This week I would like to write about a topic that I have been trying to write about for several months but didn't seem to have the right words. The topic is spirituality.
I have been writing about Wellness as the combination of physical well-being, emotional/psychological well-being and spiritual well-being.
It is not easy to dive into the spiritual side of things directly, but I will attempt to do so today.
Specifically I would like to talk about how spirituality is connected to your wellness.
My journey started early in life with a family that believed in God and spoke about God on a regular basis.
When I was young, my whole family would gather for family prayers before bed.
My Mother wrote in my baby book that I had elaborate prayers way back then.
I remember thanking God for everything I could think of. My favorite topic for prayers was my grandfather's cows. My grandfather would let us name the cows, so each night I would thank God for the cows by name. Needless to say, my prayers were 10 to 15 minutes long. I was probably 4 or 5 years old at the time.
There have been times in my life when my faith has been shaken.
When I look back on my life, I see how I tried to find peace in all the typical places people try to find peace.
I searched outside myself.
I tried to find it with relationships, athletics, academics, business/career, partying and money. I was often successful in accomplishing my goals, but in the end I was more confused then ever. Interestingly, the more I looked, the harder it was to find what I was looking for.
Then one day, I made arrangements to stay alone in the woods miles from anybody. My wife stayed in Denmark with my daughter and I came back to America. I went to the Appalachian Trail and hiked for hours. I found a nice place to set up a tent, so I did. After that, I went for a walk and reflected on my life.
My life from the outside looked good, but inside I knew the truth. I was a sinner. I lied, cheated and stole to get what I wanted.
The guilt inside me for all my transgressions was almost overwhelming.
I was crying and screaming at the same time. I was mad and I wanted answers.
In a fit of desperation I screamed, "God where are you!"
As if thunder rolled through the hills, I heard, "everywhere."
I thought someone was messing with me, so I looked around. I tried to find that someone who had answered me.
I simply found myself all alone in the middle of the woods.
Over the last several years, this single event has helped to shape my life.
God's grace in my life became so obvious that I simply could not turn away.
"God is everywhere" became the foundation for my understanding in all areas of my life.
I realized that I had been looking for God somewhere, like God was "out there," but that day in the woods, I realized in an instant that instead of being "out there," God was closer than I could see: God was everywhere including on my side, above me, below me, inside me, always with me.
I still find myself using the same strategy I used as a boy- I thank God for everything I can think of. God is everywhere at all times.
It's not like God is in this room, but not that room.
In fact, if you believe God is omnipresent, it means that God is equally distributed everywhere.
To be "well" means to me to have a balance among all areas of life, and this includes spiritually.
In the midst of physical pain, I remember God is always there.
If we look at the world through the point of view that each and every situation is a "gift" from God, then we can begin to see the importance of each moment, and this includes being in pain.
In the midst of emotional/psychological difficulties I remember God is always there.
For me, this means assuming that the difficulty is from my lack of understanding.
I step back and look at the situation from the point of view that it is an opportunity.
A former patient came by the other day and we were talking about her health.
She has tried therapy with me and other groups in town.
She has been to every doctor and specialist in this area and down the line. In the end, the results are the same no real success.
She has physical pain and most definitely emotional/psychological stress.
I told her that I think a lot of the problem is that she is still looking outside to find a problem inside that is inside.
She is scratching her right foot, but it's the left foot that itches. Often we look outside for the key to our wellness.
Instead of searching for the gift, we try to find a "better" place; we try to get out of the situation.
We look all around instead of within.
Before I go on, let me say that I believe that if you have a physical issue, you should seek help from the medical community.
We have excellent practitioners in the area and they are certainly worth consulting.
Once it has been established that the issue is not serious, then you can rest assured that looking inside is likely the key for finding wellness.
My friend was a bit resistant to the possibility that her solutions were found inside her. Then she asked an interesting question, "How long should I try looking inside for answers?"
My comment was, "You should try at least as long as you have looked outward."
Take just a minute now to consider what you have spent the last week focusing on, what about the last month?
We like to believe that what matters most to us is what we think about, but it is really our actions that show us what we really focus on.
What matters most to you?
What you really spend your time on is what really matters most to you.
To me, wellness is about looking at our life honestly, looking at how we treat one another and ourselves.
It is about realizing that an event may be tragic from a short-term perspective, but on looking back, you can see that it is a gift that came and an opportunity to experience God.
When we try to find the gift, we have to look within.
If you search for peace, health, happiness, success or anything else you have wanted, you may experience moments of success but nothing that lasts.
If you find you are making the same mistakes again and again or have stress and struggle in your life, it is because you are trying to find something "out there" that is closer than that- it is everywhere.
Each event that comes into your life is an opportunity to see that which is everywhere at all times.
Try for at least as long as you have tried looking outside for answers.
Experiment by really putting your attention on what matters most in your life.
When you find yourself feeling lousy, consider it an opportunity to examine what you spend your time on.
What is really your preference?
If you say your health matters most, then why do you turn the TV on at night instead of going for a walk?
That shows you actually prefer TV more than your health.
If family matters most, why do you hold a grudge against a loved one?
Maybe you prefer the grudge more then peace.
If you say you want peace most, why do you argue and offer your opinion when it is not asked for?
If you give your opinion without someone asking for it, it means you prefer your opinion more than peace.
There is no special time needed to make the choice to walk the walk.
I believe that we all have opportunities to notice that which is everywhere at all times. Wellness is about noticing being honest with ourselves.
If you have been struggling, consider that maybe you have been looking for solutions "out there."
If you think you have been looking inside and yet you are still struggling I suggest that you should give more time to looking inside, at least as long as you have looked outside for help.
Struggle is God's way of helping you to appreciate what matters most and it also helps clarify what really matters most.
Wellness is available to everyone and it is never too late.