In my work with shamanism and conscious aging I increasingly witness the importance of spirituality in creating rich and meaningful lives. ”Gero-transcendance”, a term coined by a social scientist doing research with elders, refers to the growth task in the later years of shifting the identity focus from ego to the transpersonal. In this blog Jackie Clark, Outreach Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance,  which recognizes the importance of a spiritual presence to help heal the mind, body and spirit during the fight to overcome various forms of cancer such as mesothelioma, talks about the importance of spiritual growth-work for cancer patients, but the significance of what she addresses has relevance for us all. Thank you Jackie. Dr. Tom Pinkson

From Jackie – “For many cancer patients, it is vital to involve spiritual practices and a complete nurturing inner life plan in their journey to wellness. Nurturing a patient’s inner life may include many spiritual practices like prayer, meditation or the laying of hands, but can differ depending on beliefs. Tapping into one’s inner self can unlock what may turn out to be emotionally soothing and helpful to the overall medical treatment. The inner self is bound to change with the physical torment the individual is going through and many spiritual practices that fed the inner self before may need to change. Regardless of practices or beliefs, anyone battling an aggressive cancer like mesothelioma should care for their inner self.

The inner self is personal and can comprise of philosophical, spiritual or religious beliefs. For some, the inner self is the pure expression of their soul. For most individuals, spiritual practice nurtures their inner self, and for those battling cancer, it is often forgotten in a comprehensive treatment plan. Understanding and tending to this critical part of the metaphysical body may help fight the totality of the disease. Incorporating regular spirituality exercises, like meditating or praying, may relieve the fear and stress associated with the physical battle. Further, some individuals may find comfort in healers, shamans or other spiritual leaders.

Though battling cancer is an incredibly individual process, which is often hard to articulate to loved ones, patients should include family and caregivers in their spiritual practice. What is often overlooked is the pain partners, family and friends may be experiencing watching their loved one in their very personal battle. Whether it is collective or individual, loved ones should also participate in any spiritual practice that feeds their inner life or that of the patient. Feeling helpless is common in family and friends, and can be relieved through prayer or meditation.

Whether it is through an outward spiritual practice or private contemplation, nurturing an individual’s inner life is critical to any wellness path. A holistic approach instead of a purely medical treatment may have a positive and long-lasting impact on an individual’s overall recovery. The state of the inner life of a suffering individual may also shed light on the physical ailment and offer important information to physicians about their patients.

Those battling mesothelioma cancer or other aggressive diseases may benefit from the added comfort of a regular spiritual practice along with their medical treatment. If it is appropriate, patients should discuss how spirituality might influence any treatment plans with their physician. Further, many treatment facilities offer a variety of spiritual groups, and individuals interested should inquire with the patients’ relations office for availability.”

Reference
The Mayo Clinic. Spirituality and Stress Relief: Make the Connection. Accessed on October 27, 2010.
American Cancer Society. Spirituality and Prayer. Accessed on October 27, 2010.