The human being is multi-dimensional. Our body impacts our spirit and the spirit impacts the body. The mechanism for that is not understood. Science knows that beliefs, for example, have real physical impact, medicine is always blind tested for that reason. Yet, the connections are not always easy to tease out. The connection of mind to brain, feelings to chemical reactions, etc. are a mystery with widely divergent explanations.
I do think, as we focus this Lent on growing in our relationship with Jesus, that one thing we need to get clarity on is what think we are doing when we do that. The spiritual life can be a nebulous concept. Most people tell me that they are not religious, they are spiritual. Most people do not seem to have much idea exactly what that means. (At least when I ask them they do not seem to have much content to share.) Of course, in the end we still will not exactly know what we mean, but we can grow in clarity.
The last year I have become more focused in my exercise. I have always tried to maintain an exercise routine and always included aerobic and weight lifting in that. I had a basic idea about what to eat and knew I needed rest. However, that has come under scrutiny in the last decade. What was supposed to be good for me (always eat breakfast, include lots of grain, avoid fat) now seems to be in conflict with much research. [of course, the research has not always been clear or in agreement] However, based on my weight loss I can attest that what I was doing was much less successful than what I am doing. (There is something to that in any evaluation!) Also, the types of things I do when weightlifting includes two movements which are often identified as "dangerous!!!!" They are not dangerous, if done right, and in fact have done for me exactly what I read they would. They are the best compound movements for the whole body, in fact!
This is not a blog on my routines. It is, however, a thought experiment which will matter in spirituality. If the body does mirror the soul/spirit then what I learn from one may be helpful with the other. For example, if we need thirty minutes of vigorous exercise each day, then is it fair to assume thirty minutes of prayer is also recommended? If we need to work on flexibility, strength and endurance does it not make sense that a soul should also learn those three things? And if so, what does that mean in spiritual terms? If a work out partner increases the benefits of exercise, what does a prayer partner do? The list goes on and on. I will try to address the parallels at some future point. For now I want to look more closely at one thing I have learned: complexity.
The general idea in training is to grow. Adding a little more each time means the body must continually respond and get stronger or have more endurance. But the people involved with this on a serious and scientific basis are able to look at the interactions on a cellular level. They start the research on amino acids and different kinds of chemicals and proteins and my brain goes on overload. I am not a biology person and I am also not a competitive lifter or body builder. I accept that I will never attain to such elite excellence. I do not have the time to devote to the level of knowledge in order to comprehend this at the deeper level. Even so, it has broadened my understanding about the deeper meaning of the words "eat healthy" and "train."
It has made me wonder, though, about the processes of the spiritual life. What exactly are we doing in prayer and study, in worship and fellowship, in discipleship and ministry? True, one can function with a "basic idea" about what is going on. That basic idea is enough to make one "generally healthy". But what if we see our bodies are still relatively weak and flabby despite our "exercise"? And in most cases we do. And what if our 'souls' seem to mirror that as well? what if our spirituality, whatever it is, does not make us much more than functional. Is it Jesus' goal that we be "okay, I guess" in the life of the Spirit. Is "not all that bad" really the abundant life He has come to give?
So I would like to journey some into the question in the days ahead. Tomorrow we will wander around the idea of Goals.