What is Spiritual Health?
I was once asked during my graduate studies to describe spiritual health. Although spiritual health means something different to everyone, below is my response in hopes that it might offer some inspiration in addition to an expanded definition of health beyond diet and exercise. Again, this is my own perspective on spiritual health, which is always evolving and not to be considered the truth. I would love to hear what spiritual health means to the community, so feel free to share your personal views and comments with us.
So, here goes"
Spiritual Health is Peacefulness
When I am around a spiritually healthy person, I feel peaceful, inspired, relaxed and safe. They often seem to be "glowing", while also resonating tranquility and calmness even when circumstances suggest they should be feeling or acting differently.
Spiritual Health is Presence
A spiritually healthy person is very in tune with the present moment and doesn’t live in the past or in the future, but instead fully accepts the current moment as the only "real" moment in which to experience life. When someone is present, they are able to experience their senses in ways they otherwise wouldn’t, resulting in clarity and fresh thinking.
Spiritual Health is Simplicity
Someone who is experiencing spiritual health relishes in simplicity. They are as fulfilled doing mundane tasks as they are doing challenging ones and don’t identify with the work that they do. They believe that there is just as much honor in simple work as there is in work requiring complex thinking and don’t value intelligence or knowledge as better or worse then other attributes.
Spiritual Health is Acceptance
A spiritually healthy person doesn’t spend a lot of time wishing their circumstances were different then they are. Instead they are able to accept what is without judgment or complaint, allowing them to experience freedom in spite of things not being exactly as they would like them to be. From this place of acceptance, a spiritually healthy person has a new vantage point from which to create new goals and pathways, but either way, their circumstances don’t impact their experience of life or their opinion of themselves.
Spiritual Health is Compassion
For me, the most noticeable trait of a spiritually healthy person is the way he or she relates to others. It is quite common to listen to others through a filter in which we judge them or what they are saying based on our own personal experiences and framework for life. This is not necessarily the truth, but rather one possible truth based on how we see things, which may be very different from how they see things. Compassion, which arises in the absence of judgment, can occur when we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of another and understand their experience from their eyes, regardless of personal differences.
Spiritual Health is Self-Awareness
A spiritually healthy person is someone who knows who they are and doesn’t identify with their past, present circumstances or what others believe about them. Regardless of their physical appearance, financial status, heritage, culture, family situation or any other label used to describe them, they know that these things do not define their essence or who they truly are.
To sum it up, for me spiritual health is peacefulness, presence, simplicity, acceptance, compassion and self-awareness. Most of us have encountered people that resonate some or even all of these qualities and ways of being in the world. Even so, I believe that it is important to remember that even the spiritually healthy are human. No one is perfect and everyone has moments of spiritual health and moments of despair. I believe that if one can approach life with a sense of humor and a curiosity that surpasses the need for clear definitions of how life, others or themselves "should" be; it’s much easier to enjoy its many surprises, mysteries and imperfections.
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.