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September 2006

A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of
physical and spiritual health envisioned in the Baha'i Teachings.

Volume 10, Issue No. 8, The Perception of Freedom and Personal Control in Health




- Quotes of the month
- From the Editor
- I'm Okay; I Got it Covered! The Perception of Freedom and Personal Control in Health
- Links for further information
- The Trouble Tree
- Divine Confirmations
- Humor
- Poetry
- Health in the News
- Letters
- Question of the Month
- New Webmaster & Webhost Found!
- Frappr! Map
- Purpose of the Newsletter
- Subscription Information
- Web Site

January: Happiness and Healing
March: Fasting
April: Humor
June: Success and Health

"O thou distinguished physician!....Praise be to God that thou hast two powers: one to undertake physical healing and the other spiritual healing. Matters related to man's spirit have a great effect on his bodily condition. For instance, thou shouldst import gladness to thy patient, give him comfort and joy.... How often hath it occurred that this hath caused early recovery. Therefore, treat thou the sick with both powers. Spiritual feelings have a surprising effect on healing..." ("Selected Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha," p. 150-151)

"We should all visit the sick. When they are in sorrow and suffering, it is a real help and benefit to have a friend come. Happiness is a great healer to those who are ill....This has a greater effect than the remedy itself. You must always have this thought of love and affection when you visit the ailing and afflicted."
('Abdu'l-Baha, "Promulgation of Universal Peace," p. 204)

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for all your kind words and encouragement!

I think scheduling the newsletter to alternating months is going to work out. I'm energized by the extra time to rest in between, and the enthusiasm is still here.

However, it does mean that communication will suffer between issues, especially reader response and sharing of questions and experience. That lag time might be addressed with a more immediate format, such as a blog or a special interest group (for example, a Yahoo Group). If anyone is interested in starting and monitoring such an organ, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I am feeling much better because what had become overwhelming feels controllable once again. As you will see from the theme of this issue, perception of control can be far more important to health that the actual stressors involved, or the actions taken to ameliorate them.

Cheryll Schuette, Michigan, USA

I'M OKAY; GOT IT COVERED! Perception of Control in Health
It would appear from the plethora of self-help books, essays, documentaries, TV commercials, fables and 'old wives' tales,' that mankind has been struggling with the stresses of living for a long time. Each generation seems to think the previous one had it much easier 'in the good old days,' but the refrain recurs. Seneca's comments about 'these youth today,' sound very like my mother and aunts' -- and now my own! -- complaints the stresses of a generation gap.

Religion, philosophy, arts and sciences have all been utilized to ease the burdens and soothe the anxieties of day to day living. Some remedies have proved more effective than others in the long run. So much so that one of the modern arguments against religious belief and practice is that people could be blindly avoiding rather than dealing with reality in some way considered more appropriate.

There are no end to inventive ways (including neuroses and psychoses) that people have developed to make life more bearable, but some of the most enduring turn out to be religious more often than scientific. Making time to quiet the mind and relax the body, concentrating on making sense of life, acting as though control is possible and expecting that all will become clear and be good, are age-old religious practices that still work.

What is exciting today is that science is returning to its original partnership with religion on the matters of knowledge, healing, health and happiness. Both camps are recognizing that they agree on some of the causes of mental, physical and spiritual illness.

It is interesting to note that Dr. Joan Borysenko, in her ground-breaking book, "Minding the Body, Mending the Mind," acknowledges and makes use of several perceptions and healing rituals that would have been considered unscientific, or not in the purview of medical practice, not so long ago.

"Minding the Body, Mending the Mind" is a workbook of techniques to overcome conditioned helplessness and increase hardiness, using meditation, breath control, and mindfulness -- through which the individual can reach an internal balance point where the mind becomes still. In the state of stillness, the physiology shifts into the relaxation response. Negative conditioning circuits are derailed, and the mind is open to the formation of more productive habits.

A side effect of her program, Borysenko says, is a reconnection to the values that are most important in life: an openness to love, an attitude of forgiveness toward ourselves and others, and peace of mind.

What if those aren't side effects at all, but the actual source of healing?

