What comes to mind when you read (or hear) the words “body, soul, spirit?” Do you picture people on yoga mats sitting in a posture that indicates they are meditating? Do you smell incense or imagine people chanting one-syllable mantras? Or, perhaps you envision an eyes-closed worshipper with hands lifted up in a posture of peace and surrender? Although there isn’t anything wrong with connecting those images to these particular words, I’m willing to bet that none of you pictured someone eating an ice cream cone on a warm summer’s day or a runner ticking off miles on a quiet country road. However, when I think of “body, soul, spirit,” that’s what I think of.
Of course, my imagination is not limited to those two images. I also think about how it feels to devour corn-on-the-cob dripping with Kerrygold butter; I roar with laughter and delight as I watch my grandson giggle for the first time; I remember the awe I experienced when snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef; I relive the relief I felt when we finally finished a long, scary hike in Columbia, South America. All of these images represent “body, soul, spirit” to me. I wonder if you can relate.
The integration of body/soul/spirit can be illustrated in countless different ways. Perhaps if you are of a mature age—ahem—like me, you may remember a movie called “Chariots of Fire.” (Anyone?) Well, Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical sports drama film based on the true story of two British athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. My favorite line in the movie (perhaps because it’s the only line I can remember) is:
I love this quote so much, don’t you? In fact, I may need to write a whole blog post about this line, but for now, I want to pick up a thread I mentioned in last week’s post (Moving With Joy.) I wrote, “Your body is impacted by your emotions, and it can’t be separated from the spirit. All three aspects of your person—body, soul, and spirit—work together to bring health.” Eric Liddell knew what it was to move his body in a way that connected his soul and his spirit. And that, dear readers, is what we like to call pure joy.
Here’s the problem with many (most?) exercise regimes/programs/workouts: they don’t encourage connection with your soul and spirit, thereby missing an opportunity for integrated health. Body-focused workouts that don’t make room for the soul or spirit run the risk of being soulless and boring at best and punishing at worst. I certainly understand why this is. Many of us have been sold a bill of goods that says exercise has to be “this” long and “that” hard if you want to get “results.” “Results’ could be weight loss, running a 5K, or getting a 6-pack, but there’s a problem with this kind of thinking: once you get the results, there is no longer motivation to keep going. Programs get boring, or you go on vacation, or you get sick, and before you know it, moving your body starts to feel like a chore. What can be done?
Last week I encouraged you to move with intention and shoot for joy. This is a body/soul/spirit cocktail that can and will keep you moving for a lifetime if you embrace it. If you agree with the idea that God created us to move, then move you must. However, it’s important that you commit to moving in a way that feels good and creates an opportunity to experience joy. How this happens for you may vary from day to day, but that is the whole point. Your body/soul/spirit connection is a living, breathing “being” and should be treated as such. I know someone who normally enjoys swimming laps but recently opted for a walk in the forest while yelling and hitting dead trees with her walking stick. (The outlet for her hurting soul was exactly what she needed that day.) For me, there are rare days that I want to run fast, but when the mood hits, I feel like Rocky famously running up the 72 steps in the movie! (CUE: Motivational music here). (That’s another good movie, by the way.) Most days, however, my 62 old body does not want to run at all, and I’m ok with that. I make a point to listen to what my body needs, and I roll with that. Nine times out of ten, what I need is a long, fast, and silent walk.
You’ll have to wait until next week until you get to hear what I have to say about moving in silence. However, in the meantime, I have an invitation for you. I hope you’ll participate!
- Be intentional about moving your body every day for 10 minutes. You can go longer if you feel like it, but you don’t have to. Ten minutes is the goal.
- Although it’s ok to have a plan (like deciding to walk over lunch), pause each day, and ask yourself what you need. The beautiful weather may beckon you to go to the pool one day, so listen to that call. Or, a fight with your spouse may make you feel like smashing dead trees. (Do let me know if you opt for this one!) Be open and gentle with yourself. Everything “counts” as long as you are moving.
- Before you start moving, ask your soul what it needs: Silence to think/pray? Music to lift you up? A conversation with a friend so you can share your pain? Let your soul have a say in how you move.
- If you already have a daily exercise routine, I encourage you to follow steps 2-3 to allow for adjustments to what you normally do. I want you to listen and adjust to what your soul needs.
- Please, Please(!) comment below if you plan to give this a try. I can’t wait to hear all about it.