What images does “fitness” bring to your mind’s eye?
Most of us see images of treadmills and sweat. But to healthcare providers, the physical aspect of fitness is just one small part of a much larger, complete picture that includes mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Amidst the pressing and very immediate demands of our daily lives, spiritual health can very often take a backseat. But the fruits of spiritual living extend deep into our nature. The saints and sages of all ages tell us that spiritual living irradiates us with health, love, strength, wisdom, and joy. People often put spiritual living at the end of their to-do list, feeling that it’s simply not practical. But the wise teachers of all paths tell us that spirituality is the most practical thing of all, because it’s the source of every blessing in our lives.
In her lovely book Spiritual Fitness: How To Live in Truth and Trust, Caroline Reynolds asks six questions that can tell us how spiritually fit we are:
- How loving and kind am I?
- How free am I?
- How honest am I?
- How wise am I?
- How at peace am I?
- How joyful am I?
I’m sure you’re aware that being able to respond to these questions with positive, life-affirming answers isn’t something we can achieve overnight.
Once we’ve chosen a spiritual path that we’re comfortable with, whether it’s a philosophy, religion, or a way of approaching our life, it’s absolutely essential that we make a very real and lasting commitment.
Spiritual fitness requires deep, daily “training,” just like going to the gym. And, like physical fitness, it requires an emphasis on the process rather than the results. Thinking about what we’re doing with all our attention is what gives real joy – not dreaming about the possible future results.
So spiritual fitness includes a full-time focus on our moment-fy-moment experiences. It’s not just a mental exercise we do in those scarce moments when the busyness of our existence temporarily fades.
Spirituality is a powerful weapon that can help us win the daily battle. Here are some suggestions that will help you make spiritual fitness a real and very helpful part of your daily routine.
Commit to joy. Check your mood and what created it. Avoid the people, places, and things that drain your energy and trap you in negative moods. Only allow uplifting, positive and non-violent media into your life. Regardless of the complexity of your life and your special challenges, realize that you can always choose profound, constitutional happiness.
Commit to positive, uplifting interactions with all those with whom you come in contact. It isn’t hard to lift a person’s spirits, and the results are earth-shakingly profound. Generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness can transform another person’s life in dramatic ways. It will certainly transform yours!
Commit to discover your spiritual nature – to “Self-realize.” Carved in the lintel of the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi is the inscription Gnothi seauton: “Know thyself.”
To begin to understand your own spiritual nature, you might consider jotting down a list of the activities that bring you a sense of true peace, inner connection, and joy. Look for common themes in your answers. Then find a practice that meshes with your own spiritual nature.
Commit to a daily spiritual practice that carries your consciousness to a place of calmness, introspection, and joy. Breathing exercises, prayer, meditation, yoga, and journal-keeping are simple, effective ways to connect you to what matters most. A daily practice will defuse the cycles of stress, distraction, and hyperactivity that we all tend to fall into.
Commit to gathering with others who share your spiritual ideals. Consider committing to attend a church that resonates with you, or a synagogue, temple, meditation group, or yoga or tai chi studio. Think of singing in a choir, walking contemplatively in nature, or volunteering to help others. Do at least one thing every week that breaks the cycle of outward commitments and reminds you of what’s most important to you. We can greatly accelerate our spiritual growth by finding the support of a spiritual community. The combined momentum of others headed in the right direction will lift our spirits tremendously.
Commit to studying with a teacher. One of the most arrogant thoughts in our western civilization is that we can do it all by ourselves. While it’s perfectly valid to honor the virtue of self-sufficiency, rising to new levels of spiritual awareness is never possible without an illuminated guide. Trying to advance without a proven teacher virtually always yields poor results. That’s because, as the teachings of the world’s great religions tell us, the mind is poisoned by the very delusions it’s trying to get rid of. When I look back on my personal search, I realize that every one of the teachers who truly helped me exhibited qualities of deep honesty, humility, heart-centeredness, and good humor.
Commit to living with a B.I.G. attitude. A sense of Blessing, Intention, and Gratitude in every moment of your life will draw great spiritual gifts to you. If you’re struggling with an issue, try to approach it with a B.I.G. consciousness. The issue may not change – but you will!
As Caroline Reynolds suggests, spiritual fitness isn’t about demanding an unrealistic perfection of ourselves. Rather, it’s about seeking a perfect blend of the human and divine in us. It’s not about what you do, so much as it is who you are in your day-to-day self, and who you are becoming.
“Spirituality is not about being perfect but about aspiring to a life of heart-filled integrity. It is a journey and not a destination. When we are spiritually fit and balanced we are a powerfully exquisite blend of human fallibility and divine perfection. It is this dynamic tension that gives us our uniqueness, our power to create and our compassion.” – Caroline Reynolds, Spiritual Fitness: How To Live in Truth and Trust
For more on Dr. Marcel’s work click HERE.