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Linking Mind, Body & Spirit with Community Life in Health Promotion

Linking Mind, Body & Spirit with Community Life in Health Promotion


By Gary Machan, Barrie CHC community worker

A. Introduction

Over the course of the past several years, there has been a growing realization amongst a wide range of health professionals concerning the importance of spirituality as a factor influencing our well-being. While there are vast numbers of articles in a variety of clinical journals, this topic has received but scant attention in the whole field of health promotion. The Deep Healing Initiative represents an exploratory effort to pioneer a wholistic approach to individual and community renewal that embraces creation spirituality as an integral part of its foundation.


The Deep Healing Initiative arose from a learning group involving members and staff at the Barrie Community Health Centre. The topic for discussion was Body/Mind healing. A very interactive approach was used where the participants shared their ideas and aspirations based on the material that was reviewed, as well as previous experiences.

As is so often the case with learning groups, people want to put their knowledge into action. This was no less true with the Body/Mind healing group. But first it was important to articulate a philosophy, as well as an overall approach to healing.

Deep Healing is essentially a term that recognizes the fundamental healing value derived by helping people attend to (and in many instances) rediscover their connections with all aspects of their lives. It is viewed as something that is ongoing versus being a place of destination. Moreover, healing is envisioned as occurring at many different levels - often simultaneously.

1. Spirit/Nature/Universe

Deep Healing can only occur to the extent that people attend to their spiritual lives in a way that is true to their own cultural heritage. There is already a substantial amount of research demonstrating the numerous health benefits associated with spirituality. However, Deep Healing wishes to take this another step forward by expanding a notion of spirituality to include our relationship with nature. For, it is when people lose their connection with the natural world that the type of environmental degradation we are witnessing today goes unchecked to the point where our survival may very well be threatened.

"Like air and water, like the love and companionship of our kind, we need spiritual connection; we need to understand where we belong." David Suzuki "The Sacred Balance" (1998)

2. Family/Community/Work

Another key aspect of Deep Healing involves relationships with other. There is no shortage of evidence which speaks to the value of family and friends. Less talked about, but no less important, is the level of community involvement. This is particularly true in times when people

are on the move and suffer from a lack of belonging, and a lost sense of palce. The healing process must include some recognition of the importance of work/volunteerism, as they furnish lives with meaning purpose that extends beyond our personal lives.

3. Individual/Lifestyle/Mindfulness

The third level of Deep Healing includes helping people to make healthy choices regarding their own life-styles. This encompasses a broad range of health disciplines including nutrition, exercise, meditation and more. This involves a level of personal responsibility and commitment

on the part of the individual. People must be encouraged to take an honest look at themselves and build awareness about unhealthy habit patterns. This in turn, requires that people develop higher levels of mindfulness.

Whole Life Review & Still Point Program

The Deep Healing approach begins with a Whole Life Review. The purpose is to help members gain a better understanding of all factors, either contributing or undermining their well being. It includes a

comprehensive physical by a nurse-practitioner and an indepth interview with a social worker covering a range of topics (ie. work, family, environment, spiritual life).

Following the Whole Life review, members have an opportunity to participate in the "Still Point" Program. The primary intent of this program is to cultivate within the participants a greater sense of

awareness (in the absence of which forming deeper connections is virtually impossible). While being respectful of all religious traditions, Deep Healing does not directly align itself with any one religion, but rather teachers a way of being/living that will complement, in a constructive way, whatever religious affiliations the participants may have.

Civic Participation & Renewal

Of great significance for the Deep Healing Initiative is the whole notion that individual and community healing are inseparable. Irregardless of whether people choose to participate in the Still Point Program, everyone is strongly encouraged to become active in the live of the community. There is an understanding that any efforts at civic renewal are likely to be cosmetic unless there is a spiritual dimension that expresses interconnectedness, as well as provides people with some measure of faith - that yes, they can make a difference!

The Deep Healing Initiative is an ongoing experiment, that is an attempt to begin to bridge between our knowledge of what constitutes good health and our everyday practices. It is transcending the often

artificial and disjointed gulf that currently exists between individual and community interventions.

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"The main task of the coming era is. a radical renewal of our sense of responsibility. Our conscience must catch up with our reason, otherwise all will be lost."

