wellness, spirit, life questions, meaning

In Pursuit of Wellness: How You Nourish Your Spirit

In Pursuit of Wellness: How You Nourish Your Spirit

Nicolas Herman was born in France early in the seventeenth century, shortly before the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. He was a humble man, with no formal education, who served as a footman & soldier before entering a monastery in midlife. He was not considered qualified to partake in the theological discussions of his educated brethren within the cloister and so was assigned to the kitchen. He described himself as an awkward fellow, with a tendency to break things.

Today we know little or nothing of the lives of his learned colleagues or the thousands of common people with whom he worked and played. Still, millions of people over the past 300 years have come to know and respect Brother Lawrence, as he was called, through a book containing a number of his conversations and letters published a year after his death. It is entitled The Practice of the Presence of God.

What set Brother Lawrence apart from so many others? Brother Lawrence was a master at nourishing his spirit. He was a model of consistency. He did not compartmentalize his life. “The time of business,” he wrote, ”does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

Brother Lawrence lived to the age of eighty, quite an accomplishment given that the average life expectancy at that time was less than half that age. It is said that he died “full of love and honored by all who knew him.”

The seventh factor you control that determines your level of wellness is how you nourish your spirit. It is, in my opinion, the most critical factor. The others, the quality of the air you breathe, what you put into your body, what you put onto your body, the activities you pursue, the quality of rest you receive, and what you feed your mind play a significant role in determining your level of wellness, but how you nourish your spirit overshadows them all in importance.

If you do not breathe clean air, drink pure water, eat good foods, and provide your body the essential nutrients it requires your health will deteriorate over time. You may take decades off of your potential life span.

If you use toxic cleaners and personal care items, fail to obtain regular physical activity, ignore your body’s need for rest and continually allow depressing news items to fill your mind you will eventually develop degenerative conditions and be unable to enjoy life to its fullest extent.

If you fail to nourish your spirit, if you lose the zest of living, and abandon your hopes and dreams you will die. Not in thirty years, not one or two decades earlier than might have been predicted, you will die in a very short time. You may survive a few years, you may survive a few months, but I have known people who died moments after abandoning hope, and nourishing the spirit is about finding vitality for today and hope for tomorrow.

What is the realm of the spirit? I believe that there are three fundamental questions that go to the core of our spiritual identity. These are who am I, why am I here, and where am I going. It is possible to answer these questions at multiple levels, but they must be answered with confidence if you are to experience vibrant health.

The first question, “Who am I?” seeks to define one’s personal identity. People answer this question in many ways. One’s occupation, title, position in the community, organizational memberships, and interpersonal relationships all define personal identity to some extent. For example, I am a physician, I am a Doctor, I am an elder in my church, I am a member of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, I am Rosalie’s husband, Amitia and Camille’s father, and Victoria’s grandfather.

All of these are valid answers to the question, “Who am I?” It is important that I do not become over-identified in one area, however. For example, if my occupation becomes my primary identity I will face a spiritual crisis if I am unable to pursue my career. I believe that this is the reason a very high percentage of people die within a year of their official retirement. Those who survive have found other answers to the question.

As important as it is to have a variety of answers to the question, “Who am I?” it is vital to have an unshakable and unchangeable answer to the question. For me that answer is that I am a child of God. Nothing that happens to me or around me can change that fact. It is a foundational spiritual belief. It is what allows me to weather the storms of life with steadiness and optimism. I highly recommend that you consider making this answer your own.

The second question, “Why am I here?” can also be answered in many ways. It may legitimately be answered that I am here to build a business, I am here to support my family, I am here to be of service to others, or that I am here to enjoy life. As in the first instance, it is important to that the answers be well balanced. If my only answer is “to earn a living” I am likely to burn out and become discouraged and depressed over time. If my sole answer is to have fun and enjoy life I am equally likely to become weary and feel empty inside.

This question must also have a core answer that is stable and immovable. For me that answer is, “I am here to do what God asks of me.” I find that answer eases my anxieties tremendously. Seeking His will keeps me spiritually connected. It allows me to face challenges I would rather not face, and it provides a greater sense of purpose in my life.

The final question, “Where am I going?” touches the heart of existence. It encompasses our goals and our dreams, and it defines our vision. It forces us to take inventory not only of where we are, but, more importantly, where we are going.

I believe in having big dreams. I agree with the person who said that each person should have a dream big enough to encompass three life times.

When we are able to dream our spirits soar. One of the tragedies of life is that the ability to dream, which is inherent in each of us at birth, is often extinguished by the time we reach adulthood. Well meaning adults may tell a child, “You’ll never be able to do that so you might as well stop dreaming about it!” Students are admonished to stop daydreaming and simply stick to the material presented to them.

Crabs are interesting creatures. If you place one crab in a bucket it will crawl out. Place two crabs in a bucket, however, and they will be there forever. As soon as one of them begins to crawl out the other will pull it back inside.

Many people become crabby over time. Not only have they lost their ability to dream, they are intent upon keeping others from exercising that gift. Someone will share a dream or goal only to be told, “You could never do that! Those things never work! You’ll lose your shirt!” It is a rare individual who can shake off the crabs and leave the bucket behind.

My unshakable answer to the question, “Where am I going?” is that I am going to be reunited with many of the people I have loved here on earth and spend eternity with them in God’s presence. I find that tremendously reassuring. I can imagine no circumstance that could break my spirit, knowing that no matter what happens I am destined to reach my ultimate goal.

So where does one find the answers to life’s ultimate questions? Where does a person turn to nourish the spirit?

To a very great extent the spirit is nourished by the beauty that surrounds us. Brother Lawrence began his spiritual journey when he was stuck by the outline of a dry leafless tree against the snowy landscape. He thought about the dramatic changes that would take place with the arrival of spring and determined to live in the spring of God’s presence rather than in the winter of His absence.

The arts provide food for the spirit. Music, dance, visual arts, prose, poetry and oratory are all sources of inspiration. The majesty of the natural world can send the spirit soaring.

Plants and animals can have an effect on elevating the spirit, as can fellow human beings. A simple smile, an encouraging word, a gentle touch, or a warm embrace are all capable of bringing someone from the edge of despair to the point of rejoicing.

All of these can disappoint, however. The magnificent natural beauty of Spirit Lake and Mount St. Helens became desolate overnight. Plants and animals die and vanish from our lives. Human adoration can just as quickly become detestation and encouragement from one corner may be countered by discouragement in another.

As Brother Lawrence discovered there is only one constant and unchanging source of spiritual nourishment: the practice of the presence of God. That is the basis for wellness, for God is the source of all healing. The Great Physician is available anytime, anywhere. He does not charge for His services, and all who seek Him find Him. Practice the presence of God and He will give you the desires of your heart.

© 2007 Wellness Clubs of America.com

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