Posted by: coachingparents | November 5, 2009

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF A SPIRITUAL LIFE


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.

The mental health profession is beginning to recognize the need for
people to include their spiritual life in any treatment or therapy
they might seek.  Until recently, the term “spirit” conjured up
concepts such as ghosts, mental aberrations, religious beliefs or
cults.  Now, however, science is beginning to acknowledge the
importance of body energy, its energy fields and what psychological
factors modify such fields.  Some of these factors have previously
been exclusively the domain of “spiritual” people.  Not so anymore!

The value of a healthy spiritual life is being recognized by almost
everyone who has had any experience addressing the psychological, or
mental and emotional problems of others.  Clinical psychologist and
Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield, in his book, “A Path With Heart”
writes: “When I began working at a state mental hospital while
studying for my Ph.D., I naively thought I might teach meditation to
some of the patients.  It quickly became obvious that meditation was
not what they needed.

“But then I discovered a whole large population at this hospital who
desperately needed meditation: the psychiatrists, psychologists,
social workers, psychiatric nurses, mental health aides, and others. 
…Not many among these caregivers seemed to know firsthand in their
own psyches the powerful forces that the patients were encountering,
yet this is a very basic lesson in meditation: facing our own greed,
unworthiness, rage, paranoia, and grandiosity, and the opening of
wisdom and fearlessness beyond these forces.  The staff could all have
greatly benefited from meditation as a way of facing within themselves
the psychic forces that were unleashed in their patients.  From this
they would have brought a new understanding and compassion to their
work and their patients.”

All traditional spiritual paths, some practiced for thousands of
years, seek to transform and liberate consciousness.  There are
generally two very different approaches on how to accomplish this. 
One traditional view teaches that we need to attain profoundly altered
states of consciousness in order to discover a “transcendent” vision
of what life is all about.  The stereotype of this spiritual seeker is
one who goes to the cave or mountaintop, withdraws from the world,
meditates for hours on end, and finally becomes “enlightened.” This
view is referred to as the “transcendent path of spirituality.” And
certainly, the value of this way is the great inspiration and forceful
vision it can bring to our lives.

The second great spiritual view is called the “path of spiritual
immanence.  This school teaches that one needs to bring the value of
spiritual awakening down from the mountain and inject it in every
moment of our daily lives.  It believes that we need to infuse our
whole life with a sense of the sacred and truly live from moment to
moment fully involved in the daily activities we each encounter.

Both of these spiritual traditions, have certain psychologically
beneficial and healthy aspects.  Almost any spiritual tradition
contains certain “truths” and methods for realizing them.

Regardless of which religious or mystical path one chooses, the
benefits one derives from pursuit of a spiritual practice can include:

—-The development of compassion for self and others.  Such
compassion is based not on seeking some ideal of perfection.  Rather
it is simply based on the capacity to “Let go and to love, to open the
heart to all that Is.”

——The strengthening of the human virtues of kindness, patience,
flexibility, self–awareness and self–acceptance, understanding,
wisdom and knowledge.

——Probably the best psychological benefit of spiritual pursuits
is the loss of fear.  As one’s spiritual life evolves, his fear
diminishes.  Almost all common psychological problems are
fundamentally based on fear.  Lose your fear, and you become
spiritually well.  Become spiritually mature and you lose your fear.

As a mental health professional, I can attest to the value of these
traditional spiritual endeavors.  Hopefully, we will continue to seek
out their benefits to us as living beings.  Perhaps we are actually
spiritual beings creating a physical experience, rather than a
physical being seeking a spiritual experience.  Wouldn’t that shift in
perception transform your life?! Such a transformation in everyone’s
self-concept might just save the human species from extinction.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life
coach.  He serves on the faculty of the International University of
Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams)
the book: “Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and
Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice…and Your Life!” (W.W. Norton
2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Life Coaching” (formerly “Practical
Psychology”). E-mail: DrLloyd@CreatingLeaders.com or LJTDAT@aol.com.

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Responses

  1. I enjoyed reading this article.


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