In America's coffee shops and train stops, people are talking
about topics once reserved for Sunday school or Sunday dinner. In fact, if you
haven't seen The Passionof the Christ or read The Da Vinci
Code-- if you haven't at least triedmeditation yet --
you're in the minority.
When heart specialist John M. Kennedy, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, stands at the scrub sink before an operation, he breathes deeply with seven-count exhales, visualizing how he wants the procedure to go. "Athletes use these techniques to perform under pressure, but we can all call on them in our regular lives," Dr. Kennedy says. It starts with knowing what kind of breathing works best for the challenge you're facing. Here's what the latest research shows.
Religion and spirituality have gone mainstream. People are
hotly debating Jesus' lineage and Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, or Islamic issues
-- and they're doing it in public. All this outspoken talk of religion is not
typical (except for a few TV evangelists). Americans seem to be changing.
A Need for Answers
The Sept. 11 tragedy shook us to our core almost three years
ago, that's unmistakable. Many of the fallen-away faithful went scrambling back
to church or temple. But even before that tragedy, another process was
As we practiced yoga, took up tai chi, and energized our
chakras, we just have not felt satisfied. We felt that something essential was
missing, says Krista Tippett, host of Minnesota Public Radio's Speaking of
"The big spiritual questions -- the 'why' questions -- had
not gone away," she tells WebMD. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why does God take a loved one so young? What is the meaning of our existence?
These questions still haunted us, Tippett says.
"What I'm reading, what I'm sensing, is the trend is
changing," Tippett says. "It almost goes against our American mindset
-- our independence, our self-sufficiency -- but people are looking for
something bigger, better, to be part of. They have an essential need for that.
And when they experience it, whether it's during a crisis, an illness, or a
death, they want more of it."
For this -- and more -- people are returning to traditional
religion and spirituality, she says. "Sometimes when we put traditional
religion down, it's their dogma that we rebel against. But at their core, these
traditions are where our impulses, our need for something bigger, have been
A Need to Help Others
Indeed, the "feel-good, me-centered spirituality" of
recent decades seems to be evaporating, says Harold Koenig, MD, associate
professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for the Study of
Religion/Spirituality and Health at Duke University Medical Center.