Religion was the place to find experts on "meditation, breath control and mindfulness" before science discovered them. Reaching for an openness to love, an attitude of forgiveness toward ourselves and others, and peace of mind, are all common religious goals. Those areas may be new to science, struggling as it is with the intangible, and slowly recognizing how important these intangibles are to overall health.

Unfortunately, sorting through centuries of often questionable religious and medical practices to find what will work in today's world can be a challenge. How can we tell the difference between a useful tool (a ritual such as breath control for relaxation) and a superstition, which may temporarily ease tension, but ultimately avoids action that could truly improve health?

Science at its best is about rational observation. It can be of enormous help by showing in concrete terms just how important some age old beliefs and practices it had once considered frivolous might indeed be extremely useful.

Take, for instance, the dangers of helplessness that Dr. Borysenko researched:

"The acute stresses of life produce temporary physiological responses from which the body recovers. It's the chronic stresses -- often caused by conditioned negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness -- that are the real challenge to healing.

"Feeling constantly helpless can upset our endocrine balance, elevating the immunosuppressant hormone cortisol and destroying its natural diurnal rhythm. Chronic helplessness also depletes the brain of the vital neurotransmitter norepinephrine, the chemical in our brains that is necessary for feelings of happiness and contentment.

"Immunological studies, too, reveal that the inability to feel in control of stress, rather than the stressful event itself, is the most damaging to immunity...

"Our ability to create the conditions of life most dear to us -- realizing our hopes and dreams, goals and aspirations -- depends on having control both over events that we initiate ourselves and over those that come into our lives unbidden -- the seeming stresses, obstacles, and disappointments. Without the convictions that we have some control, we have no way to negotiate the tides of life...

"If no control is possible, then helplessness sets in. If your actions and responses don't make any difference, if you have no impact on the world, why bother? The person who has experienced helplessness in one situation is more likely to act helplessly in other situations. He or she has been conditioned...

"Psychologist Martin Seligman (U of Pennsylvania) contends that we learn to be helpless, and the resultant depressed behavior then feeds on itself. Helplessness is characterized by a decreased motivation to do anything about life's difficulties and by a negative mind-set that makes it hard to appreciate that you did something right when you actually do change a situation....

"Hardiness overcomes helplessness. Persons low in hardiness, those conditioned to be helpless, are likely to engage in what Dr. Suzanne Kobasa calls regressive coping. Like the foundling home infants, regressive copers back away from stress and dwell instead on their own repetitive emotional reactions. Their attitudes are the opposite of hardiness. They are alienated from activities, feel powerless to change things, and are therefore threatened by anything that rocks the boat. These people are the ones who are the most likely to fall ill when stressful events arise."

In studies of business executives and lawyers, Kobasa found that those with a great deal of life stress could be protected from physical illness by a combination of three attitudes which describe the stress-hardy personality:

"Commitment -- an attitude of curiosity and involvement in whatever is happening. Its opposite is alienation--as seen in the children in foundling homes who have withdrawn from the world.

"Control -- the opposite of helplessness. It is the belief that we can influence events, coupled with the willingness to act on that belief rather than be a victim of circumstances.

"Challenge -- the belief that life's changes stimulate personal growth instead of threatening the status quo.

"The attitudes of hardiness lead to a kind of coping that Kobasa calls transformational. Committed people who believe they are in control and expect situations to be challenging are likely to react to stressful events by *increasing* their interaction with them--exploring, controlling, and learning from them. This attitude transforms the event into something less stressful by placing it in a broader frame of reference that revolves around continued personal growth and understanding.

"Dr. George Vaillant, in a landmark study reported in his book, "Adaptation to Life," showed that mental health is the most important predictor of physical health. He analyzed data collected about the lives and mental and physical health of a group of Harvard alumni over a period of thirty years. He found that men with immature copying styles, similar to regressive coping, became ill four times more often than men with hardier styles.

"We are now beginning to understand some of the mechanisms underlying the erosion of health [caused] by poor coping. We are unraveling the intricate effect of chronic stress on hormones, neuropeptides, and the central nervous system, which in turn can affect every system of the body, from the immune to the cardiovascular. The effects of stress are buffered by effective coping and also by the love and support of other people.

