the mind heal the body
By Esther Williams
The recently inducted President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association,
Dr. S. Seneviratne Epa has proposed a new health model to incorporate
the spiritual dimension. For this to come from someone in the medical
profession, which generally bases all theories on scientific evidence,
reveals that there is truth in assuming that religious activity
model we follow today called the bio-medical health model is based
on the philosophy that the mind and body are separate, having two
distinct entities. Rene Descartes masterminded this theory in the
17th century. Since then, the use of western medicine has closed
off the entire domain of body-mind interaction.
Based on the
bio-medical model we cannot understand how the mind has a healing
power on the body, although we have to accept the interaction between
mind and body. NK (Natural Killer) cells in the body act as a policing
body and remove abnormal cells from the body. "During depression,
the activity of immune cells or NK cells in the body is suppressed,
resulting in people developing various kinds of diseases."
It is thus
established that the state of mind can cause illnesses. "If
the mind can cause illness, it should also be able to heal,"
argues Dr.Seneviratne Epa. He points out that there is scientific
proof that the activity of NK cells is enhanced during meditation.
us to spiritual healing of which meditation is an aspect. "There
is now scientific evidence that people who meditate and say prayers
have longer life and better physical health."
in the 21st century is to evolve methods of enhancing the power
of mind in healing. Spiritual activity seems to be one way of doing
just that. But why is it important to bring forth this dimension
into healing when there are advances in medicine that can heal anything?
"Because there are limitations in the existing model,”
Dr. Seneviratne Epa says.
a new health model called the medico-spiritual health model and
hopes that the medical profession would carry out the recommendations.
"The time to leave religion solely to the priest should stop.
The medical field should take the responsibility of undertaking
research into meditation and other religious practices irrespective
of religion because it is a universal dimension, applicable to all
He adds that there is a further need to redefine health to include
the spiritual dimension in addition to the three existing dimensions,
namely - physical, social and mental, health being the fourth dimension.
"Present day doctors will find it difficult to accept this
concept, although there is compelling scientific evidence.”
Epa recommends that hospitals should give spiritual medicine in
addition to chemical medicine. What is more important, stresses
the doctor, is that by this acceptance, we give power to the patient
and thereby enable self-healing. With the self-power of healing,
patients can live in more hope and indulge themselves. It will also
reduce total dependence of patients on doctors and medicine.
of western medicine, Ivan Illich has said, "Modern medicine
has destroyed the human capacity to deal with pain, sickness and
death." It has taught patients that healing powers are totally
in the hands of the doctor and medicine. "It is time we corrected
it," says Dr. Seneviratne Epa.
The SLMM is
hoping to have a Convention in March with participation from international
experts, on the theme of Spiritual Health: A new dimension in health.
A scientific forum will be formed to discuss this. It would be the
first time this subject is being addressed in Sri Lanka.
doctors seem to welcome spirituality into healing. Working at alleviating
suffering, they have realised the limitations of medicine. The new
generation doctors must be taught this dimension of health. While
getting a patient's medical history, they need to also record spirituality.
With doctors giving a place to spirituality in hospitals, they set
an example to patients. Health should be redefined as "a state
of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing and
not merely absence of disease or infirmity”.
How would this
work in hospitals? The whole of the medical profession, be it nurses,
doctors or health workers should take responsibility. However, it
should not be mistaken as an alternative treatment to the orthodox.
"This is an augmentation of the existing system. By this method
hospitals will be environments which promote and nourish the inner
capacity for healing.”
When a patient
is admitted to hospital he feels totally insecure. Now, patients
will think, “I have the healing power. Doctors and medicine
will only aid the process.”
- The medical
profession has to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of health.
and health professions need training to address this issue.
meditation and spiritual involvement should be encouraged to promote
should be educated on the healing powers of relaxation, meditation,
scientific research to define effects of meditation.
- The above
practices should be considered as complementary rather than alternative.
dimension should not be confined to any particular medical speciality.
should nourish patients' inner capacity for healing by providing
appropriate spiritual support.
second chance at life
to your health;
And if you have it, praise God,
And value it next to a good conscious;
For health is the second blessing that we mortals are capable
A blessing that money cannot buy."
1593 - 1683
I was wheeled
into an elevator on the balmy afternoon of September 6, last year
after being dislodged from the cardiac unit of the General Hospital,
Kandy. A nursing sister of the Suvasevana Cardiac Hospital down
Peradeniya Road greeted me with a pleasant smile, which put me at
I was there
to have my angiogram. I walked into the theatre ready for the procedure
which would tell me if I was to have coronary artery bypass surgery
I recollect having two angina attacks even before I could lay myself
on the table.
There was a
hive of activity, strange-looking apparatus with 1,000-watt bulbs
looking down on me, two monitors hanging from the ceiling gaping
directly from my left. The faces of those attending on me were unfamiliar;
I was seeing them for the first time and my life was in their hands.
In the adjoining room there was a tall gentleman sporting a mustache
giving me a very reassuring smile.
Then up came
a bearded gentleman with an exemplary bedside manner, the all-important
anaesthetist. He felt my neck and said he needed to insert a needle
which could deliver drugs in a moment to my heart should I develop
further angina attacks while the angiogram was in progress.
All I could
remember of the angiogram was the cardiologist instructing the staff
to take me immediately to the ICU. I was inundated with angina attacks
and clearly remember once pulling the young doctor by his shirt
to plead with him to put me out of my pain.
I was told that
I needed to have bypass surgery as I was suffering from triple vessel
coronary artery disease. So I began preparing myself mentally to
face this life saving operation. I was wheeled into the theatre,
which was much larger than the one I had the angiogram in.
more faces but before I could count to... I was away.
Total Arterial Re-vascularisation was performed on me and I was
told it took six and a half hours to set me free of the vagaries
of unstable angina. Then I was back at the ICU among the sweet young
nurses. All those who were involved with my 'op' were courteous
I was gently
persuaded to cough off the phlegm, walk one step at a time and was
brought to near normalcy by the time I was taken to the recuperative
room. With each moment I continued to grow stronger under the eagle
eye of the medical and nursing staff that worked round-the-clock
to keep the patients comfortable.
I was discharged
some days later and according to the cardio thoracic surgeon left
Suwasevana Cardiac Hospital 'ten years younger', a happy and cheerful
human being determined to live every moment of the second chance
I have been fortunate to have.