Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives. – Mike Yaconelli
There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about mental health. When Simone Biles, Olympic four time gold medalist and arguably the world’s greatest gymnast, withdrew from the team final competition at the Tokyo Olympics to take care of her mental health, she received a lot of support. She brought attention to the fact that sports can be void of mental health awareness. After the splitting of the monarchy with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle admitted during her interview with Oprah that she struggled with mental health and being suicidal. She helped bring an open discussion around the topic. Naomi Osaka pulled out of the US Open to focus on her mental wellbeing (because athletes are human too). Everybody is having this discussion, and it’s fantastic, but it’s just the beginning.
Mental health goes hand in hand with spiritual health. I don’t believe you can have holistic mental health without spirituality in some form sprinkled throughout. Mental health is the entry way for an even bigger discussion we need to be having which is the world of spiritual health.
Most people when they hear the word “spiritual” get it confused with religion. Religion isn’t spirituality, and vice versa. And nobody wants to touch that topic because it’s taboo. It’s Pandora’s box. Within the next five years I believe there will be a clearer delineation between spiritual and religious, but really spirituality is more about your personal individual beliefs, as opposed to an organized community around faith. Spirituality can exist whether or not you worship a higher power, and it relates to the way you experience the universe.
“We can no more do without spirituality than we can do without food, shelter, or clothing.” – Ernest Holmes
What is spiritual health?
For me, personally, when I’m spiritually healthy it’s a holistic well being; my mind, body, heart and soul feel aligned. I feel present in the moment and aligned with it, some would call that inner peace. Often you can tell when you’re not spiritually healthy when what is happening inside of you doesn’t match what’s on the outside. There’s a discord between your internal and external life. You’re void of alignment.
Yesterday, for instance, I was on a conference call and my brain just stopped working. I have a lot on my plate at the moment; I’m helping my parents sell their property, I’m executive producing a TV series and a feature film, and I just finished writing a book. Plus I’ve got my regular clients and two kids! When I got off the call it was 11:30am and by 4:30pm I noticed my brain was working at half speed. It was time for a break. So, I put my phone down and took a nap and played with my dog and snacked until I felt like I was back to being myself. It’s unusual for me to hit the wall like that, but it does happen, and when it does, I know it’s time for a brain detox.
In the first chapter of my book we do a deep dive into this concept of a brain detox. In short, your inner voice can help you determine how tired, drained, or spiritually healthy you are on a day to day basis, and the best way to find that voice is to empty your mind. The basic idea is monitoring the amount of stimulation you receive and the content you consume and being able to take a break from it when needed. Brain detox should be habitual, in my opinion.
There are two things that need to happen for spiritual health to happen; you need to create space in your mind for your inner voice, and use that awareness to recognize when you’re out of alignment, and it’s time for a break. As long as you are in your mind, consumed with your thoughts, or distracted with the thoughts of others through media and content, you are a slave to those thoughts. It’s as if you’re in a large room filled with objects, and all you can do is rearrange the same pieces of furniture, you cannot step outside of your mind and look at things from a space of awareness. The trick is to pull yourself out and be aware of your thoughts. Until we have the recognition of being in our thoughts, as opposed to having awareness, we’ll always be a slave to our minds.
There is a difference between mental health and spiritual health, but in my opinion, the two go hand in hand. You can’t be some spiritual being and throw your mind out the window. Your mind with all its thoughts, and dreams, and worries, will always be part of the equation; but it’s how you partner with it, and dance with it, that determines a spiritually healthy outcome for you. The only freedom I have found from the things that lead me out of alignment, is to step outside of my thoughts. And yes, that is much easier said than done, but I think we should start the conversation now.