"Vaillant found that lonely men often became chronically ill by the time they reached their fifties. It's only through our relations with others that we develop- the outlook of hardiness and come to believe in our own capabilities and inner goodness....Social support, the great stress buffer, turned out to be more important than health habits in predicting heart disease..."
(Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., "Minding the Body, Mending the Mind," excerpts from pp. 20-26)

Much of the guidance on health and healing provided by the Baha'i Faith is not as concerned with treatments and physical regimens as with nurturing and maintaining the health of the spirit, both for the individual and for society as a whole.

Baha'u'llah, Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith, counseled, "Yield not to grief and sorrow: they cause the greatest misery. Jealousy consumeth the body and anger doth burn the liver: avoid these two as you would a lion." (Quoted in the compilation, "Throne of the Inner Temple," p. 24)

His son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, explained the connections of body and spirit in more detail, in response to numerous questions from followers and public at large. "Joy gives us wings. In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener...But when sadness visits us our strength leaves us." ("Paris Talks," p.109)

"If we are caused joy or pain by a friends, if a love prove true or false, it is the soul that is affected. If our dear ones are far from us -- it is the soul that grieves, and the grief or trouble of the soul may react on the body." (Ibid. p. 65)

"Laugh and talk, don't lament and talk. Laugh and speak. Laughter is caused by the slackening or relaxation of [tension]. It is an ideal condition and not physical. Laughter is the visible effect of an invisible cause. For example, happiness and misery are super-sensuous phenomena. One cannot hear them with his ears or touch them with his hands. Happiness is a spiritual state..." ('Abdu'l-Baha, "The Throne of the Inner Temple," p.23)

Much of current medical research is actively looking for body-mind-spirit connections, and finding them. These benefits are being put into practice and the results published in greater numbers every day.

* "Minding the Body, Mending the Mind," Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., Bantam Dell Publishing Group.

* The Relaxation Response, was defined by Herbert Benson, MD, in his book, "Timeless Healing," 1996. Steps to learning it can be found at: and the Mind Body Medical Institute pages:

* Two compilations from the Baha'i Writings on Health: "The Throne of the Inner Temple," (Elias Zohoori, Jamaica, 1985) and "Health and Healing," (Universal House of Justice, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1986)

* "Stress: An Owner's Manual: positive techniques for taking charge of your life," Arthur Rowshan. (Oneworld Publications, 1993) Lives and practices in Spain, most websites are in Spanish, but this one on smoking cessation is in English:

* "CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and about to Snap: Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD," Edward Hallowell, MD, of the Hallowell Center (promoting cognitive and emotional health in children and adults)

* A cognitive approach to physical anxiety: "When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life," David D. Burns, MD, explains that when you're feeling panicky, you're always telling yourself something that isn't true: for instance, fortune-telling (making catastrophic predictions without evidence) and mind reading (assuming that people are looking down one you). His Feeling Good website:

* "Are You Ready to Clean up Your Life?" Browse for a Clean Sweep Program that provides information, self-assessment, and encouragement that when completed successfully promise 'to give one complete personal freedom.' [Well, it certainly clarifies where to start! -- Ed.]

* "Adaptation to Life," Dr. George Vaillant, Harvard University Press.

* "Divine Therapy: Pearls of Wisdom from the Baha'i Writings," compiled by Annamarie Honnold. (George Ronald, 1986) Available new and used from Baha'i Faith Index at

* Spiritual Intelligence: a practical guide to personal happiness," Khalil A. Khavari, Ph.D. (White mountain Publications, 2000)

* Archive: Baha'i text research application which runs on a MAC. Costs $25, but worth it for those of us who can't use the free search program, Ocean, which runs only in Windows.

(From the Story Bin website:

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward, he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied. "I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."

Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before".

ANOTHER EXAMPLE: How Do We Receive Divine Confirmation And Recognize It?
By Michael Teske (reprinted with permission)

An area that attracts my thoughts is the idea of confirmation. How do we receive divine confirmation and recognize it? My imagination tells me that there are infinite possibilities to this, and that one may receive these confirmations in many different forms. What we have to do is to increase our sensitivity to receiving, recognizing and understanding the guidance, which is no easy task; it requires vigilance, determination, persistence and experience.

