You probably already know that selling your soul in a job that stresses you out can predispose you to illness. However, what if I told you, as a physician, that finding your calling could significantly improve not just your mental and spiritual health, but also your physical health? Let me tell you a few stories to demonstrate this.
The Harmonica Angel
In 1996, Andy Mackie was told he would die within a year if he stopped taking the 15 heart medications that doctors told him were saving his life after he had undergone nine heart surgeries. But the side effects of the drugs made Andy’s quality of life so miserable that he decided to stop his drugs and live the rest of his life as comfortably and happily as possible. Since he figured he did not have long to live, he decided to do something that had always been a dream, he took the $600 he would have spent on his heart medicines and bought 300 harmonicas for children in public school, complete with lessons from Andy himself.
When Andy didn’t die the next month, he bought a few hundred more, and the Andy Mackie Music Foundation was born. Fifteen years and 20,000 harmonicas later, Andy finally died, but not without having taught over 6,000 children how to play the harmonica and many thousands more how to play strum sticks and guitars he made himself.
Cami Walker has a similar story of healing through purposeful generosity. Cami was 33 years old when diagnosed with debilitating multiple sclerosis, which left her barely able to walk. When conventional medicine failed her, she sought out the treatment of South African medicine woman Mbali Creazzo, who wrote a prescription on a pad- “Give 29 Gifts in 29 days.” So she did. Moreover, at the end of the 29 days, her symptoms were nearly gone. This inspired her to start 29Gifts.org, a nonprofit that invites people to practice generosity by experimenting with this generosity challenge- giving 29 gifts in 29 days.
Your body benefits.
Health and Life Purpose are Linked
How are physical healing and life purpose related? As I described in my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, your body is beautifully equipped with natural self-healing mechanisms that can destroy cancer, fight off infection, reverse heart disease, and slow aging. However, here’s the kicker. Your body’s self-healing mechanisms only function when your nervous system is in the parasympathetic mode, or what Herbert Benson at Harvard called the “relaxation response.” Every time your nervous system goes into the sympathetic mode, which Walter Cannon at Harvard called the “stress response” or which you may know as the “fight or flight” response, your body’s natural self-healing mechanisms get flipped off.
Consider Your Work Life
Does your job relax your nervous system- or trigger fight or flight responses? Are your self-healing mechanisms doing their thing 24/7, or are they turned off half the time you are working?
When you are doing work you love, as Andy Mackie and Cami Walker demonstrate, the relaxation response floods your body with healing hormones like oxytocin, relaxin (a female reproductive hormone), endorphins, and dopamine. When you are compromising your integrity or facing toxic people or put in the line of fire at work, your body is filled with stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Which over time, weaken your immune system, damage your heart, and predispose you to everything from cancer to chronic pain to the common cold.
Finding your calling soothes your soul and your nervous system, and the body benefits physiologically.
While not as dramatic as Andy’s or Cami’s, I have my own personal story of health challenges that disappeared when I found and fulfilled my calling, a story I tell in my book The Anatomy of a Calling. The book is a call to action to invite you to bring your soul into your work, not just as a way to be in sacred service in the world, but as medicine for your body.
The Anatomy of a Calling:
The new book by Lissa Rankin, MD.
In her new book The Anatomy of a Calling: A Doctor’s Journey from the Head to the Heart and a Prescription for Finding Your Life’s Purpose, Lissa describes her entire spiritual journey for the first time — beginning with what she calls her “perfect storm” of events — and recounts the many transformative experiences that led to a profound awakening of her soul. Through her father’s death, her daughter’s birth, career victories and failures, and an ongoing struggle to identify as both a doctor and a healer, Lissa discovers a powerful self-awareness.
As she shares her story, she encourages you to find out where you are on your own journey, offering inspiring guideposts and practices along the way. With compelling lessons on trusting intuition, surrendering to love, and learning to see adversity as an opportunity for soul growth, The Anatomy of a Calling invites you to make a powerful shift in consciousness and reach your highest destiny.
Lissa Rankin’s book “The Anatomy of a Calling” is available here on Amazon.
Recommended articles by Lissa Rankin:
- Relationships on the Spiritual Path
- The “Space Between Stories”
- How to Make Your Body Ripe for Miracles
- Are You “Spiritual But Not Religious?”
- A Lesson In Empathy
- 9 Practical Tips to Help You Find Your Calling
- 10 Fun Ways to Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
- 6 Stories To Make You Believe In The Power Of The Mind To Heal You
- 7 Tips For Finding Your Tribe
- 10 Surprising Things That Trigger “Fight-Or-Flight”
- How To Keep Your Heart Open When You Lose a Pet
- 8 Signs You’ve Lost Touch with Your Intuition – and 10 Tips to Help You Reconnect
About the author:
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician on a grass roots mission to heal healthcare, while empowering you to heal yourself. She is the founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and healthcare providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of the books Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself (2013), The Fear Cure (2014), and The Anatomy of a Calling (2015).
Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and created the online community HealHealthCareNow.com. She is also the author of several other books, a speaker, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.