This post is part of a series titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of My Own. It is Part 5/9 of Reflection V: of that series titled Conversion of Heart | Saying Our Prayers Is Not Enough.
A Prayer of Our Own
Conversion of Heart
Saying Our Prayers Is Not Enough
Care of the Mind, Body, and Spirit
Sometimes those of us who think of ourselves as being on a spiritual journey get so focused on prayer, meditation, and spiritual practice that we forget that we are “embodied spirits” as one writer put it. True spiritual practice and conversion of heart involves the whole person. In the traditional language, true conversion of heart involves the mind, the body, and the spirit. Our spiritual practice must include practices to care for all three.
Care of The Mind
Care of mind includes monitoring and limiting what comes into our mind, intentionally opening ourselves to material that fosters growth and transformation, and meditation practices to center the mind.
As with most things about the spiritual life, this is complicated. In our fast paced lives, with all of our technology, all of our access to television, video, movies, social media, etc. , it seems that our minds are always full, always busy. In today’s world an awful lot of that could be categorized as “fake news”. In the midst of all of that busyness, all of that activity, what would spiritual practice to care for the mind even look like? Yet this still begs the question we are faced with here in two important ways.
First of all, we need to ask ourselves routinely how much of what currently fills our minds on a day to day basis could be considered healthy, and wholesome? How much of it could be considered spiritual practice that in any way moves us toward Conversion of Heart and spiritual maturity ? It is not enough to just fill our minds. From a spiritual perspective it matters what we fill our minds with. All too often much of what fills our minds might be classified as mindlessness. How much of what we read on social media, watch on television, see at the movies, view or listen to on the internet, or even read in books could in any way be considered to be spiritually uplifting? Really, how much of the conversation we have with our family and friends would qualify as spiritually uplifting? How much of what fills our minds on a day-to-day basis moves us toward transformation and conversion of heart and spiritual maturity?
If we are to include care of mind in our spiritual practice how much of what currently fills our mind would really need to be eliminated? How much of it, while maybe not needing to be eliminated totally, should be significantly curtailed? My mobile phone now keeps track of my phone usage. The other day it showed that I had averaged four hours a day on the phone. Clearly I need to reduce that significantly. These are hard questions, but they are serious questions that must be addressed seriously if we are to include care of mind as a central part of our spiritual practice.
Beyond that how much of what fills our minds today actually serves to block us from the stillness and the quiet so important to the spiritual life? How often does all of this get in the way of our spiritual practice? How much of it takes up time that would be better devoted to spiritual reading or to paying attention to our responses to the people, events, and things that make up our lives? How much of it serves to prevent the connectedness with family and friends so necessary to living a spiritually mature life?
I was in a restaurant the other day and I noticed a woman and what appeared to be her teenage daughter walk in. The daughter walked in the door with her phone up in front of her face They walked over and sat down and ordered. The girl never put the phone down. She held the phone up with one hand and ate with the other. As far as I could tell the girl never spoke to her mother and her mother never spoke to her through the entire meal. As they left the girl kept the phone up in front of her face. Clearly there was no interaction—no connection between the two. How many of us do similar things with our spouses, our children, our family and our friends? How often do we miss the beauty and wonder all around us?
So if we were to cut back on some of this often mindless busyness what would fill the void? The answer to that question is different for each of us. There is no one formula—no one size fits all. For some it is more time with loved ones and family and friends. For some of us the first answer is more time for spiritual reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation, and worship. For some it is participating in ministry and other service opportunities. For some it is hobbies, exercise, and other activities we never seem to get around to. For some it is simply quiet and solitude. The list is endless, and the answer is different for each of us, and generally involves more than one thing. Often it is all of the above and more. The answer is often different at different times in our day and different periods of our life.
The important thing here is that we take these questions into our spiritual practice, into our prayer, and as my coach often puts it, that we “noodle’ on them and pray about them, and that we make the real changes that still small voice calls us to make. Let me be clear, this is not a one time thing. Care of mind needs to become a central part of our spiritual practice on an ongoing life long basis. As such we must pay regular attention to what works and what does not work, and make necessary changes and adjustments in response to that still small voice that provides guidance, strength, and courage.
Care of the Body
Care of the body includes exercise, eating right, maintaining our correct weight, taking necessary medications, and a myriad of other self care tasks.
When we think of care of the body the first word that comes to mind often is “exercise” and indeed exercise is a central part of what it means to care for our body. I often have said that I have never come across an exercise that I liked and that is true. I have gone through periods where the focus was on taking long walks, doing yoga, or going to a gym. Sometimes, as a result of medical issues, I have done exercises provided by a physical therapist. I cannot say that I enjoyed any of it. Beyond that I have never had any interest at all in sports. What to do?
I recently went through a couple of months of physical therapy. I went in for therapy twice a week and did the assigned exercises regularly. When the therapy was over I told myself I needed to continue to exercise. For a while I did, but I gradually stopped doing it on any regular basis. What is ironic about this is that when I do the exercises I always feel better both immediately afterwards and for the next couple of days. And yet I still do not do it on a regular basis. I know what I need to do here. I need to make doing the exercises a regular part of my overall spiritual practice. I need to approach the exercises with the same attitude and commitment as I do my meditation and prayer time. I need to include it in my rule of life and actually see the exercise as a regular part of my spiritual practice. It is part of care of the body.
Beyond exercise care of the body includes simple things like taking our medications and cleaning our teeth to more complex issues like going to the doctor and eating right. It is beyond to scope of this reflection to articulate all of the possibilities. The point here is that care of the body is equally as important as more traditional spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, and if we make care of the body an integral part of our spiritual practice it can help us get those important things done. It can change our attitude toward these other often boring activities.
Care of the Spirit
Care of spirit includes traditional spiritual practices such as centering, reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation, and living, all of which are covered in other sections of this book. and in my previous book.
Taken really seriously care of the spirit involves developing a comprehensive spiritual practice of our own, which is ultimately the subject of this entire book. As the titles of the chapters of this book indicate, it involves taking a serious look at all aspects of our relationship with the Divine Mystery we call God. Why do we pray? What is prayer? What does it mean to really listen in prayer? What is the place of conversion of heart and transformation in the spiritual life? How are we called to be present with the people, events, and things that make up our day-to-day lives?
Question for Reflection
- Do I include care of mind, care of body, and care of spirit as an integral part of my spiritual practice? What do I need to do to strengthen each of those areas and create balance between them.
* When we look at all of this—care of mind, care of body , and care of spirit—how do we develop and maintain a spiritual practice—a prayer practice—that is right for us personally and that is balanced and moves us toward wholeness? This is part of the topic for the last Reflection of this book entitled “A Prayer Of Our Own”.
If you liked this post, check out the other posts in this series.
Conversion of Heart: (View)
Saying Our Prayers Is Not Enough
Conversion of Heart (View)
What Does It Really Mean?
Divine Union (View)
Letting Go Of The Ego
Work v. Grace (View)
Care of the Mind, Body, and Spirit (This Post)
Healing Old Wounds
Letting Go Of The Past
Incarnating Our True Self
The Real Reason We Pray
To Be Transformed