In my own life I have seen a progressive realization and development of this sensitivity, but it all adds up to a drop in the ocean of being a clear channel of receptivity. One of the things I have noticed is the speed at which this guidance seems to come. Someone once told me that whenever obstacles arise, there are clear messages in them as it is not the right direction at the time or it is necessary to make a detour to circumnavigate the obstacle. And how does one ever really know 100 percent? Hindsight usually gives us a good indication. Sometimes the guidance comes as a distracting thought in the middle of a prayer (perhaps this is the only time we relax enough for guidance to come to our conscious mind). Other times it comes by a fast sequence of events that seems to steer you in the right direction.

An example of this happened to me recently. I had previously agreed to help someone by performing a task. I was driving to meet the person when the car broke down. There was not enough time to call for a tow truck and fulfill the obligation. Within minutes someone stopped and gave me a lift all the way to the designated meeting place, going out of the way to get there and we could barely communicate as this individual had only a few English words and I had even fewer Hebrew words.

Sometimes the guidance may come as an intense, almost overpowering feeling. In my case I have felt this a few times as an indescribable sense of joy and love. And I have heard numerous stories about people getting sick, which in turn prevents them from doing something they shouldn't do or from going somewhere they shouldn't be going. Other times this guidance may come as a powerful thought with no inkling of doubts lurking in the background....

What are some of the ways you have received guidance or that you have heard from others? This is a fascinating subject to explore.

The overriding rule that I have found to be most effective in my life so far in trying to purge myself of doubts and to become more receptive to receiving and understanding the constantly flowing guidance that more often than not remains elusive is first to be completely honest and sincere in whatever one is doing -- then whatever one is doing, whether it be the correct thing or the incorrect thing to do, God will steer you into the right path. What are some of the patterns you have discovered work for you?

Some wonderful advice a dear friend gave me several years ago is to pursue all the things that you want to do and feel inspired to do, then God will steer you into what you are supposed to be doing. In other words, don't close any doors yourself -- let them be closed for you. O,r in pursuing your goals, the ones that you are supposed to be following will naturally unfold at a faster pace than the others.

Some Christian friends quite some time ago used this phrase, which I love: "Even God can't steer a parked car!" You have to be moving -- so my prayer is that each and every one of you will be so inspired and moved as to dedicate yourselves to encouraging and supporting each other in spurring on your chargers towards greater and greater acts of service.

HUMOR: Reminders of who's in control
Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.

Be ye fishers of men. You catch 'em - He'll clean 'em.

God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called.

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

We don't change the Message; the Message changes us.

(Thanks to Mame in Canada)

POETRY: Practice The Presence
We may desire to bring to God a perfect work.
We would like to point, when our work is done,
to the beautiful ripened grain,
and bound up sheaves,
and yet the Lord frustrates our plans,
shatters our purposes,
lets us see the wreck of all our hopes,
breaks the beautiful structure we thought we were building
and catches us up in His arms and whispers to us,
"It's not your work I wanted,
but you."

(by Lyn Whittall and Judy Hager, editors, "Quiet Moments: A Collection of Prayers and Meditations," quoted in "A Pace of Grace," Linda Kavelin Popov, p.199)

- The Secret of Good Health Care Systems...

According to Dr. Avedis Donabedian, the father of quality assurance in health care, "Systems awareness and systems design are important for health professionals but are not enough. They are enabling mechanisms only. It is the ethical dimension of the individual that is essential to a system's success. Ultimately, the secret of quality is love. You have to love your patient, you have to love your profession, you have to love your God. If you have love, you can then work backward to monitor and improve the system."

Elsewhere in the same interview, he comments, "I think that commercialization of [health] care is a big mistake. Health care is a sacred mission. It is a moral enterprise and a scientific enterprise but not fundamentally a commercial one. We are not selling a product. We don't have a consumer who understands everything and makes rational choices -- and I include myself here. Doctors and nurses are stewards of something precious. Their work is a kind of vocation rather than simply a job; commercial values don't really capture what they do for patients and for society as a whole."
(New York Times, June 12, 2001)

- It's Still Who You Know...

