Today I visited a hospital as part of my work. I went around the whole building from outpatients to operating theatres, clinics to wards (by the way, thinking about it, what strange names form part of a hospital!) Health is one of our greatest gifts, even our greatest gift- something we do not realise until we fall ill. Physical and mental health are part of ourselves that may be treated by doctors. But what about our spiritual health which rules both our physical and mental health?
Our spiritual health can only be treated by ourselves. It is the most difficult to treat. Some people say that they have no religion. Where they have religion or not, everyone has their own philosophy of life that is part of their spiritual make-up. I was reading about ‘Soul food‘, which is separate from kind of food we eat that nourishes our bodies and minds. Soul food is for the spirit. The soul or spirit needs food and exercise to be healthy just like our physical and mental selves. ‘Soul exercises’ are the troubles and tribulations we go through in life that expand our life states and make us more capable. Soul food can be many things that nourish us-
1. Love and support from your loved ones- like heart warming conversation or soul stirring advice.
2. Love and support that you give yourself- like a gentle best friend who encourages you.
3. Inspirational books, music, art or films that you see- here someone else’s soul touches your soul.
4. Cutting out negative influences- leaving toxic relationships, disregarding critical messages from your childhood and from others; and any other negative external influences.
5. Soul exercise- it could be your hobbies, some great food you cooked, some work you enjoyed, the child you soothed with calming words or songs, the kind words you said to a friend, a challenge you solved, a serious illness you overcame with cheerfulness and joy- anything that you give from your soul!
If we don’t feed and exercise our souls, we cannot live a full life. We know this from meeting people who are are physically ill and yet, we find, they could be the ‘life and soul of a party’. It is not the mere absence of illness that makes us healthy, it is the absence of a spirit to live that makes us unhealthy. As Nichiren wrote:
“Life is the most precious of all treasures. Even one extra day of life is worth more than ten million ryo of gold.”
(If you are ill and struggling, I recommend the book, Love, medicine and miracles by Bernie Siegel, M D which has real examples where people overcame many health problems with a strong spirit supported by proper medication and health professionals)