The dictionary means refer to the word spiritual as “referring to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.”
To look at the spiritual aspect of recovery, what we are focusing on is how our experiences relate to our soul or a deeper level of consciousness within us. I understand that this opens a whole other debate on what is the soul, does the soul exit and so on. -I am not here to enter into any debate of right or wrong, but simply bring forward the aspect that at some stage we all ask the question: 'Is this it? What is the meaning of it all? And in particular with mental illness: 'Why do I have to go through so much pain?'
Those simple questions have the power to shake the very foundation of our lives because there is no definitive answer; they relate to our individual belief system. Our beliefs are at the very core of who we are and how we instinctively respond to our life experiences. These are made up of all things that we learn along the way through our lives. In school we learn techniques to train our intellect and our physical body but through life the lessons we learn about our emotional and mental self comes largely from personal experience and interaction. At what point in our lives other than a crisis do we assess our personally developed coping strategies to decide whether or not the patterns that we have learned are actually the best way for us?
One of the key factors to both recovery and also the prevention of mental illness is recognizing that our learned way of operating is not the only way, and instilling hope that there can be a 'better kind of normal'. One of the most important questions I find myself asking is “Why is there no curriculum in schools which educates children on how to become aware of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors to offer a variety of alternative coping strategies and perspectives? Why do we focus? solely on the intellect and the physical body when the one common thread that each of us share is that we are all thinking, feeling and emotional beings? ”
THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT
The seventeenth century philosopher Descartes said: “I think therefore I am”, yet it was not until 300 years later when Jean-Paul Sarte realized the truth of that statement and said: “The consciousness that says 'I am' is not the consciousness that thinks “. (Tolle E, 2008)
Today, the author Eckhart Tolle who's techniques on being the 'observer' have been widely used within the Mindfulness approach to therapy, written of the epiphany which drew from his darkest hour when he contemplated ending is all because he just “could not live with himself “. He wrote of the realization which sparked the question: “Am I one or two? If I can not live with myself, there must be two of me; the I, and the self that I can not live with -Maybe – only one of them is real. ” (Tolle E, 2010)
So for the sake of the discussion today, let's consider that the part of you which recognizes the act of thinking could be called the soul and your thoughts and feelings could then be interpreted as the language in which the physical body speaks to the soul in order for you to learn from your experiences. One coping strategy that I would like to present to you is the ability to assist clients to view each experience as valued and appreciated aspect to life. This includes the strategy to perceive that our whole purpose for living is to learn and grow from our experiences. With this we can separate the theory or 'coping strategy' that the experiences in our life that trigger pain are actually occurring to show us something about ourselves.
Colin Tipping is the author of the book 'Radical Forgiveness' which shows a similar understanding to Eckhart Tolle's. Tipping goes to educate his readers with techniques on how to view a painful life situation from a varied perspective in order to empower them with the ability to let go of the victim mentality and find the value in each experience. If this understanding was within each of our staff we could help teach our clients to not only learn how to let go of anger and resentment, but also shift their whole perspective from one of victimization to acceptance and hopefully, appreciation for how they have grown through their experiences.
Why are these feelings so important? Science … Greg Braden is another Spiritualist and Author who takes these theories one step further and combines it with science and quantum physics to look at the electromagnetic energy field of the body and how it responds to our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Consider for a moment what if feels like to hold pain, anger, grief or resentment in your heart and how your body responds physically. Now consider how your body feels when instead you hold the feeling of gratitude, appreciation and love. The surprising thing is that the strongest electromagnetic field is not surrounding the brain as Scientists first thought, but actually around the heart. (Braden G, May 2009) This is where we hold all of our core beliefs such as 'I am not good enough'. It's where we hold our anger, our resentment, our grief – but also our gratitude, our appreciation, and our love. If we look at what the science is showing us; with the largest electromagnetic field surrounding the center which deals with our core beliefs we can see that through life we are like little beacons, continuing transmitting a frequency that tells everyone around us about how we are feeling and the core beliefs in which we hold.
So … if we view life from the perspective that we are all here to assist each other in recognizing what belief systems we carry that are no longer working for us so that we can learn from them and let them go, you can see why we seem to end up in the same patterns, the same relationships, the same problems over and over again if we do not learn how to recognize what is going on inside of us and evaluate our core beliefs at the heart of it all.
This spiritual approach to recovery can be applied to any person of any ethnicity, any race and any religion. Australia is a culturally diverse land. It is made up of over 220 different ethnic groups who speak 90 different languages and practice 80 different religions. (TAFE SA, 2011) With the steady influx of natural disasters that appear to be happening all across the globe, more people are asking the question 'what is the meaning of it all' and shifting their focus to religion, spirituality and alternative therapies in search of something deeper.
In May 1984 the Thirty-seventh World Health Assembly made the decision to adopt a resolution which made the “spiritual dimension” part and parcel of World Health Organization Member States' strategies for health. (WHO, 1997.) Within our work, do not we owe it to our clients to have every aspect of recovery understood? Should not this also include a sound knowledge of networks and partner organizations that we can refer to when a specialized service is required, as recommended by the 4th National Mental Health Plan? How many reputable, new-age organizations or healing centers can you recommend? If we truly value our clients and understand that it is our core belief systems that provide the foundation to the way in which we all operate, it would be beneficial to educate our staff on more of these valuable therapies and have at least one consultant within every organization who is educated in a multi-faith understanding, and who also has an understanding of their local network of reputable alternative and complimentary therapy organizations so that we can refer clients to those services when needed. With this in place we can truly provide a completely holistic service.
There has been a significant shift across the industry to change the focus of service delivery from a clinical model to a recovery based approach. What I bring to you today is simply another aspect to recovery which is in line with that shift. – Thank you.
• Braden G, May 2009, The Spontaneous Healing of Belief, 4th Edition, Hay House Australia, 56 – 60
• Tolle E, 2008, A new Earth, Penguin Group Australia, 54-55
• Tolle E, 2010, The Power of Now, Hachette Australia, 4
• Tafe SA: Certificate 4 in Mental Health 2011, MRTZ / CHCMH401A – Work Effectively in a Mental Health Setting / Cultural Considerations in Delivering Mental Health Care, Jigsaw Publications.
World Health Organization (1997) Review of the Constitution …, EB 10 1/7, p.2: