The Healing Power of Sangha

This article on the Healing Power of Sangha1 is a follow up of the previous article on Building a Beloved Community. It is based on one of the Seven Principles of Mindfulness in Healing and the research of Dr. Lissa Rankin, M. D. from her book, Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.

I’m writing about the principle, Reach out to Others. The basic idea of this principle is two-fold. First of all, you should reach out to family and friends for the support you need if you are ill. These wonderful people can help you with shopping, medical visits, personal visits, and they can give you their undivided attention while you heal.


A Lotus for You, A Buddha to be!

Even in you are not sick at the moment, reaching out to family and friends has been shown to help you maintain your good health in the form of preventive medicine. Dr. Rankin explains that having a group of friends that you can count on is good for your immune system and promotes your general sense of well-being. Sharing meals, vacations, walks, sporting events and other nourishing activities with family and friends can keep your body functioning in optimal health. These can also help reduce blood pressure and suppress the flight-or fight response. You will also be able to keep your stress hormones at bay.

The second basic idea of the principle of Reach out to Others is to be active in supportive groups. These include church groups, synagog groups, masque groups, twelve step programs, and, of course, sanghas. If you are facing a specific illness, then there are also support groups for your illness. In my experience, support groups have been essential for my healing experience.

Dr. Rankin has shown how a beloved community can increase life expectancy by substantial amounts. Furthermore, she notes that being part of a spiritual community can also have a significant impact on health. She writes,

While those who believe in a loving divinity are more likely to be happier and healthier than those who don’t, you don’t have to subscribe to any particular religion or even believe in a higher power to reap the benefits of being more spiritual. Although traditional institutional religious settings offer the benefit of community linked by shared belief, you can also improve your health by being more spiritual in your own way.

Spirituality… can still offer other health benefits, as you acknowledge and appreciate the sacred in life – the holiness of nature, the blessings of children, the perception of your work as a calling, the body as a vessel for love in the world, the sanctity of marriage. By imbuing the ordinary with the extraordinary qualities, you open yourself to transcendence, which can elicit relaxation in the body, leading to more happiness and, subsequently, better health. Spiritual people are also happier, have better mental health, use fewer drugs and alcohol, have better coping skills, and live longer than those who don’t consider themselves spiritual.

Mind over Medicine, p. 89-90.

When I read these words, I immediately thought about my experience in support groups and sanghas. Like I’ve said before, support groups made a difference in my life and health. As far as sangha is concerned, I was a solo practitioner for 16 years before I was able to join a sangha in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. I really had a difficult time recognizing the need for one until I visited Plum Village in 2000 and experienced the value of sangha.

Now it is so very important to me in my life that I created the Mindfulness in Healing sangha and attend sangha gatherings of other traditions than the Plum Village tradition regularly.

If I were to summarize the healing power of sangha into one sentence that combines The Seven Principles of Mindfulness in Healing with Dr. Rankin’s ideas it would be this: Reaching out to others and having a daily meditation practice helps to induce the relaxation response which, in turn, promotes superior health and well-being.

Aren’t you ready to begin your daily meditation practice? You can begin with this one:

Achieve Goals Guided Meditation

Are You Unsure of Your Current Goals and Direction? Need Some Help?

The Achieve Goals Guided Meditation Can Teach You

  • Breathe deeply from your abdomen
  • How to bring your attention into your breath, body and feelings
  • How to create a relaxing scene for you to return to at will
  • How to scan your body to achieve a state of total relaxation
  • How to visualize your goals and how to achieve them
download-mp3 buy-cd

Books by Lissa Rankin

Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself by Rankin, Lissa (2013) Hardcover

We’ve been led to believe that when we get sick, it’s our genetics. Or it’s just bad luck-and doctors alone hold the keys to optimal health.

For years, Lissa Rankin, M.D., believed the same. But when her own health started to suffer, and she turned to Western medical treatments, she found that they not only failed to help; they made her worse. So she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Through her research, Dr. Rankin discovered that the health care she had been taught to practice was missing something crucial: a recognition of the body’s innate ability to self-repair and an appreciation for how we can control these self-healing mechanisms with the power of the mind. In an attempt to better understand this phenomenon, she explored peer-reviewed medical literature and found evidence that the medical establishment had been proving that the body can heal itself for over 50 years.

Using extraordinary cases of spontaneous healing, Dr. Rankin shows how thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can alter the body’s physiology. She lays out the scientific data proving that loneliness, pessimism, depression, fear, and anxiety damage the body, while intimate relationships, gratitude, meditation, sex, and authentic self-expression flip on the body’s self-healing processes.

In the final section of the book, you’ll be introduced to a radical new wellness model based on Dr. Rankin’s scientific findings. Her unique six-step program will help you uncover where things might be out of whack in your life-spiritually, creatively, environmentally, nutritionally, and in your professional and personal relationships-so that you can create a customized treatment plan aimed at bolstering these health-promoting pieces of your life. You’ll learn how to listen to your body’s “whispers” before they turn to life-threatening “screams” that can be prevented with proper self-care, and you’ll learn how to trust your inner guidance when making decisions about your health and your life.

By the time you finish Mind Over Medicine, you’ll have made your own Diagnosis, written your own Prescription, and created a clear action plan designed to help you make your body ripe for miracles.

1A sangha is a community of practitioners, usually applied to Buddhists.

Connect with Meditation Practices

Connect with

Or enter your name and email address below.