What is Spirituality?
Despite the variety of therapies available in Holistic Medicine we were both frustrated with a lack of an effective solution for my spouse's ailments. What we have come to see is that a clearer view of the solution to her physical ailments lies in a deeper understanding of spirituality and how it relates to the Mind, Body, and Energy modalities of Holistic Medicine. One thing in particular we both understood were that Spirituality and Religion were different.
Holistic Medicine leaves many things vague and ambiguous. You often hear the words mind, body, and spirit being said in the same breath. At other times you hear mind, body, and soul. However, the therapies that are found in Holistic Medicine are better described by the categories of mental, physical, and energetic. At first you might broadly dismiss these phrases as the same thing. That would be fine if we had a cure. But for my Spouse there still seemed no hope and so making finer distinctions became important.
I wondered if energy was the basis of all life? Was your energy and spirit the same thing? Was your soul and the spirit the same thing? Why do books on spirituality talk about the "seat of your soul" residing in one of the chakras. Is reality in the mind, the heart or your physical body? These are deep philosophical questions that we may have toyed around with for amusement in philosophy or religion classes. In school we never could answer these questions clearly and believably. What was the difference between mind, body, energy and spirit? And more importantly why didn't addressing mind, body, energy and spirit help my Spouse?
The bottom line is that in our language we do have synonyms, but still each word is unique in its connotations. Therefore, mind, mental, brain, body, physical, spirit, soul, and energy while they may have overlapping meaning and application, they are different. Understanding these subtle differences aren't so important when life is going smoothly. For us life was going very badly. For us the subtle differences were important.
So just what were the differences? The answer lied in the following bit of ambiguity. I've mentioned the mind, body, and spirit division of health. But I've also mentioned the mental, physical and energetic view. But then how do energy and spirit relate? Are they the same? Here were some possible views of how they could be related.
Energy could be a 4th modality along with mind, body, and spirit as shown in figure a above. Energy is described as a subtle body and aura that can be seen with proper training. This sounds a lot likely a "ghostly" spiritual body. Therefore, possibly Spirit and Energy are the same as shown in figure b. But, what about our thoughts, concepts and perceptions? Do we really believe that all of these exist as the result of spontaneous chemical reactions of brain cells? Psychology has often acknowledged that the human mind appears to be more than just physical brain matter. There is a concept that much of our mind lies beyond just the physical brain. This would then suggest that the mind (non-physical part) and energy are the same as in figure c. Finally, in the entire energy chakra view, we see the connection of energy to the body. Because of this, I started to believe that Energy was the same as spirit, mind and body as shown in figure d. Therefore, if energy encompassed everything then energy seemed to be where to find the root cause of my Spouse's ailments. I would have been satisfied with this view, if it weren't for the fact that IT WASN'T WORKING. Energy healing, while powerful, wasn't working. The root cause could not be found with energy. So now what?
The solution came to me ironically when I was trying to teach a class on Holistic Medicine and Spirituality (see Inner Fitness Class). What I found at the bottom of all the physical symptoms and all the physical, mental, and energetic reasons for her condition were basic issues of willingness to want to get better. Believe it or not there are advantages into becoming weak and ill. There are times when acting in a "strong" manner puts you at a disadvantage and when acting in a state of illness or "weakness" gives you special privileges and power. The one thing that had never been resolved for her was the deep fundamental questions about ourselves such as: what's the purpose of my life? What does being better mean, more money? time? freedom? love? friends? Why do I want to continue? Why should I bother trying when it hurts, when I'm afraid? What's the purpose of striving when life keeps knocking you down?
You see the answer is that these questions are the essence of Spirituality. What started to dawn upon me was the basic misunderstanding of Spirituality. Spirit is not a subset of the part of our human nature; it is everything about our human nature. Below is a sampling of how we use the word "spirit" in everyday life.
What you first notice is that despite all the use of the word spirit, there is no reference to religion or God. Although, religion is a kind of spirituality, it is only subset of Spirituality. Religion is not the whole of Spirituality. At its basics, Spirit is about the:
Spirit in everyday use is about a greater purpose. Some overriding thing, force, purpose or goal that is more important than any lone individual but then also moves individuals to become greater and more important than they were alone. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
It is about having meaning and purpose. Of getting faith and belief against the odds and overcoming the odds. Sometimes even defying logic or reason.
It is about the desire to live, to be. It is the mechanism of the motivation that moves one individual. It is the "contagious" effect that motivates an individual to motivate others and the effect of others motivating that individual.
It is to embrace and build each other up with appreciation, acknowledgement, and love.
This is the meaning of Spirit that we use commonly in everyday practical life and it is the meaning, which is genuinely real. We have been taught to think that "spirituality" is something more esoteric that has to do with prayer, priests, gurus, yogis, shamans, meditation, altered states, ghosts, voices from the heavens and miraculous bursts of light. While it can be those things, to think that way exclusively is to put your spirituality at a distance. Bringing spirituality closer means to actively use the concept of spirit in it's every day sense of: "Team Spirit", "Winning Spirit", "Creative Spirit" and "Human Spirit".
In religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam the spirit is a "ghostly" existence of ourselves that is located within the body. However, in the larger and more practical sense of spirituality, the Spirit is not a location, not something that has an anatomy. Rather the Spirit is the purpose and the reason for this energy aura and physical makeup to come into play. The Spirit is not so much a thing, but a system that is our total being. This is why in the real world when we refer to "Team Spirit" or "Human Spirit," we are not referring to ghosts but rather a system that drives a team or drives a human. So for my Spouse, the "root cause" lies in healing the system that is the purpose for being. Healing the system gives one the passion to transcend life's challenges.
Under this realm of spirituality then the Spirit is the whole and it can be divided into two parts Physical and Energetic. The Physical bodily existence is as much a part of the spiritual world as the Energetic bodily existence. If we define Mind as our thoughts, ideas and perceptions and the Brain as the physical organ container of our Mind, then our Mental existence can be seen as having two parts: the physical which is the Brain and the Mind which is energetic.
Therefore, for overall well-being a person must address their physical health, their energetic health, and their overall purpose of how and why everything should work together. The overall purpose of how and why is the spirit. Neglect the physical and you will weaken the energetic, neglect the energetic and you will weaken the physical. Weaken either the physical or energetic and you weaken the spirit. Neglect the spirit and you weaken the underlying cause and purpose for better physical and energetic health. They are all connected and you must learn to understand and believe it not just in your mind, but also in your heart and soul. Click Here for more.