On paper I know an awful lot about the powerful connection between our physical lives, our intellectual lives, and our spiritual lives. After all, I recently wrote two books on this very topic. But, as is often the case, theory and practice are two very different things. That was glaringly evident this week as I came off an eight-day “detox” that cut coffee, sugar, alcohol, gluten and animal products of any kind from my diet while adding in 15 minutes of daily meditation, 30 minutes of daily exercise, and lots of self-care in all three departments: spiritual, physical and mental. It was an experiment of sorts with some possibly life-changing realizations as a result.
Today, as I sat down to write this column, I had ended my detox with two cups of coffee lightened with eggnog and a piece of pumpkin-spice bread. The calm and steady demeanor I had felt present for the past week was replaced by jumpiness and nervous energy. I was too jittery to sit down to meditate, too wound up to settle into my desk chair. If ever I understood the connection between body, mind and spirit, today was the day. It really made me reflect on how I could take what I learned from this detox and use it to inform my daily actions in ways that might transform my own life and the life of my family.
This week’s In Focus section (Pages 9-12) looks at this topic in detail. Three experts offer advice, suggestions and encouragement on how to achieve and maintain physical, mental and spiritual health. As is often the case with our beautiful Catholic treasury of prayer and life practices, there is something for everyone here.
The differences in approach were stark in some instances. One expert adamantly refused to use the word “holistic” to describe this body-mind-spirit approach to wholeness, saying the term is too closely tied to New Age practices to be used safely by Catholics. However, another expert not only used the term “holistic” but tied it to scriptural references in an effort to show that there’s nothing new or “New Age” about wanting to achieve a wholeness that has always been part of the faith journey. A third expert talked about the “sacred” act of sharing a cup of coffee with a friend. Who can’t get behind that?
I was fascinated by the different ways these experts were able to approach spirituality from a place that recognizes the body and mind as critical partners in achieving not only health but holiness. Whether you want to pray the Rosary or sit in silence, run 10 miles or settle onto a yoga mat, you’ll find something to suit your personality, your lifestyle and your spiritual hopes and goals.
Right about now you might be trying to live up to your New Year’s resolution or some other promise you’ve made to improve in one area or another. Be kind to yourself, and remember that this life is not a journey toward a number on a scale or an amount on your bank statement but toward an ever-deepening relationship with the One who came to us body, mind and spirit, and showed us how to bring our whole selves to God.
Mary DeTurris Poust is the author of six books on Catholic spirituality.