It is often the case that people begin exploring the spiritual side of life only when they or someone they care about face a health crisis of some kind, and this is probably because human beings know quite intuitively that the spirit plays an important role in physical health. When a person pursues spiritual development, the state of their physical health can often improve quite markedly, and even when one faces a condition which medical experts have diagnosed as ‘untreatable’, focusing on spiritual matters can still provide a great deal in the way of pain management, peace and emotional support.
In the scientific community, the ‘mind-body connection’ is well documented. For example, scores of peer-reviewed studies have shown that regular ‘mindfulness of breathing’ meditation has all sorts of healing properties, such as improving blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, reducing stress levels and even changing the structure of the brain itself. Other spiritual practices, such as chanting a mantra, spending time in a state of quiet contemplation or journaling on a regular basis, have been studied less extensively, but have still been shown to be similarly beneficial.
Whilst it is obviously a very good thing that spiritual practice is helpful to those who face health challenges, it should also be recognised it is something which can and should promote greater levels of health and fitness in those who do not face such challenges. In fact, if your spiritual development is not already helping you to enjoy greater physical health then it is probably the case that you need to look a little closer at your understanding of the relationship between body and spirit.
We usually talk about the body and spirit as if they are separate things, and that is fine for ease of discussion, but there is in fact no real separation, at least during your time as a human being. Whilst you are essentially a spirit being, you are currently living in a physical world, and you therefore need a physical body to operate effectively in it. The more fit and healthy your body is, the better it can serve your spirit, and vice versa.
‘… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…’ – 1 Corinthians 6:19
The biblical description of the body being a ‘temple’ of the spirit is a good way to view the relationship between the two, and if you were to live your life according that understanding, it is only natural that you would want to take the very best possible care of your temple.
So how can you do that? Well, your intuition is – as always – your best guide, but here are two essential principles that you may wish to consider adopting as a starting point…
#1 – Mindful Consumption
If your body is the temple of the spirit, you should exercise mindfulness and be respectful when it comes to deciding what you put in it. Consider eliminating (or dramatically reducing) proven toxins such as alcohol and non-prescription drugs from your life, and then exercise the same kind of mindfulness and care when choosing what to eat or drink.
Your temple probably won’t fall apart if you have a less than optimal meal once in a while, so you don’t necessarily need to skip the slice of cake on your birthday, or refuse a special dinner which someone has kindly prepared for you. On the other hand, habitual consumption of processed foods, or those which contain high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats, will not do your temple any good at all, and could well be indicative of a deeper lack of respect for your general physical wellbeing.
On a mechanical level, your physical body is a superb piece of organic machinery, and like any machine, it will perform best only if treated with care. The cleaner your diet – which includes the liquids that you consume as well as the solids – the more efficiently your body will operate.
#2 – Temple Maintenance
Just as a church or temple building needs checking over and maintaining on a routine basis, so does your temple of the spirit. Neglecting to keep an eye on your medical condition, and to take regular exercise, means that time will take a much greater toll on your physical body than it needs to.
If you aren’t already applying this principle, start by getting checked over by a physician, and then adopt a schedule of regular exercise. The type of exercise that you take should be determined by your personal situation and preferences, so a thirty-minute walk through the park each day can be just as valuable as joining a Tai Chi class or signing up with your local gym. The important thing is to establish the habit of being active every day in a way that suits your current level of health and fitness.
The principle of Temple Maintenance also includes taking good care of your eyesight, hearing, visiting the dentist, being mindful of your posture and getting enough rest. If it helps, try imagining that you are merely borrowing the physical body that you currently inhabit, and treat it with care and respect for the duration of your occupancy.
The Benefits of a Spiritual Perspective
The idea that you should adhere to a clean diet, exercise regularly and take good care of your body are not new, but viewing these things as spiritual practices in their own right can be very beneficial to those who find it difficult to make their physical wellbeing a priority.
Adopt the principles of Mindful Consumption and Temple Maintenance today, start living by them on a consistent basis and your spiritual perspective will automatically help you to enjoy greater levels of health and fitness. Just as importantly, it will also help ensure that you give your ‘temple of the spirit’ the respect that it deserves.