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Feb 24 2020

Breathe deep, rest often, walk regularly and laugh daily. We can’t always cultivate a perfect way of life, but perhaps the ever-complex formula of achieving a healthy being is more simplistic than we once believed. Here, Simon Stevens, Ana Loback and Gio Galanti speak of the continuous flow and connection between the physical, mental and spiritual, describing how we can carve out more space in our lives to care for ourselves well – mind, body and soul.

of MIND in conversation with Ana Loback, Psychologist

The fourth industrial revolution has brought big changes in the pace of our lives. There’s a new generation growing up in a hyper-connected society, though disconnected from the things that really matter. Mental health is defined as a positive state of mind and body characterised by feeling safe and able to cope. If, therefore, the way that we think shapes our choices, influences our behaviour, inspires who we become, and affects our physiology, we cannot look after our minds without also looking after our bodies. The way we think has an impact on every aspect of the human experience. We profit from happiness and gratitude. Truly, the more we pay attention to the positive around us, the happier we feel; and the more opportunities for positivity we see, the more grateful we become. What we focus on grows – by choosing to see the good, we strengthen the neural pathways in our brains, creating a positive mindset.

Almost 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Epictetus said that “we are disturbed not by things but by the views we take of them.” He was referring to the importance of our mindset, how our thinking shapes our experience of life, our feelings and our emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says that “For as he thinks within himself so he is.” Our thoughts may have more to do with how we feel than what is actually happening in our lives. The Apostle Paul knew of this link between our mindset and our spirit, as he wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Our spiritual life is shaped by our mind-set which is why it’s so important to seek transformation and renewal.

The Bible often speaks of the direction of our thoughts. God cares about the mind because this is His design. In fact, our brains have been wired for faith, to believe in what is not there, to see the unseen. In the study of perception, there is a theory of the mind that is called Gestalt – a German word that means ‘organised whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.’ According to the Gestalt psychology, our brains have been set to recognise patterns and perceive the complete picture. When you listen to a piece of music you recognise the melody and identify the song rather than the separate notes; when you see a painting you recognise the motif and even with abstract art, your brain looks for patterns to identify the shape. This means that we join the dots and naturally crave for closure – we see the future, although it doesn’t really exist. The only reality that we have is the present – the future is not reality, the future is hope, and yet as humans we all understand this complex construct and are drawn to things like vision, imagination and art. We find pleasure in the abstract because of how we’ve been designed, it’s the ‘imago dei’ in each of us, pointing us towards Him, drawing us back home. Our minds are so important to God because this is where we find our way back to Him, this is where we see Him, where the ‘Gestalt’ is complete.

of BODY in conversation with Simon Stevens, Fitness Coach & Nutritionist

It’s all about starting with small steps. If you want to take care of your body but you’re not sure how to, start by researching, asking questions, gaining wisdom, trying things out and taking it slow. Don’t rush the process – begin by walking every day, ten minutes a day, and by making small sacrifices that you can sustain and carry. Small changes make a big difference.

 Sleep, diet and exercise all contribute to a healthy being. Sleep gifts our bodies with the time to repair and recover, and both diet and exercise are important elements in supporting our mental well-being – even lifting us from depression. When I suffered from depression, I didn’t always feel like exercising. Though we all think and feel differently, I think creating a good routine is one of those things that helps us feel stronger. Looking after ourselves by finding a sport we love can also help us move our minds and attention away from the things that pull us into the wrong direction. It gives us a new focus.

Rest is key to anything we do in life, whether you’re an athlete or working a full-time job, it never loses its importance. We live in a world where its undervalued, and we often convince ourselves that we don’t have time, but it’s essential to embrace both physical and spiritual rest. Spending ten minutes less on our phones every day means that we can spend ten minutes more in rest. 

When it comes to eating, we can find a lot of good information online, but we can also find a lot of misinformation. The best advice is to eat the food given to us by God. We’re going to have a healthier and more balanced life if we utilise the food God gave us. Adopting an eating plan can really change your thought process towards food.

2 Timothy 2:3 speaks of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. To be a soldier, you need to take command, follow orders and go to battle. To be an athlete, you need to be committed and devoted to whatever you’re seeking to achieve – you have to work really hard, put the effort in, and develop endurance. To be a farmer, you have to be patient and wait in the seasons. When you look at physical health, the characteristics of a soldier, athlete and farmer all come into play. On the journey of faith, a lot of endurance is required in the face of struggle. We all need to know how to take guidance, listen well and wait through the seasons. Being in a relationship with God allows us to live differently. We have a richer sense of peace within ourselves as we are filled up with goodness.

Regardless of your past, what you’ve done, or what you do in life, it’s never too late to start fresh or implement new and healthy habits. It’s never too late to leave behind old cycles and habits, as we have this luxurious ability to break them and start anew. Remember that you are never too old to begin again.

of SOUL in conversation with Gio Galanti, Creative Pastor

The spiritual part of ourselves is in fact our true self, one with God and one with all of His creation. When we live from our true selves, we can say that we live from home itself. An unhealthy soul, therefore, is one disconnected from its source. The outer manifestations of an unhealthy soul vary according to each individual’s unique circumstance, but there are three common underlying hallmarks in most cases: an absence of true peace, an inability to experience deep joy, and a certain level of crisis in the realm of identity.

Treadmill after treadmill, and performance after performance, our souls have been left in desperate need of replenishing and refreshing. The recurring biblical themes of rest, quietness, stillness, and silence are resonating greatly across the world today because humanity is weary, worn out from the struggle and striving to be enough, to do enough.

So how can our souls find peace? And how do we come home to the one true source of it all? Isaiah 30:15 says “In returning and rest you shall be made whole, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” True inner peace is not to be found in external things. When speaking of this unbreakable peace, Jesus said “not as the world gives do I give.” It’s this “peace that passes understanding,” that enables us to remain at rest through even the greatest of storms, that empowers us to say “it is well with my soul,” even in the midst of overwhelming tragedy and loss. The way to cultivate this peace is to abide in the place it comes from – the presence of God.

The things that war against us always seek to remove us from the present moment. Any regular practice throughout the day where we take even a moment or two to become fully conscious of where we are, what we are doing, and who we are with, will help us to strengthen our ability to stay in the vine, despite the clamour and the noise. Momentarily focusing on our breathing, even for just three or four deep breaths, in moments where we would otherwise be prone to distraction, is a good daily habit to cultivate. It is through this contemplative practice of resting silently in God’s presence in a state of wordless communion that we learn to live fully in the present moment, where time meets eternity. I like to see this, metaphorically, as a “breathing in”. The Mirror translation of Psalm 23:3 is profoundly insightful: “By the still waters of reflection, my soul remembers who I am.” By quieting the relentless chatter of the egoic mind through a period of stillness and reflection, we emerge from the fog of forgetfulness and return to the sense realm with the external posture of a secure child of God – highly favoured, greatly blessed, deeply loved. This sowing of contemplation reaps a harvest of action as we now “breathe out”.

As we begin to live with a continual remembrance that as children of God, we already have all we will ever need, that all grace abounds to us in all things and in every situation, we cease from all our striving to be accepted, to be loved, to be recognised, to be worthy. This is truly ‘entering the rest’ and the fight of faith will keep us there. This enables us to navigate the most turbulent storms of life with a profound poise and inner tranquillity.

So, to refresh our souls is to simply rest in pure being – that state of quiet surrender where we know who we truly are, where we “take no thought” for food or drink, for what we wear, or for tomorrow. It is here that we are refreshed with all joy, all peace, and all wholeness of identity.