come into our lives to remind us of what we need to know. (A good resource is Angelspeake by Trudy Griswold and Barbara Mark.)
We can connect with our inner selves and our angels through prayer, listening, writing, accepting, following, and knowing our own inner strength.
Our spiritual side is the aspect of our lives to which many pay the least attention. Focusing on our spirit is about how we can relate to ourselves. The four fundamentals of connecting with our inner strength are:
We can use this process for reflecting on, praying over, and learning more about events, fears, hopes, dreams and other issues in our lives. Such reflection is the vehicle for nurturing our spirituality. It can help us recognize that each of us is worthy and deserves love, including God's gift of help from angels.
Where can you start? Look at your body, mind, and spirit and the larger dimensions of your life - health, family, friends, work, play, the world. What needs to be nurtured? Focus there for inner growth. You can't receive help until you ask for it. Be real about what you need, bring it forth so that you can look at it and grow. Try to avoid barriers to spirituality, such as fear of focusing on yourself or "deal-making" prayer. You never have to sacrifice in order to receive from God who made you, loves you, wants to be with you, needs to hear from you, and encourages you to name what you need. Within each of us is a spiritual self, which is a sense of knowing.
Some people call it their soul, others call it their gut instinct. Whatever you call this sense, believe in its validity. Believe in the power within you when things happen and you have a feeling and an angel comes your way to guide you.
About the Living with RA Workshop at HSS
Summary written by Diana Benzaia.
Sr. Margaret Oettinger,
Director of Spiritual Care
Department of Patient Care and Quality Management
Hospital for Special Surgery