The connections of health and spirituality – part 1

A little over 2 weeks ago I made a drastic change to my diet.

Here’s some reflections from this journey I’m on.

Health, like spirituality, can be done a number of different ways.

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1) One can choose to fly at 30,000 feet by taking a path toward the most common ways of better health.. Basically this means that someone can cut out the major junk foods in their life and exercise on a semi regular basis and they will likely see an improvement.

2) One can fly at 10,000 feet and try a slightly more specialty diet. About a year in a half ago my family and I greatly reduced gluten, sugar, and many processed foods. We also bought much of our food organic – esp the dirty dozen. I also tried to exercise on a regular basis, but I admit it was usually fairly light. Better a little exercise than none. In our experience many people are actually doing this as health, esp. nutritious eating, is a growing awareness.

3) One can choose to fly at 1,000 ft by creating a diet that is specifically geared toward you. This is what I am currently attempting to do. I wanted to get healthier, and even though I felt I was already more healthy than the average, I just felt I needed to take another step. I needed to lose weight and as I increased my exercise regiment I became more aware of my body and it’s reaction to food. Since my wife is a naturopathic medical student (bonus!)  we receive a discount when we see an ND (Naturopathic Doctor). I decided to take advantage of this and establish a patient history and take a food sensitivity test – I was also inspired by some great friends who have testified to the effectiveness of this. I figured I was likely sensitive to a few things that I was eating and was hoping to find out what they were so I could cut them out, but to my surprise my test came back with a little more than just a few foods (and I was fairly healthy…or at least thought I was).

What does this have to do with spirituality?

Similar to health, one can pursue a deeper form of spirituality by using the most common approaches or by slightly modifying them, but I have become increasingly persuaded that we are each individuals and must find our own unique path. Of course, just like health, there will be many commonalities that will overlap between everyone, but finding one’s own path I think is important and most beneficial.

Just as we may need to detox our body by getting ride of foods we may be sensitive to, we may need to detox our lives from things that have just gotten a hold of us a little to much.

Someone may benefit from eating tomatoes, but for someone else (myself for example) it may cause a reaction or inflammation because of their sensitivity. For some of us 10 or 20 minutes of Scripture reading (or other reading) may be most beneficial, but for someone else 10 or 20 minutes of contemplative prayer or meditation may be most beneficial. For someone it may be most beneficial to attend a church service, but for someone else it may be most beneficial to spend time in the outdoors or serving at a food pantry. As I write this, I also want to include that I whole-heartily believe that community is important, but I do not think that just by attending a church service makes one “spiritual” – sometimes, as Richard Rohr recently said on Oprah, “Religion can be the best place to hide from God”. Maybe journaling is helpful? Maybe seeing a spiritual director would be helpful? Maybe just setting up a meeting with a friend to be brutally honest about a struggle would be helpful?Maybe serving at a local food pantry or something similar would be helpful? Maybe a two or three day retreat would be helpful?

The list could be endless.

What I hope to convey is that just because someone spends longer in prayer, doesn’t automatically make them more “spiritual” than someone who doesn’t. Maybe someone spends time gardening and finds that it centers them deeply. Just because someone attends church every week, doesn’t automatically mean they are more “spiritual” than someone who doesn’t. Just because someone reads Scripture for an hour doesn’t automatically mean they are more “spiritual” than someone who doesn’t.

So the question then becomes what is your path? What do you do that helps you feel centered, grounded, connected, awakened?

Relating this to my own tradition, Jesus invited others to follow him. This was a journey, a process, and not a cookie cutter template for all – though of course there will be some commonalities. I think it may be helpful early on in our journey’s to have guidance in a more generalized approached, e.g., read Scripture for 10 minutes and journal for 10 minutes. Eventually though, I think the journey will take each of us to a better understanding of our own individual spirituality and what things help us grow the most. For example, in the last year I have found contemplative prayer to be one of the most meaningful things in my life. Before it was journaling, though I still engage in this from time to time. Also I have begun to see a spiritual director which has helped me on my path.

Here’s my conviction.

Spirituality, like health, is not a one size fits all, but is something that is unique to each individual.

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