Fighting for “the first of all liberties” – our health!

Paraguay postage stamp: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Karen Horton

Paraguay postage stamp: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Karen Horton

“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last”.

This was Martin Luther King Jr’s rallying cry as he concluded his historic “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The lyrics of the moving spiritual song are also words many long to sing for health reasons. Struggling with long-standing ailments such as chronic pain can feel like second class citizenship, which Martin Luther King Day today reminds us never to accept.

So what might be the basis for not accepting second class health? Perhaps because its as innate to our spiritual sense to feel health is natural as it is politically to demand equal rights.

“In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties,” mused Swiss poet and philosopher Henri Frédéric Amiele.

In the fight for that freedom, medical professionals increasingly pinpoint mental oppressors, rather than just addressing physiological symptoms. As one pain expert recently put it at a conference I attended: “The psychology of the pain is as important, if not more important, than any drugs we can give.”

Indeed, a recently published study showed an individual’s anger level having a direct bearing on chronic pain intensity. Conversely, according to another paper, such pain responds positively to forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness. The research concluded: “Forgiveness of self appears to be the most important to health, yet the most difficult to achieve.”

A kindred spirit of Dr King’s would have concurred with the latter point. Despite all the challenges he faced as leader of South Africa’s post-apartheid transition, Nelson Mandelatold Oprah Winfrey in 2000 “the most difficult task in life…is changing yourself”.

Indeed, winning the kind of inner, moral victories that can help improve our wellbeing isn’t always easy. It can take persistence and prayer to develop “honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve”, which Madiba once called “the foundations of one’s spiritual life”.

As demanding as that might sometimes seem to be, nevertheless faithfully nurturing such a moral foundation still leaves plenty of room for spiritual growth. A key book on Mind-healing identifies a spiritual superstructure beyond that, consisting of “wisdom, purity, spiritual understanding, spiritual power, love, health, holiness” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy). It also identifies the perhaps surprising idea that these qualities describe who we truly are as sons and daughters of the divine and that healing can come by sincerely understanding this.

As one rescued from chronically recurring pain through such means, I can vouch for the fact that glimpsing this “surprising idea” and being healed by it certainly makes the heart sing: “Free at last!”

This blog was first published on the Huffington Post Uk with the title Fighting for Our Freedom To Be Healthy

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Categories: Health

Author:Tony Lobl

I write on spirituality and health for a diversity of online media outlets, from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I have been published by the Independent, the Washington Post, the Guardian, E-Hospice, MindBodyGreen and The Christian Science Monitor and I post regularly on the Huffington Post UK and BuzzFeed. In addition to writing and broadcast appearances I enjoy engaging with journalists, academics, health professionals and government officials about the possibilities for improving health outcomes through a greater emphasis on spirituality in healthcare and social care. I've also greatly valued the many opportunities I have had to travel globally for my church and to meet people around the world. My wife Jenny and I spent 10 years in Boston, USA, before returning to London in 2002, to take on a role as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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