What does Simon Cowell have to do with your spiritual health?

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How do you maintain good spiritual health? We asked our Spiritual Health Practitioners for advice.

How do you maintain good spiritual health?  We asked four of our Spiritual Health Practitioners at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to weigh in during this Spiritual Health Awareness Week (October 17-24):

Stay connected to the real world. 

“We live in a world where we’re pushed by the many demands of family, work and education,” says James Graham, “and we keep adding more stress through the constant proximity of cell phones and social media.

“I recently heard an interview with the notorious talent show judge Simon Cowell, who did away with his cell phone two years ago after his child was born.  He said he was being interrupted all the time by people wanting this and that but all he wanted was to be with his son.

“I’ve opted out of answering emails or spending excessive time on Facebook on weekends.  Saturday is about being with my flowers and cutting the grass—call it mindful gardening—to help restore my balance after the intensity of trauma and pain I experience in the ICU or Mental Health department during the week.  I’ve also picked up a childhood family tradition of having a big family meal on Sundays—chaos but good chaos. It’s mindful family time when I’m reminded that life is more than suffering and pain.

“In these two ways I seek to stay connected to the real world and find peace, love and hope restored.  That’s how I’m refreshed and better prepared to do my work.”

Know when to ask for help.

What happens when a crisis hits us directly?  Maybe a loved one rejects us or we’re experiencing burnout at work or we know grief that shakes our world. We want to be strong and self-reliant, says Tim De Jonge, but at those times the hard truth is that we’re not as self-sufficient as we think. The beautiful truth is that we’re designed to be in relationships.

“Part of assessing our spiritual health is asking ourselves where we can go for support,” says Tim. “Do we turn to trusted friends and family members?  To someone who laughs when you laugh and cries when you cry, without judgment? To a therapist? To a community of faith? 

“I know the challenges and rewards of swallowing my pride and embracing my vulnerability. In my deepest relationships, my strength and vulnerability ebb and flow. Ultimately, my vulnerability is itself a strength.

“My hope is that you know where you can go for help. If you don’t, reach out to a trustworthy person. Take the risk of being vulnerable and admitting you need help. That will help you to be spiritually healthy, which in turn allows you to continue providing the help that our patients need.”

Make room for the gray areas. 

We live in a world where we're encouraged to see things in opposition, as positive or negative, a way of thinking that doesn’t make room for the grey areas of life, says Janeta Kobes.  

“But there are often more than two ways of looking at things. Life, in fact, isn’t black or white. Life is mysterious and could be more closely said to have many grey areas. Life is filled with joy and sorrow, with love and grief. We find spiritual balance by loving life and all it includes.

“Grief, for example, is often something that people are encouraged to ‘get over’ so they can get on with life. But if we ban grief because we only want to make space for the 'positive,' then we’re actually attempting to banish areas of our lives and aspects of ourselves, as well as of other people. Imagine grief and love as skills. We learn how to express and practice grief just as we learn how to practice and live love. Grief is an expression of the love we have for what’s no longer present in our loves. Love is an expression of our appreciation and gratitude for all that we have for now, that we value and appreciate.    

“To nourish our spirit we can focus on balance and on caring for all aspects of our life. To nourish my spirit I’ll walk in the woods and ponder and make a place for all that life includes.”

Nourish your own spiritual body. 

Just as healthy eating helps to reduce the risk of disease, healthy spiritual food brings inner peace, comfort, strength and harmony, says Isaiah Dada.  For some, that “food” may be a daily ritual such as meditation, prayer, yoga or stillness.  For others, it could be weeding the garden or watching a sunset.  Or it might be about simply being more mindful.

“Once we identify what feeds our spiritual needs, we should make sure we get it on a regular basis!  If we neglect our spiritual food, then we become hungry and search it in the wrong places, which can lead to spiritual distress such as alienation, anxiety, anger or confusion.

Healthy spiritual food is a must—it brings its own nutrients and energy to how we function in our own lives and how we interact with others, including patients and families."