"Social and productive activities that involve little or no enhancement of fitness lower the risk of all causes of mortality as much as fitness activities do. This suggests that in addition to increased cardiopulmonary fitness, activity may confer survival benefits through psychosocial pathways. Social and productive activities that require less physical exertion may complement exercise programmes and may constitute alternative interventions for frail elderly people." The conclusion reached by TA Glass, CM de Leon, RA Marottoli, and LF Berkman in 1999. (Population based study of social and productive activities as predictors of survival among elderly Americans. PubMed/Medline PMID: 10454399)

- How to Stop Being Overwhelmed by the World's Troubles...

Sally fisher, president of Intersect Worldwide [], combating HIV and violence against women and girls, says, "Every time a new problem arises, my first reaction is: 'I can't change this.' And then I realize I'm feeling overwhelmed because I haven't chosen a course of action. Once I've made a decision, I find that there is always time to help. I pick causes that I care about, and I know I never have to go it alone. I can't stop AIDS or end violence against women on my own. It was such a relief when I realized that. You have to remind yourself: You can do only what you can do." (Quoted in the November 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, p. 287)

- After a While...

I'm a Baha'i and I've been receiving your e-newsletter for quite some time now. It's always given me a lift, some kind of inspiration. Currently I have polycystic kidney disease (PKD) -- 1 out of 800 people have it. The reason I'm writing is because I see you have used my poem "After a While" in this edition of the newsletter! I wrote this poem at the age of 19 in 1971 and it seems to have been widely circulated since it was published in my college yearbook in 1972 ("The Ivy", the yearbook of Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica, NY). I just wanted to thank you for featuring it. It was a surprise and a boost to see my own words in your newsletter, which has been such an uplifting reading for me all this time. Thank you.

(Veronica Shoffstall, NYC)

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and all treatment seems to be failing so far. Just wondering if there are any ways, physical or spiritual, that I can be of help to this friend of mine during these difficult times. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

(Sina -- Ontario, Canada)

Jonah Winters, Winters Web Works, has graciously offered to host the Healing Through Unity eNewsletter webpages. He has also accepted the position of webmaster. The pages should be fully migrated (invisibly to our readers, it is hoped) by the next issue of the newsletter. [Note: it's done, and it was invisible! -Jonah, 10/28/06]

Many thanks to Russ Novak for setting us up and keeping us in business! And thanks and welcome aboard to Jonah!

We have a Frappr! map for this newsletter. This is a great way to see how many places our subscribers live around the world. Interesting to note that most of those who have joined the map so far are female.

To sign on and join the group, (it's free) access the Healing Through Unity map and at:

Check back every so often to see how many more have signed on; watch our world map blossom!

"Healing Through Unity" is published for the purpose of sharing thoughts, comments and experiences on how the teachings of the Baha'i Faith are being applied to physical and spiritual health. Other than the quoted Holy Writings, the material in this newsletter represents the thoughts and opinions of the writers and has no authority. None of the material published in this newsletter is intended to be a substitute for the advice of a physician.

You are free to copy articles, provided you indicate the source of the article. There are 6-10 issues per year; it is not published during July and August. The newsletter is produced in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Distribution of this newsletter is free by email. Please email requests for all new subscriptions, subscription cancellations and email address changes (please include old address along with new one) to

You can visit our Web site, obtain back issues and the Healing Through Unity Course at:

All of us have had healing experiences, as well as climbed out of low points along life's way - physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Please share your stories, tips, useful links, and quotes from the Baha'i Writings about staying healthy in a stressful world. Your articles do not have to be long - even a few paragraphs in length is fine. Baha'u'llah gave us each other as a big part of a healthy lifestyle, and sharing stories and ideas that work for you brings encouragement to others. Asking for information and support from others can bring encouragement to you!


Many thanks to all of you who share helpful ideas for the Healing Through Unity eNewsletter. The decision to select and edit material submitted for publication is determined by the editor. We welcome submissions from everyone.

Please e-mail your stories, comments, suggestions or "Question for the Month" ideas to the newsletter editor, Cheryll Schuette, at:


Please specify if you do not want your full name, or any part of it, used in this newsletter, particularly for the Question of the Month. Once published in email and in the archives on the website, it is difficult if not impossible to remove with any certainty.

Editor - Cheryll Schuette
Contributing Editor - Lynn Ascrizzi
Founding Editor - Frances Mezei
Circulation Assistant - Kathy Yonash
Web Master - Jonah Winters
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