Mental and Spiritual Health

For centuries humanity has known that health includes the mental, physical and spiritual dimensions of our existence. But so many people alive today are oblivious to how integral these three aspects of life are. When Ivan received his diagnosis, he and I began to appreciate this even connection more deeply.

Reading material like Dr. Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles helped us realize just how powerful our own mind is relating to our health. The experiences Dr. Siegel shares concerning how effective visualization is are just astounding. We did not find Dr. Siegel’s book until AFTER Ivan was told he was in remission. I wish I had found it when we were just starting the journey, but hey, at least we have it in our arsenal now!

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    body, mind and spirit conceptPrayer has been a huge anchor for us. We were surprised and delighted to be prayed for following a business event the very next day after receiving the diagnosis. There have been other times dinner guests have gathered around us and prayed for Ivan. Ivan has received so many encouraging emails from friends and business associates letting him know they are praying for him, too. I think that our faith has really strengthened us, because we both have a sense that we do not walk this path alone. And we are extremely grateful that God has created healing foods and a body system which can repair itself so efficiently and quickly!

    I already had a meditation practice and now, Ivan joins me in frequent meditation. Where I prefer to sit silently in meditation, Ivan likes to sit quietly with music. He brings his iPod to our quiet room and we meditate together in our individual methods. I generally sit every day, but Ivan sits a few times a week. Whether meditation is practiced for spiritual purposes or for simple relaxation, it has been shown to build up the immune system.

    There have been times when things have gotten frustrating for us, but we both understand how critical it is for the body to be at its optimum that our emotions to stay positive, upbeat and patient. Negativity has a measurable ability to suppress the immune system. We have really focused on keeping our thoughts uplifting and encouraging. This is so important for anyone who is healing from some type of condition in the body.

    Ivan made a firm decision to surround himself with positive influences, view uplifting and humorous television shows, and be very protective of his time off. I also became very intentional about keeping my calendar full of margins and long, free time periods. Since I knew I would be driving Ivan to the Center for Advanced Medicine in Encinitas for his bi-weekly appointments (about 2 hours each way), I took a look at what obligations I needed to shift to the back burner to keep myself from being overextended and made those shifts.

    After I became a black belt in karate, I began to train for teacher certification in Tai Chi. Tai Chi is very much an internal martial art, whereas karate is an external martial art. My Tai Chi trainer, Sifu Samuel Barnes, is also a Qi Gong Master. After learning the teacher-training material, we began to work more in the area of Qi Gong. Ivan is not an avid Qi Gong guy, but he has experienced some positive benefits from the Qi Gong I have done with him. Its energetic focus is a bit too intangible for him, but the results keep him from dismissing it completely.  I have also studied with Qi gong Master Chunyi Li of Spring Forest Qi Gong. At one point Ivan began to have a lot of pain in his feet. He did not realize that his arches were falling and blood flow was constricted to his feet. At the points where his feet hurt the worst, I did a Qi Gong session with a focus on his feet and the pain subsided. When he had sleeping issues, I did Qi Gong with him just before he went to sleep, and he did seem to sleep better. His attitude was so great. “It can’t hurt, so let’s try it!”

    I have included a discussion about Qi Gong in this section about Mental and Spiritual Health because there is a lot of visualization and mental focus involved with this practice. Certain aspects of Qi Gong can be spiritual in nature, as well. It has been a valuable modality to be familiar with in our journey together.

    We knew before this exciting challenge that there can be no disconnecting mind, body and spirit, but having come this far with all the things we have incorporated into the process, we are completely convinced that these three aspects of healthy living are inextricably intertwined.

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    Beth Misner

    Beth Misner is the Corporate Vice Chair of BNI, the Co-Founder of the BNI Foundation and Director of the Journey Center. She is a certified chiropractic assistant, certified sports nutritionist, black belt in karate, tai chi/qi gong instructor, ordained minister and meditation/prayer leader. When Ivan was diagnosed in 2012 with prostate cancer, she drew from all her expertise relating to “mind, body and spirit” to partner with him on a journey into recovered health.

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The Impact of Qi Gong

I am a Qi Gong student. The things I have learned during my study of Qi Gong have been easy to implement and have had a profound impact where I have used them. When I first began to study Qi Gong, I knew that I would see some raised eyebrows from some friends and even hear some people questioning my direction (or if I were losing my way, actually). What I realized is that this ancient Chinese approach to the body and health is one way of approaching the grand design of the One who created us with these dynamics.

Our bodies are full of electric circuits. The many, many nerves, electrical impulses, and highly conductive environment of our bodies are what make us operational, so to speak. And we do have an electromagnetic field which extends out from our body. Some people’s fields are quite large while some are much smaller, but we all have them and they are measurable.

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    Beth leads tai chi in La Jolla 2The premise of Qi Gong, to put it in very simple terms, is that moving energy (called Qi) around the body can eliminate any blockages or stagnation of the flow of Qi, much like acupuncture does. There are various ways to move energy–some of it is physical, some of it is mental. The blockage or stagnation of Qi can have a negative impact on the body’s organs and system functions. Similarly, moving the energy through the body freely can have a positive impact.

    Qi Gong may be practiced by someone for his or her own benefit, or it may be practiced by someone for the benefit of someone else. My practice is primarily self-focused, but I have (as a student, not a professional) offered a Qi Gong session to others. The results of the sessions are usually pretty amazing. For example, while on a vacation with friends recently, one of them was thrown up into the air while kite surfing and hit the water so hard he felt as if he had broken at least two ribs. He progressively got more and more stiff, experienced more and more pain, until I could help myself no longer and offered to do a Qi Gong session to see if his pain would be alleviated.

