By Scott Westerman
““We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”” – Stephen R. Covey
THE ESSENCE: Spirit is at the center of faith, that iron constitution that keeps us going even in the most unpleasant circumstances.
Spiritual people tend to be happier. That’s one insight from a worldwide five year study of the key factors that contribute to happiness. But what is the spirit? Why is it an important part of our Mind, Body, Spirit triangle? And, most importantly, how can we nurture our spiritual life in the same way we stimulate our mind and body?
The Ohio State University office of student wellness defines spirituality this way:
Spirituality is not religion and is not even necessarily affiliated with religion. While the definition of spirituality is different for everyone, here are some common themes associated with spirituality:
- The idea of a process or journey of self-discovery and of learning not only who you are, but who you want to be.
- The challenge of reaching beyond your current limits. This can include keeping an open mind, questioning current beliefs, or trying to better understand others’ beliefs.
- A connectedness to yourself and to others. Spirituality is personal, but it is also rooted in being connected with others and with the world around you. This connection can facilitate you finding “your place in the world.”
- Meaning, purpose, and direction. Spirituality, while it doesn’t necessarily solve or reach conclusions, often embraces the concept of searching and moving forward in the direction of meaning, purpose, and direction for your life.
- A higher power, whether rooted in a religion, nature, or some kind of unknown essence.
I like that definition, because it encourages you to seek your own spiritual path, without pre-conditions. You can be spiritual as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, even an Atheist and be spiritual. As Steve Gillman writes, “An atheist can recognize the mystery of life, and marvel at how everything learned deepens that mystery…. An atheist can recognize his or her own limitations, and seek to grow, perhaps even by developing contact with ‘higher powers’….. Are these ‘higher powers’ nothing more than electrical patterns in our brains? We don’t know, and we don’t have to know to tap into them.”
My grandfather, the “original” W. Scott Westerman, was a Methodist Minister. His faith was the engine that drove his desire to serve, to teach, and to become a role model in the larger community beyond his church. It provided a grounding that helped him define the saintly behavior he modeled. It inspired him to press-on in tough times. And it gave me a wonderful understanding of character, commitment, stewardship and love.
Whatever your personal spiritual path, it’s healthy to engage it, study it and grow within as you grow on the outside.
Many religious traditions point to prayer as a method for getting closer to your spirituality. For others, the practice of mindfulness or meditation can become what Jeremy Taylor calls, “..the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit.”
Spirit is at the center of faith, that iron constitution that keeps us going even in the most unpleasant circumstances. It is the heart of the Stockdale Paradox: “Never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Patrick Overton puts it another way: “When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”
Mind, Body and Spirit are the three principles on which happy and productive lives are built. As you contemplate your goals for 2011, be sure that you fortify each of these important foundations. If you do, you will be much more likely to stay healthy and energized to stay the course and reach your destination.