This post is the tenth in a series of posts exploring the 9 key factors that Dr Kelly Turner PhD found were present in the recoveries from advanced cancer that she studied in her book Radical Remission. Those 9 factors were:
- Radically changing your diet (here and here)
- Taking control of your health (here)
- Following your intuition (here)
- Using herbs and supplements (here)
- Releasing suppressed emotions (here)
- Increasing positive emotions (here)
- Embracing social support (here)
- Deepening your spiritual connection
- Having strong reasons for living.
This is the post where we explore what a spiritual connection is, whether you believe in God or not, what to do to deepen it and what studies have shown to be the benefits. To find out more about the book Radical Remission, go to the post “Being Radical – Introduction” here.
“Healing is release from the fear of waking and the substitution of the decision to wake. The decision to wake is the reflection of the will to love, since all healing involves replacing fear with love.” A Course in Miracles
This can be tricky topic. Many people associate “spiritual” with formal religion and fixed ways of worship and faith. And some have had experiences they would prefer not to repeat. So say the word “spiritual” and they run to the hills. They want nothing to do with it. But what many now find is that they can embark on a spiritual journey without having to adopt the God of their childhood religions. Spirituality can be anything you want it to be. And you can believe in whatever you like.
By the same token, I don’t want to alienate people who actively participate in a religion. If that’s what works for you, that’s great. Keep it up. I’ve met a number of people who say that prayer caused their remission and they have returned to the faiths of their childhoods.
The simple reality is that a cancer diagnosis can change your relationship with all things spiritual. It may give you cause to reflect on your meaning and your inner world. And deepening your spiritual connection, whatever form that takes, may assist in your physical healing. This is what Dr Kelly Turner found when researching Radical Remission and it has also been the experience of Dr Ian Gawler with the many people he has worked with over decades.
What is a spiritual connection?
In Radical Remission, Dr Kelly Turner describes a spiritual connection as a “connection to a deeper (or higher) energy, which some people personalise as “God”, some call “the soul,” and others generalise as a ubiquitous life force, calling it “energy,” “chi,” or “prana.” If you are Buddhist it is the recognition of the Buddha nature, the already enlightened part of all sentient beings.
Ian say spirituality is about “finding inner peace, finding meaning in our life and developing good human values.”
For me it is about feeling connected to the whole rather than being separated from it. To recognise that I am not alone and that we are all dependent on each other. Interdependent. When I feel separate, I get up in feelings of uniqueness, competition and fear. When I feel connected, I feel supported and love. And to do this, I connect with that part of me that is calm and still within. That part that gets called the soul, inner wisdom, or even God’s voice. The Holy Spirit as it is referred to in A Course in Miracles. Our inner link to the whole. For the purposes of Essentially Being, the essential self.
So it comes down to words. For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to use “spiritual energy” as Kelly Turner does in Radical Remission. I’m going to use Love. Because when I feel connected, that’s what I feel. And because if you have been diagnosed with a cancer, that’s what you need. Love and lots of it. I certainly did. And not from external sources. But from within.
Connecting with Love
Really, words are completely inadequate to describe what having this connection feels like. You have to experience it. The Buddha said over and over again, not to take his word for it but have your own experience. For healing to occur, it doesn’t matter what you call it or how you do it. What matters is that you find that connection and tap into regularly. Daily. Or multiple times a day.
“If you overlook love you are overlooking yourself.” A Course in Miracles
Even if you don’t believe it is there. You are not going to read this post and have faith that there is a great big Love waiting for you. Years ago when I started my journey to Love and was getting sober, I was taught that all I had to be was willing to believe. With that little bit of willingness, I started to take some actions, doubting they would work. But they did. And because they seemed to work, I was more willing and the actions became less of a chore. The more they worked, the better the results I got over time, I began to have faith in my connection.
Sometimes I didn’t connect. In fact I didn’t really even try to connect in the two years or so leading up to my diagnosis. The result? I became fearful, insecure, neurotic and emotional (FINE – get it?). Then, just before I was diagnosed, I reconnected. And I knew deep down, I was going to be okay. Not as in I’ll live forever type of okay, but that I had the connection and it would support me no matter what.
There is a relationship between the physical and the spiritual
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Once we connect with Love, we can trigger all those positive emotions and hormones discussed in Being Radical – Increasing Positive Emotions. And that is good for healing. But there is more to it. Many Radical Remission survivors come to believe that placing too much emphasis on our purely physical existence and failing to take care of our inner world is partially responsible for their disease. So the connection is necessary for healing to take place.
