As we move into part 5 of our series of articles on contentment and happiness, we truly move into the “heart” of the matter. Earlier, we have talked about our physical well-being as well as our mental and emotional health. This section will deal with our spirit which is the core of who we all are.
While our physical health is literally determined by the numerous systems of our bodies working together and our emotional health is determined by the thoughts running through our brains, the spirit is a little different. It is figuratively represented by our heart which many physicians consider to be the central organ of our existence.
While I do want to focus on our spiritual health, this is not going to be an article about religion. It will contain some concepts that each of the world’s major religions value, but I am not going to push one specific point of view over another. There is a reason that more wars have been fought and lives lost throughout history over religion than any other cause. People have very strong feelings when it comes to specific religions (as I do myself) but that is not the point here. The point is to delve into ourselves and to discover what truly lies within us.
All of us are unique individuals. We have our own dreams and desires. We keep many of our innermost thoughts private. We have things and people we love as well as concepts that we despise. We are all our “own person”.
We also each have a set of rules that we value and live by. These rules could come from religious concepts we have learned, morals that we were taught at an early age, or guidelines that we have discovered on our own and wish to follow. Most people have heard of the Code of Chivalry followed by the knights of the Middle Ages. Chivalry was a very strict set of beliefs that a knight was expected to abide by even it if led to their deaths. Monks from different religious sects give up all physical pleasures in order to focus on helping others and being more aware of the spiritual aspects of their lives. The major religions of the world have holy books with lists of things one should do as well as those things that one shouldn’t.
It is these concepts that make up the spiritual aspects of our lives.
While the events of the past 18 months have definitely changed my mindset about certain things, I still consider myself an optimist. I try to look on the positive side and enjoy life to its fullest. We live in an amazing world and can carve out adventures and happiness if we so desire. I also believe that each person has an innate sense of right and wrong. Sometimes we do things that go against this set of internal scales because we think they will make us “happy”. However, anytime you do something that opposes what you know is right (based on the guidelines you follow), it will lead to a feeling of discontentment on the inside.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. First, if a person grows up in a family unit that values eating dinner together at a table, the odds are that person will grow into an adult that values that as well. Many of our morals and ethics are taught to us at an early age by the adults that are most influential in our lives. If this simple act of dining together does not occur (and that person does indeed value it as an important part of the day), then something will just not seem right. Obviously, this one small example is not going to totally destroy a person’s life, but there could be dozens of these small violations to our core beliefs that could damage our spirit.
Most people would consider education to be a good thing. Knowledge is important. However, if a person grows up in a household in which education is not an important part of the family, it will not be a valued trait. A lack of knowledge can then lead to generational poverty which is a very real thing and difficult to defeat because it is such a large part of many lifestyles. A person who grows up in this lifestyle may be looked down upon and ridiculed for valuing education and going against the concept of normalcy within the lives of those nearest them. Their spirit will suffer unless they can change their core belief system.
There are also behaviors we may just “want” to participate in despite knowing that they are wrong. We may truly think they are part of who we are, but in all actuality they are in violation of our basic concepts of right and wrong and will lead only to misery and destruction. Many of us discover this the hard way.
So what does all of this mean? Simply put, we each have our own system of rules that we attempt to follow. Some of them may be ingrained from an early age while others were discovered later in life. If we participate in an action that violates these beliefs, our spirit suffers and we feel unhappy or guilty. I do admit that there are people who seem to have no ethics or morals at all. That in itself is a set of beliefs as well and these people normally live short/violent lives refusing to follow even the most simple of rules. Rebellion is a valued trait in their spirit that they feel that they must follow.
A final question? Can our values change? ABSOLUTELY!!! If you are doing something destructive that is causing problems in your life, it is ridiculous to say that is “just how you are”. We all have control over what we believe and what we do. We make choices (some good and some bad) in our lives. And if our spirit has been polluted with filth, get rid of the filth and change! If your core values lead to illegal behavior, incarceration, and/or horrible relationships with others, you may need to rethink things. Although you may be following your spirit, I doubt that you are happy and content with your existence.
For our final part of this series, I am going to toss out a daily “plan” to follow. As a runner, I have been asked many times to provide people with workout plans or guides to help them get in shape. Next week I am going to post a plan to exercise your body, mind and spirit. And it is going to be easier than you think…….
Thanks for reading!