So maybe your life is a little off track. Whose isn't? You could be a teen struggling with identity, a young adult in an uninspiring career, an exhausted 60-something without the means to retire, or a miserable 80-year-old with no friends in sight. Whoever you are and whatever you're struggling with, the basics that can put you back on track and keep you there are the same.
Feed the Body
Think of your body as hardware, your mind and spirit as software. Without functioning hardware, the software can't run. Unlike the mind and spirit, the body lives strictly in the present, front and center in the physical world. If your mind is stuck in the past or busy dreading the future, your body is caught in the middle experiencing all the fear and dread your mind is dishing out. To keep stress at bay, you need a plan:
1. Start fresh -- Talk to your doctor about a liver cleanse. The liver is the detox center of the body, filtering and often storing every dietary, environmental, and pharmaceutical insult you've cast its way since birth. This is not a colon cleanse; you will not be in the bathroom all day. Your body will be moderately challenged at first as it sweats the toxins. But if you give it this one blessing, it will reward you with a bounty of health and energy.
2. Upgrade the diet -- Your detox comes with a nutritional plan. Keep it going even marginally, and your body will gratefully do a better job of regulating blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and more, granting you plenty of energy to take the next step.
3. Turn up the music -- Movement is critical to physical health. Don't look for a gimmick. Don't find a way out. Just stick to the plan and do it -- one meal at a time, one walk (or dance) at a time, one day at a time. Get into a routine and stay there. It may not always feel like fun, but you'll definitely enjoy the rewards.
Feed the Mind
Your mind has two levels -- personal and collective. You participate in both whether you know it or not. On the personal level you process old thoughts and new back and forth like zip lines. Disciplining the mind is one of the most difficult but important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. You must learn to keep that software on the screen and in the present. Once you achieve this, your contribution to the collective mind will also improve. Here's how:
1. Breathe -- Training wheels first. Sit comfortably, away from stimulation, close your eyes, and concentrate on the vital force in your lungs. Inhale; exhale. Start with 10 minutes. This can have a profound effect on your mood as well as your ability to stay focused on the game plan. Increase in five-minute increments until you reach 20. Don't do more in one day than you're willing to do every day. Consistency is key to long-term practice.
2. Turn on your GPS -- In other words, be mindful. Notice where you are in space -- what surrounds you, what your body has to do to enjoy the view or navigate the obstacles. Turning on your GPS requires you to know your physical coordinates and to operate in the present with awareness. If every time you take the stairs, carry a child, drive a car, you remind yourself to turn on that GPS, you will greatly reduce your chances of living an accidental life.
3. Ditch the comfort zone -- Learn a language, musical instrument, or word game. Anything that challenges the brain to create new pathways reduces the possibility of mental arthritis and emotional tyranny. Great minds are creative, flexible, interested in others, compassionate, and connected to the heart. New challenges enable you to abandon the comfort zone that keeps you rigid and weighed down.
Feed the Spirit
Most of us understand the spirit in the context of religion, but modern scientific study of energy has brought new meaning to the term. In those circles the words "spiritual" and "energetic" are often used interchangeably. This is because the spirit is no longer viewed as an abstract entity, but as a distinct vibrational field -- the actual energetic host of your mind and body. Our spirits are the most intimate things about us, and ironically, the least familiar. No matter your context or definition, the means of nourishing the spirit is the same.
1. Pray -- You are never really powerless when prayer is sincerely invoked. It's a means of letting go, acknowledging God, and releasing your praise or problems to the causal level where wholeness (and solutions) exist. Recitative prayer is a good beginning as long as it's affirmative. Recite a prayer or create your own. Prayer works. By releasing the ego, the spirit becomes expansive, allowing change to occur.
2. Meditate -- This time I'm suggesting a deeper practice called contemplation. Sit quietly and concentrate on your breath in and out. Clear your screen -- no words, images, or concepts. You are intentionally placing yourself in the divine presence, so be alert. Maybe not this time, or next time, but with deliberation and purity of intention at some point you will experience a greater connection to the Source. In addition to the spiritual benefits, there are countless mental and physical benefits to this practice, including deep peace and healing on a cellular level. Combine it with breathing exercises and start with ten minutes. It's worth the time.
3. Participate -- Prayerful communal ritual elevates the spirit. Participating in a compassionate community that serves others will bless you too. With respect to preaching, keep in mind the words of St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel; use words only when necessary." Preach by example and with humility always. There is more we don't know than we do.