    What he experienced after the session was really amazing. He said right away that he felt instantly better. He went on to play tennis without pain, enjoy dinner and dancing and was feeling good as we all retired for the evening. In the morning, he said that he had begun to experience some soreness. I did another session for him and that was the end of it.

    After reading Dr. Bernie Siegel’s book Love, Medicine and Miracles, I feel that I understand better how Qi Gong can have such a profound impact on health and wellness. Our minds are so unfathomably complex and visualization so powerful that the work we do in Qi Gong really does make more sense to me now. I love what Master Chunyi Li, one of my Qi Gong instructors and founder of Spring Forest Qi Gong, says: “It will work if you don’t believe it, but it will work better if you do!”

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    Beth Misner

    Beth Misner is the Corporate Vice Chair of BNI, the Co-Founder of the BNI Foundation and Director of the Journey Center. She is a certified chiropractic assistant, certified sports nutritionist, black belt in karate, tai chi/qi gong instructor, ordained minister and meditation/prayer leader. When Ivan was diagnosed in 2012 with prostate cancer, she drew from all her expertise relating to “mind, body and spirit” to partner with him on a journey into recovered health.

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Meditation and Health

You can hardly read any article on stress reduction without finding encouragement to practice meditation. When evaluating Ivan’s need to bring his stress level down and learn better ways to manage the inevitable stress which comes from life in general, multiplied by a factor of at least 5 due to the size of his life, we realized that meditation had a place in his health plan.

You may have heard that meditation can have very large benefits to us both mentally and physically. It is a practice we seemed to be created to have to do . . . so much so that we all meditate every day without probably being aware of it. When we sleep, our sympathetic nervous system rests while our parasympathetic nervous system is more active—just like what happens when we are in meditation.

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    In our society today, life comes at us so fast and is so intense that our sympathetic nervous system is usually always active, unless we are sleeping. This in one reason we seem to exist in a chronic state of flight or flight. In this condition, our adrenal glands are over active and our body system is taxed. In order to balance the impact of the fight or flight condition, we need time in the rest and rebuild condition. That is what happens when you sit in a relaxed position and breathe deeply, focusing on quieting the mind chatter and endlessly running through the lists of things to do, conversations to have and worries or concerns.

    It is beneficial to our bodies, our organs, our minds, to take time when we are awake to let the parasympathetic nervous system come to the fore while we rest the sympathetic nervous system. Studies have shown that our immune system works better and our blood cells are all more effective when we spend time each day in meditation. Practiced in this way, meditation has a physical and a spiritual benefit.

    Practicing meditation in such a way that it becomes a beneficial spiritual discipline has a positive impact on our health, as well. I am very Spiritual Beingsensitive to the fruits of any particular spiritual discipline and have observed that when I added meditation to my daily practice, the fruits of the Spirit as outlined in my Christian faith tradition grew in me in a very profound and meaningful way. Rather than being leery or disapproving of practicing meditation (as some in my faith tradition are), it has become a very meaningful and rewarding aspect of my spiritual development. There have been some substantial shifts in my perceptions of my experience of life. I feel more love, more joy, and more gratitude—all of which improves my physical health as those qualities grow within me.

    There has also been a real weakening of the grip my ego has on my mind. I am less quick to become defensive, annoyed and irritated by others. I don’t automatically presume that the things others say are said with any kind of negative intention. It is such a freeing place to be.

    I would like to share some basic tips on how to start practicing basic meditation:

    • When meditating, allow yourself to be very still, very quiet and very aware. I prefer to meditate without music so I can really be in silent communion with all that is. Ivan prefers to meditate with music, so his mind has something to hold rather than mind chatter.
    • In that stillness, be attentive to awareness itself.
    • Allow yourself to stay in the present, peaceful moment. When your thoughts pull you back in time or push you forward to experiences you have not yet had, simply come back to the experience of the present moment.
    • If it helps you to still your mind, focus on your breath. You might even think to yourself, “Inhale . . . Exhale.”
    • Allow yourself to move into a deep experience of awareness and the abiding peace all around and within.
    • End your meditation by focusing on gratitude for all that is in your life and let that gratitude carry you back into the “busy” world.

    Practicing this meditative exercise daily is one way to bring a sense of calm and stability to your life. Some people are able to sit quietly like this for 5 minutes, some for 40 minutes or longer. Find what works for you! Start with a short amount of time and see if you can increase your time to a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes. That seems to be the optimal amount of time for a real physical and mental benefit.

    Ivan sits for 20 minutes and I sit for 40 minutes. I find personally that when I do sit in mediation, especially when I don’t feel I have the time to do it, I end up having a different experience of the amount of time which IS available to me. I no longer feel rushed—no longer in a fight or flight mindset. This practice has been so beneficial that it is something we plan to continue for the rest of our long, healthy lives.

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    Beth Misner

    Beth Misner is the Corporate Vice Chair of BNI, the Co-Founder of the BNI Foundation and Director of the Journey Center. She is a certified chiropractic assistant, certified sports nutritionist, black belt in karate, tai chi/qi gong instructor, ordained minister and meditation/prayer leader. When Ivan was diagnosed in 2012 with prostate cancer, she drew from all her expertise relating to “mind, body and spirit” to partner with him on a journey into recovered health.

    Follow Beth Online

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