How to connect
The essence of connecting is to engage in a regular practice. If we look at all the religions, they have used prayer and/or meditation and/or chanting for millennia. In The Connection Documentary, Herbert Benson MD observes that there are only two steps needed to turn on the relaxation response which facilitates healing. These are the repetition of one thing (like a short prayer or mantra or simply observing breath) and disregarding all other thoughts. So all this time spiritual practice has been bringing the body into a relaxed state so that it can heal itself.
“All healing is release from the past.” A Course in Miracles
And central to this is stopping the mind from reminiscing about the past and projecting about the future. Because that is all that the mind does. Repetitive behaviour provides us with a portal to the present moment, to stillness, to NOW. And NOW is where Love can be found. Where we can just BE.
Essentially BE – yes it is precisely this concept that gave birth to the name of this blog. A spiritual connection is the connection with our essential self that can only ever be found NOW, in the space between the thoughts, in the space between the past and the future.
You become present, you enter your body, you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being. Elkhart Tolle
So prayer, meditation and similar practices all allow you to connect. Radical Remission describes some other action steps you can take to develop your spiritual connection.
The benefits of a spiritual connection
Herbert Benson says that we only need to turn on the relaxation response ONCE in order to change the way our genes express themselves. It is a very poignant moment in The Connection when he says this. But we should do it more than that obviously.
And Ian Gawler says that to activate healing in a body with cancer, to really turn on the relaxation response, we should meditate for 40 – 60 minutes, 3 times a day. Much of the recent research into the benefits of meditation has come out of programmes where people meditate for 20 minutes a day for 8 weeks. If those benefits arise in that short time, imagine if you were doing 6 times that much!
Radical Remission summarises much of that research so I won’t go into it in great depth now. But I have been collecting links to articles about some research so I will share them at the bottom of the post. And I have previously talked about them in my post 10 Great Reasons to Meditate.
Not much research has been done on prayer, mainly because its effects are difficult to measure. But those who believe are convinced of its power. Paul Kraus, a man born in a Nazi concentration camp and the longest documented mesothelioma survivor in the world, has written books about the role prayer played in his healing. And no one ever heals mesothelioma. You can read about Paul’s incredible life here.
Another benefit is that if we experience Love, we may find a depth of meaning in our life that we didn’t have before. Which then inspires us to keep living. That will be the subject of the next Radical Remission post.
There is an incredible story of healing in this chapter of Radical Remission. In fact, it was the first time I heard of John of God. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I went to see John of God in Sydney. Many people find themselves introduced to pure, unconditional Love when in his presence. I certainly felt it when I was there and the story of Matthew in Radical Remission will blow your mind. And there are many others, including Wayne Dyer, who have experienced connection and healing after an encounter with this man.
Another story that is just phenomenal, is the story of Anita Moorjani. I really can’t do it justice here, so let her tell it to you herself.
Anita’s book, Dying To Be Me, was one of the first books I read after my diagnosis and her description of the Love she felt as part of her Near Death Experience really resonated. I feel grateful to have also felt this Love during my times of stillness.
The bottom line is that cancer can open our minds to the field of possibilities about who we are and what our place is in the world. And with a regular practice, we can experience Love, the connection to the Whole which is infinite and timeless and without form as we know it. Because at our essence, we are each of us Love, loveable and loving, That is who we really are. And when we remember that and connect with it, we can heal, emotionally and mentally and maybe even physically.
And if you’ve watched the video of Anita, you will know that she learned 5 important things:
- To focus on Love. Love yourself and your love for others will grow.
- Live life fearlessly. Love will keep you safe.
- The healing power of humour, laughter and joy.
- Life is a gift
- Always be yourself … be as you as you can be … shine your light as brightly as you can … embrace your uniqueness … just be yourself.
Which of these things will you take into your life this week? Which will you focus on? What is your commitment to yourself? Let us know in the comments section and share away if you think this will help someone you know or someone you love.
So be happy. Be well. And really importantly today, take time to just BE and to slip into the gaps between the thoughts, to connect to the stillness, and to the Love.
And so be it.
If you are in Melbourne and want to learn how to meditate for yourself, find out how here.
Radical Remission by Dr Kelly Turner PhD
You Can Conquer Cancer by Dr Ian Gawler
A Course in Miracles
Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani
The Power of NOW by Eckhart Tolle