Friday, August 7, 2009

The Power of Prayer

We've all faced what seem to be insurmountable difficulties in our lives, whether it be illness, financial woes, or a devastating loss. If you're a religious person or among the growing number of Americans who call themselves "spiritual but not religious," you naturally turn to prayer to help you through those difficult times. But does praying help? Well, the research is in and the results are unequivocal: yes and no.

Science has studied that very question over the last several decades with some surprising, and controversial, results. One could argue that science has no place in studying the power of prayer, that prayer by its nature is personal and the effects immeasurable. Still, science being science - and many scientists themselves also being religious or spiritual persons - there has been a growing interest in measuring the tangible results of prayer.

One study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that intercessory prayer (praying on behalf of someone else) had positive therapeutic effects on the health of hospital patients diagnosed with cancer and AIDS. A similar study by the Mayo Clinic found no such correlation (Time, 2002). And other studies have been equally lauded or criticized in turn (WebMd).

However, a new comparison of multiple studies conducted over many decades has found some surprising similarities among the research participants. In general, people who consider themselves to be religious:

(1) exercise better self-control
(2) are better able to achieve their long-term goals
(3) live healthier lives
(4) live longer lives
(5) have a more positive outlook on life.

So, whether your prayers are answered or not, it may certainly be true that "prayer may not change things for you, but it sure changes you for things" (Samuel M. Shoemaker).

For more reading:
"Investigating the Power of Prayer," Time, Jan. 16, 2002
"Probing the Power of Prayer," WebMD, 2000
"Religion May Have Evolved Because of Its Ability to Help People Exercise Self-Control," ScienceDaily, Jan. 1, 2009

Prayer Wheels in Tibetan Life

If you've ever visited the Himalayan regions of northern India or Nepal, you will see these "wheels on sticks" being twirled everywhere by the old and young alike. Tibetans, being a deeply religious people, believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer. Prayer wheels are filled inside with handwritten prayers and stamped on the outside with one of the most common Tibetan prayers, "Om Mani Padme Hum," the prayer of compassion. As you spin the wheel, your prayers fly on the wind and are dispersed to the four corners of the world, bringing prayers of peace and loving-kindness to all.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Sad Realities of Kitten Season

"Kitten season" is upon us once again, This annual ritual starts in late spring and usually runs through early fall. What is kitten season, you ask? Kitten season is the time of year when millions of homeless kittens will be born in the streets, parking lots, highway rest areas, and woods all across America. They will largely die - killed by starvation, cars, or predators - before they reach six months old. The lucky ones will end up in shelters, only to be euthanized two or three weeks later when no homes are found for them.

Here are three things you can do to help:

(1) spay or neuter your pets
(2) spay or neuter your pets
(3) spay or neuter your pets

And if you're looking for a new companion, please consider adopting a homeless dog or cat from your local shelter.

At Mindful Hands, we work with a local no-kill shelter, King Street Cats, to help find homes for the many pregnant cats and their kittens that end up in the shelter's care each spring.

We will be hosting a series of adopt-a-thons for the King Street Cats (KSC) at Mindful Hands' store location at 211 King Street in Old Town Alexandria. The next adopt-a-thons will take place on Saturdays August 8 and August 22 from noon to 4:00pm each day. The King Street Cats currently have sixty kittens looking for loving homes. Won't you be a friend indeed to a kitten in need?

For more information:

"Coping with Kitten Season," The Humane Society of the United States

The King Street Cats