“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Once you have begun building a foundation of fitness in the physical and mental pillars, the profoundly challenging and rewarding task of attaining fitness in the spiritual pillar awaits.
The spiritual pillar of fitness has three realms:
- Family – Spouse | Parents | Children and Other Family Members
- G-d – Prayer | Duties | Rituals
- Mission - Core Values | Purpose | Life Mission
The process is similar to attaining fitness in the other pillars. First, assess where you currently are with respect to each realm. Some questions to ponder are:
- Do you believe in G-d and if not should you?
- Why is it important to acknowledge a power higher than yourself?
- How do you put your beliefs into practice?
- How often do you engage in spiritual exercise?
- What is the quality of your marriage?
- When was the last time you saw your parents and children?
- How productive or destructive are your familial relationships?
- To what system of values do you adhere, and how well can you express these values?
- What is your plan for upholding your values?
- How well do you maintain your values?
As you begin answering these questions others will arise. Especially in the spiritual pillar, this is a lifelong process. Just like with the other pillars, you may need to consult with professionals to aid your assessments. Roadblocks may arise. For example, you may harbor an aversion to religion based on childhood experiences. A brief story:
Shortly after getting married, as the cook of the house, I had prepared dinner. Sitting down at the table my wife Melanie pointed to something on her plate and asked, “What are these?”
Me: “They’re Brussel Sprouts. They’re great.”
Melanie: “No they’re not, they’re horrible.”
Me: “When have you ever had Brussel Sprouts?”
Melanie: “I was five.”
Me: “Do you mean to tell me you still hate everything now that you hated when you were five?”
Me: “Well, that’s very good information for your new husband to have ‘cause I bet you hated boys when you were five.”
Melanie tried Brussel Sprouts again and lo and behold she liked them. Your tastes change as you mature. What seemed distasteful, boring, or annoying when you were a child may be very nourishing now that you are an adult. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your dislike of religion in light of how important a factor of your spiritual fitness it can be.
Information gathering and assessment will tend to overlap more so than in the other pillars. As well, if you are not already affiliated with a religious denomination, seeking a spiritual connection within one or outside of religion requires extensive research. Some of the resources I use or other clergy recommend are:
Discover Orthodox Christianity
Ancient Faith Radio
Orthodox Christian Network
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
University of Nottingham – Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Some of my tweets cover spiritual fitness in a non-religious context so consider following me on Twitter. My Wednesday blog post is called Parsha Nuggets, which provides food for thought from the Old Testament as you explore your spirituality. You can sign up to receive my newsletter here.
Now, start setting goals. You may think that having defined benchmarks to reach on a spiritual journey is counterproductive. But if you wish to make progress incentivize yourself. Contrary to popular thought, spiritual fitness will not develop spontaneously.
While we are spiritual beings, this does not preclude the necessity of exercising your spirit so as to make it an equal pillar. In addition to self-discipline and self-awareness, the indispensable quality required for deep spiritual fitness is empathy. Without the ability to create heartfelt, meaningful relationships with others, especially G-d, your spirit will be unprepared to support you through the vicissitudes of life.
These three aspects of self-development: self-discipline, self-awareness, and empathy, while indispensable are not exclusive to each pillar. Self-awareness will improve your fitness in the physical and spiritual realms. As well, other traits, such as being an adept communicator, will enhance your fitness in all realms. Yet note that if you are truly empathic, you will find a way to relate to those with whom you create your spiritual life.
Question – How do you build your relationship with G-d?
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