I love reading and talking about spirituality, so I enthusiastically volunteered months ago to write this blog. Did I mention that when we took the 8 Dimensions of Wellness assessment that I scored the lowest on spiritual wellness? I think that’s called irony. Were any of you shocked by your scores? I wasn’t. Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” (one of my favorite quotes), and I think that quote accurately describes the amorphous nature of spirituality.
There are many definitions for spiritual wellness. It can be defined as, “expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life” and “a sense of balance and peace.” My favorite is “spiritual wellness is living your life in a way that is consistent with your values and also being open-minded to other people’s beliefs.” Sounds easy, right? Not really.
Up the Spiritual Wellness Ante
If you ask people about spirituality, you’ll probably get two answers; either something related to religion or meditation. I’ve read parts of the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible and have done lots of readings on Buddhism. I’ve meditated, climbed a mountain, went to a juice-fasting colon-cleansing detox retreat, done yoga, burned incense, tried to open my blocked chakras, thought about karma, looked for signs in the universe, read Khalil Gibran quotes, and tried everything else I could think of to up my spiritual ante, but to no avail.
I try to think of spiritual wellness in terms of thoughts, and by extension, actions. Here are three things I am doing in a determined and stubborn effort to work on my spiritual wellness.
Rid Yourself of Rigid Thinking and Question Everything Instead
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to become less rigid in my thinking, trying to see concepts less in black and white, right or wrong, my side or yours and more in terms of varying shades of gray (no, not like 50 Shades of Grey); seeing through each person’s lens very differently. We are all as unique as snowflakes, so I want to know what makes you think the way you do.
I read this book called Mindset, which talked about having a fixed or a growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that some people are born with skills and they can’t be taught. This kind of rigid thinking stops people from trying. The growth mindset believes that effort can make all the difference in terms of learning new things. I grew up with a fixed mindset and have been trying to shift towards a growth mindset, but it takes practice.
I read the book, 10% Happier by Dan Harris of Good Morning America fame. While the book talks about meditation, I became interested in him and saw a YouTube video of a talk he gave to Google employees, where talks about the concept of “Non-Duality”. He said “the self, the voice in your head, the you that you think is so real, actually doesn’t exist in the way you think it does; it’s actually an illusion that you are creating moment to moment.”
I’ve read about the concept of non-duality before, but I think he explained it in an easy to understand way. When my mind is racing with hundreds of thoughts, and I stubbornly want to say I’m right, it helps to think of non-duality and the fact that my mind is playing tricks on me.
The last part of this is about questioning everything. As kids we ask “why” about 700 times a day. As adults, that number declines exponentially. You’ve heard the quote, “wrong and strong versus weak and right.” Why are people uncomfortable with uncertainty? Does it assume a lack of control? If so, what’s wrong with that? A while ago, I was talking to someone about a serious topic and asked the question “why.” The person got very angry, as if the very act of questioning meant that I was already against their opinion. There are three things that can happen as a result of questioning:
- You discover new information or have a new experience that causes you to change your mind.
- The new information or experience confirms your current ideas on the topic.
- The new information makes you ask even more questions and go further down the rabbit hole.
Some people are terrified by the mere act of questioning because it opens up the possibility that we don’t know everything and that some answers can simply be, “I don’t know.” From the great movie, The Matrix, I can say that I’d rather take the red pill and question things and seek the truth through my lens rather than not questioning and believing that my current opinion is “right.”
Valuing yourself is an easy concept in theory, but difficult in practice, especially as you get older and meet people with more status, more knowledge, more happiness, more love, more accolades, more degrees, more than what you think you are. If you treat yourself poorly, other people will pick up on this and also treat you poorly.
In this month’s book club book, “Burning Down the House, the End of Juvenile Prison,” there was a quote that I loved that said, “You are not your crime. I am not my crime. A crime is something you did. It is not who you are.” I think this is important in valuing yourself. I tend to value myself and then think of all the bad choices I’ve made—I have to think that mistakes are something you did, but they are not who you are.
I read E.M. Forster’s classic, “Howard’s End” simply because I loved the phrase, “Only Connect!” It became the main focus of the book, in addition to bucking social norms and customs of the time (I dislike social norms). Once you’ve determined what your values are and understood the critical importance of valuing yourself and the value that you can bring to a situation, then it’s time to connect with other people who share your ideas. It’s hard to find people who are willing to connect with us on a spiritual level (most of my friends give me a funny look when I start talking about it, so I usually stop), but I think it’s important to keep reaching out.
There’s a quote in the Bhagavad Gita that says “We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” The most worthwhile things in life require effort, while the easy things are well, easy. Good luck to everyone on your personal, unique, and life-long journey to spiritual wellness!