“Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.” – Cicero, the Roman philosopher
While many of us regularly spend some time taking care of our health, these efforts are usually focused only on our physical well-being. We rarely focus enough on our emotional and mental health and most importantly on our spiritual well-being. Nourishing our soul is arguably the most important agenda we ought to be attending to in human life.
Spiritual well-being is related to our level of self-awareness, clarity about the purpose of our life and a connection with something larger than ourselves. It is about knowing who we are, what our place in this universe is, and the extent of our interconnectedness with the universe. Soul is the part of us that is eternal and connects us with everything else; spiritual growth is fodder for the soul.
Spiritual development dictates gaining clarity on the purpose of our life and committing to that purpose provides strength to our soul in its own eternal journey. As the soul gets nourished, its energy reverberates in our physical, mental and emotional state as well. On the one hand, it fills us with peace and calm; on the other, it inspires our mind and body towards meaningful action.
An expanded level of self-awareness includes building awareness of the true self – the Self that never dies and is never born, but just takes on different forms. Consciousness of our core being helps dilute our habitual attachment with our ego and guides us towards the principles of letting go, being present in the moment, and maintaining equanimity under all situations. Progress in this area gives greater meaning to our life and helps us to be happier, compassionate and feel fulfilled.
It is the key to our human experience
“You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” – C.S. Lewis
While different aspects of our well-being are all important, spiritual well-being is perhaps the most crucial. Our soul is our eternal core and its evolution is at the heart of our spiritual progress. If the deepest purpose of a human life is to transcend oneself and become one with the divine, then the purpose of physical, mental and emotional well-being is to be the means to accomplishing that end.
Accordingly, we need to take care of our bodies so we increase our lifespan – not to indulge in greater pleasure, but to have a better shot at healing and nurturing our soul; pay attention to healing our mind, so we can gain an intellectual grasp of the spiritual concepts; and heal our emotional past, in order to open our hearts and soul to greater love, connectedness, giving and receiving.
How often do we think about our health and well-being from that standpoint?
The story worth retelling
Once upon a time, there was a rich King, who had four wives. He loved the fourth wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest of delicacies. He also loved the third wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms. He also loved his second wife. She was his confidant and was always kind, considerate and patient with him. Whenever the King faced a problem, he could confide in her, and she would help him get through the difficult times. The King's first wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and kingdom. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her!
One day, the King fell ill and he knew his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, "I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I'll be all alone."
Thus, he asked the fourth wife, "I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No way!” replied the fourth wife and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart. The sad King then asked the third wife, "I have loved you all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No!” she replied. "Life is too good! When you die, I'm going to remarry!" His heart just sank.
He then asked the second wife, "I have always turned to you for help and you've always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?" "I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!" replied the second wife. "At the very most, I can only walk with you to your grave." The King was devastated.
Then a voice called out: "I'll go with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go." The King looked up, and there was his first wife. She was very skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect. Greatly grieved, the King said, "I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!"
In truth, we all have the metaphorical ‘four wives’ in our life. Our fourth wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die. Our third wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, it will all go to others. Our second wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.
And our first wife is our Soul – often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the world. However, our Soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go. We ought to nurture and cherish it for it is the only part of us that will stay with us through eternity.
Three pointers to nourishing your soul
1. Action: Reflect on your life and explore what satisfies you deeply – not merely as a momentary pleasure but in a profound and lasting way. Connecting with nature, meditating, being engaged in meaningful work, reading inspirational books, enjoying time with your loved ones, helping someone needy, pursuing a creative hobby (gardening, sowing, cooking, photography, painting) and so forth.
2. Knowledge: It is greatly helpful to comprehend the truth about our existence, who we are and what we are doing here. Building awareness about both, our core identity and our deeper purpose of life supports our staying committed towards the efforts at nourishing our soul.
3. Reflection: Irrespective of our best intentions, the pulls and pressures of modern life take us away from attending to our spiritual self. The adrenaline rush of success, money and fame easily distract us from pursuing what’s most important in the long-term. Creating a discipline of regular reflection time, preferably in the form of a meditation routine, is much needed to sustain these intents.
Rajiv Vij is a Life Coach and works with business and social sector leaders to help them discover and fulfill their potential. He writes a blog on the journey of personal mastery and its impact on our lives. Please click here to visit the blog.