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Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Deepening Your Spiritual Life

separator People get busy with their lives—their work, their spouses, their children. As time goes by, so much attention goes to keeping the family and career going, maintaining the home, getting through the daily grind, that a meaningful, balanced inner life may have become lower on the priority list.

Plenty of people who find out they have cancer have drifted away from having any kind of firm religious or spiritual practice. This doesn’t happen only to people with cancer, of course. But often, an important life event, such as a serious illness, can lead you back to a yearning for a connection to something bigger than yourself.

Whether your cancer was found in the early stages and your prognosis is excellent, or whether your cancer is more serious, a spiritual or religious practice might be helpful to you now. If you already have a strong faith in God or other type of belief, you know this already.

But if you don’t have a daily practice, you may find yourself searching for a deeper meaning in your life, guidelines that can lead you to a feeling of peace and calm when your life feels anything but peaceful and calm, a sense of connectedness to something larger than yourself and, perhaps, to a community of others who share similar beliefs.

To distinguish religion from spirituality—religion comprises a specific set of beliefs and practices associated with a specific denomination. Spirituality encompasses a broader spectrum, including those who seek meaning through religion or those who seek meaning through a path that would not be religious. So in a sense, and for the purposes of this article, religion and spirituality are intertwined.

Studies have shown that people who do have some sort of spiritual practice are more likely to feel a sense of peace and calm when they experience a serious illness than people who don’t have a spiritual practice. Additionally, those with a spiritual practice have a higher likelihood of managing their symptoms with less difficulty and of having a higher level of adjustment to their cancer. These people seem to find it easier to continue to enjoy their life and to engage in meaningful activities, despite pain and discomfort.

None of this information is intended to try to convince you to deepen you spiritual life if this kind of thing doesn’t interest you. But for those who are searching, pay attention to that feeling. If you don’t already have a church or practice in mind, try several different ones.

  • Attend services at churches near your home.
  • If you have friends who routinely go to church, ask if you could join them sometime.
  • If the idea of church isn’t what you’re after, you might want to investigate meditation groups in your area.

If you keep yourself open to the idea of a spiritual path, you’re likely to find that the possibilities are endless, and that all you had to do was open your mind and heart to find your way.

National Cancer Institute, “Spirituality in Cancer Care”.
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