Vaclav Havel, commencement address

Until recently, the whole topic of civics, and more specifically, social responsibility has received very little, if any attention both within media and professional circles. This tide appears to be slowly

changing. The quest for higher levels of responsibility does not lie exclusively in the domain of our education system. Promoting responsibility lies at the very core of the work of the Barrie Community Health Centre (BCHC), in the mission statement, which calls upon the Centre to be "a resource for the citizens of Barrie to assist them to take responsibility for their own health and the health of the


The real challenge, will not be so much in gaining consensus around the need for instilling and cultivating higher levels of responsibility. Rather it will involve wrestling with what is meant by this term, as well as beginning to develop innovative and effective approaches for performing this critical task.

A concerted effort will need to be made to combat the prevailing culture of hopelessness by offering people a clear message of HOPE. Not of the naïve, optimistic variety; but rather, one that is seasoned with real life stories of how people learned from adversity, assumed responsibility for their situation, and in so doing changed not only their own lives, but also the lives of many people around them. These are the real heroes of our time!

Gary Machan

The Barrie Community Health Centre is launching the CIVIC RENEWAL PROJECT. There are several aspects to this project.

1. Civic Renewal School Project

The Barrie CHC has entered a partnership agreement with the Simcoe County Board of Education. Plans have been developed to work closely with some teachers and students in "civic-related" activities. It is hoped that a matchmaking service might be developed that could link students with opportunities for civic involvement. The Centre will be working in cooperation with the Ministry of Education around curriculum development on matters pertaining to Civics.

2. Index of Civic Health

In partnership with the research analyst program at Georgian College, the Barrie CHC will begin the ground work for starting an Index of Civic Health. The American Index was developed by Paul Levine at the University of Maryland (who has given permission to BCHC to use this

research tool). It consists of a variety of headings including membership in local groups, law and security, trust in government, and levels of political involvement.

3. Civic Media Project

The BCHC will be spearheading a Civics Media Project in partnership with the local cable TV company. The long term vision will be to assist TV Ontario in generating program material that all students and teachers can access, as well as to lay the foundation for an Ontario Civics Network. Already, some preliminary discussions have occurred between the Centre and TV Ontario.

4. Civics Forum

One of the major projects of the BCHC Public Education Committee will be to organize a Civics Forum. The primary purpose of this event will be to share some of the findings, as well as to highlight some of the good work being performed by many civic organizations.


Bridging the Gap Between Spirituality and Health - Nov 5 1998

7:00 pm Georgian College, Gryphon Theatre. Barrie ON

Admission $18

Featuring Dr. David Larson, M.D. author of the "Forgotten Factor" as well as the executive Director of the US National Institute for Healthcare Research

A comprehensive review of 250 epidemiological studies found positive associations between spirituality and health outcomes, such as lower levels of cardiovascular disease and hypertension; even when

controlling for risk factors and health determinants. Despite impressive findings, the topic of spirituality has received little attention. Join Dr. Larson as he discusses the importance of spirituality in health care. Topics will include: the relationship between spirituality and health, health professional attitudes, the role of spirituality in disease prevention.

For further information, contact Gary Machan at (705) 734-9690

D. SELECT REFERENCES [more in next message]

James S. Larson "The World Health Organization's Definition of Health": Social Versus Spiritual Health. Social Indicators Research 1996, 38 (2) June. Pp 181-192.

The World Health Organization formulated its definition of health following World War II, during a period when the social health of societies was in question.. It is proposed that scholars refine the WHO definition over the next several years, while at the same time creating bridges between a new conceptual definition and more detailed operational definitions. An expansion of the WHO definition may be

necessary to include a spiritual dimension of health, if social scientists can agree that spirituality is part of health, and not merely an influence.

David B. Larson The Forgotten Factor, 1995, National Institute for Healthcare Research Rockville, MD

The US National Commission on Civic Renewal "How Civic Disengagement

Weakens America And What We Can Do About It" 1998, Washington DC

This was a non-partisan report, which provides a comprehensive analysis on America's civic condition. Some of the major findings include:

- political participation is at depressed levels not seen since the


- public trust in leaders and institutions has plummeted

- our character forming institutions have been enfeebled

- many of our streets and public places have become unsafe.

The core issue is seen as being citizenship, not leadership, for citizenship is the basis of democracy. Contained in this report are numerous stories about organizations that are performing excellent work to increase citizens capacity. These range from small neighbourhood groups to large foundations. The report concludes with a list of

important questions for citizens to consider at the local level.