Nourish the spirit

Making lifestyle changes is very challenging—and this week I’m thinking a lot about ways to nurture not just my body, but also my spirit.

For people in jobs with heavy demands on time and intellect, it can be easy to slide down the slippery slope of rationalization. For example, “I didn’t work out this morning, but later today I can still squeeze in a workout.” That’s comforting even though the follow-through is mostly lacking.

Another rationalization might be around food. For example, “I’ll go ahead and eat the birthday cake today, but then for the rest of the week, it’s clean eating all the way! No more cake!” Mm hm. Tell me another one, Me.

My goal is to build new habits over time, supplanting the old bad habits of no exercise, overeating, and all the rest. But what is “all the rest”?

In my case, another piece of the puzzle is nurturing the spirit. Here are a few ways I work to do that, although I’m still working toward creating rituals in my life that flow naturally.

Periodically, I turn off the electronics, taking a “digital sabbatical” for a day or a weekend. It’s blissful, although it can be stressful to come back online to find hundreds of emails and dozens of social media contacts and messages waiting. Still, I’ll continue to take regular breaks from my devices. The quiet space created allows for reflection, meditation and prayer, and it feels nurturing to my soul and heart.

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of meditation in motion. Sometimes on a walk or run, I’ll repeat a prayer or a mantra in rhythm with my steps. Usually in that context, it will take the form of gratitude for this amazing body and how well it works. When my feet hurt, for instance, I remind myself that if I were in a wheelchair, I would give anything to run or walk. It offers some perspective.

Still, the hard part of pushing past the “I don’t wanna” is all mental, and I don’t find it easy.

I’ve discovered a well of resistance—not just to the idea of exercise, but oddly, to feeling better. This resistance comes out of all kinds of deep dark things in my psyche that I’m still working through, but the basic gist is that I resist feeling good. Exercise feels good. Meditation feels good. Taking care of myself feels good. Prayer feels good. Eating nutritious food feels good. Seems like it would be a no-brainer to do all the things that make me feel good, right? Except I resist.

A person’s spirituality is intensely personal, and I would never tell (or even suggest) what someone else should do on that score. I’ll share a little bit of my own journey, however. When I approach my life with intention, I work toward my goals in the way that I want to. My outlook is basically Taoist: seeking balance and eschewing attachment.

Those ideas are incompatible with addiction, and my life has been ruled by addictive behavior for decades. Whether that is addiction to cigarettes, coffee or birthday cake, giving in to addiction is life out of balance with my spiritual beliefs. And yet I do it daily. Lying to myself—see those rationalizations above—is also incompatible with spiritual truth. And again, I do it daily, as I think most of us do in some way or another.

I’d like to go forward with a more active seeking: in other words, overtly asking for guidance from my higher power, God, the infinite collective intelligence of the universe.

I wish it were easy.

This morning my son suggested a fast—from coffee. His idea is to go a week without any coffee at all. If you know me, you’ll know how much I love my cafecito. I have some on my desk right now, perhaps my third or fourth cup of the morning. I drink coffee first thing in the morning and sometimes last thing at night. Giving up coffee for a week would be all about pushing past my inner “I don’t wanna,” and that’s what interests me about doing it. The idea I want to explore is how that would go if I were to approach it as a spiritual exercise, so that when the coffee craving hits I’m not trying to rationalize why I should or shouldn’t drink it, but instead turn to prayer as a way to quiet the addictive impulse.

I don’t know the answers, but I enjoy grappling with the questions.

Do you feel the spiritual is an aspect of health and fitness? Contact me at leota@lobo.net or 505-286-1212, or find my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.