It is said that the key to happiness is getting what you desire and having things go your way. People therefore spend so much time and energy trying to control persons, things and situations. It often happens that in this process we make our life miserable. If you can be happy only if you get your own way, that would be a miserable way to live. If I am spiritually healthy, I can be happy even when things don’t go in the way I want them to.
What is then spiritual wellness? Spiritual wellness is generally considered to be the search for meaning, purpose and fulfilment in human life based on one’s values and beliefs, in order to attain a state of harmony with oneself and the rest of the world. Your religious faith, values, beliefs, principles and morals define your spirituality. Ability to find harmony between that which lies within and the social and physical forces that come from outside is a sign of spiritual wellness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in its preamble defines health as a state of ‘physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. Spiritual health is an important component of an individual’s well-being and an integral aspect of the holistic health philosophy. Physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of health are deeply intertwined and have a profound effect on one another.
When we are not spiritually healthy, we feel lost and unbalanced and this may lead us to be moody and discontent with life. As a result we may grow emotionally distant from our loved ones and we may experience stress or fatigue on the physical level. On the other hand, when we feel spiritually happy, contended and fulfilled, nothing bothers us; everything in our life, including physical and emotional pain, is easier to deal with. We feel lighter and happier. We are able to remain calm and peaceful and maintain a joyful and composed outlook even when things happen contrary to our plan or desire.
The spiritual health creates in me an attitude of gratitude for everything, even for the minute things of life – for the air I breathe, the water I drink, the sun that gives me light, the wind that brings me solace and above all for the people I live with. I understand and accept everything and every person as the gift of God. God in his providence takes care of me and out of his benevolence provides me with everything I need. How true is the saying that to be happy is to be grateful even for the minute things of life.
When I am not spiritually healthy, even the smallest things in life can drive me crazy; I tend to be irritable, impatient, restless and discontented. Someone around me at work or at home can, with a silly remark or a negligible action, become the reason for me to get mad. I may be calm on the outside, but inside I may be seething with anger.
The only way such people, who are not spiritually happy, can be happy is for everything to go their way. But it never happens so. Even on our best days things do not always turn out as we hoped. Life is unpredictable. Learning to be joyful, even when things do not turn out as we hoped, is one of the signs of spiritual wellness. Anyone can be happy when things go his way or when he gets what he wanted. This is not a sign of spiritual maturity. Our life becomes worth living when we carry within us a joy that cannot be extinguished by anything that happens to us. When we are spiritually healthy, no problem or adversity can rob away the joy we experience within us. The awareness that we are the children of a loving Father helps us to remain happy and contended even when things don’t go our way or when adversities confront us.
Caught in the whirlwind of life, most people are unaware of the importance of spiritual health. Nourishing our spiritual self is as important as food, water and exercise. Spirituality is an integral part of everyone and is found in all aspects of our life. The constant effort of every person should be to grow in spiritual health so that he can experience the inner peace and happiness. Our physical health and the overall state of well-being can be greatly enhanced by enriching our spiritual health. It will help us feel better, cope with painful situations and challenges of daily life, find meaning and purpose in our life and live life more fully. Enriched spiritual health offers us comfort, meaning, harmony, purpose, hope, strength and inner peace. When things get really tough it gives us the strength to carry on. The ability to find meaning and purpose in life, having a clear sense of right and wrong and act accordingly, ability to explain why you believe what you believe, working for the welfare of other people, ability to forgive and to show compassion, trust in a provident God, etc. are some of the signs of spiritual health.
Spiritual authors propose several means to attain spiritual health: prayer, meditation, music, art, community service, yoga and other spiritual practices that help us come into contact with God or belief system. They will increase the capacity for compassion, love and forgiveness, altruism, joy, and a sense of personal fulfilment. Our spiritual health, as well as our emotional and physical wellbeing, can be also improved by cultivating a sense of humour and gratitude in our life.
While all the above means have a positive effect on our overall wellbeing, personal prayer and meditation, besides church attendance, are the most effective sources of spiritual wellness. They elicit relaxation of the body and quieten the mind, awaken the spirit and help us come into personal contact with God, who alone can still our hunger and thirst and in whom alone we attain the ultimate fulfilment. Meditation can deepen the consciousness or awareness and induce feelings of calm and clear-headedness as well as improve concentration and attention. Spiritual masters are unanimous in recommending that some 15 to 30 minutes spent daily, if possible early in the morning, in personal prayer and meditation is the best way to maintain and deepen the spiritual wellness.
Rev. Dr. James Mundackal CST