In her famous book, entitled “Springs in the Valley,” Lettie Cowman writes about travellers making a long journey deep into the jungles of Africa.
African tribesmen carried their load and walked far with them on the first day. The travellers were thrilled and hopeful of a speedy journey. But, the tribesmen refused to move on the second day. They simply sat and rested. On enquiry about this strange behaviour the travellers were informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and the Africans were now waiting for ‘their souls to catch up with their bodies’. An enlightening story that brings a powerful message for many of us who live and work in the sprawling concrete jungles of today’s big cities.
The downside of a hectically busy lifestyle is that it often creates a spiritual void in our lives, leaving our souls feeling empty. This may very well lead to gnawing feelings of restlessness or agitation, making us edgy and irritable with ourselves and others, especially our loved ones. Even small things, such as your child dropping a plate or someone cutting you off in heavy traffic, triggers a mini mind- explosion. And afterwards you stare at yourself in utter disbelief. Why did I lose it? The danger lies in letting this state of mind deteriorate into more serious attitudes of anger, aggression, distress, anxiety or negativity, unless we put the brakes on.
Ancient philosopher, Socrates, once made a thought provoking remark “beware the barrenness of a busy life”. It doesn’t take long for inner tension to build up as we find ourselves struggling to cope with a daily whirlwind of ‘stuff’ to do and deadlines to meet, perhaps coupled with relationship issues or trials of a more serious nature. Sure our highly sophisticated computer age empowers us to get more work done speedily and efficiently. However, bosses then want more from us by increasing the workload in search of higher productivity levels and so the cycle continues.
Quietening the mind
Anxiety in itself should be a warning sign telling us to slow down, stop, reflect and get back to our spiritual roots. Philippians 4:4-7 tells us; “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (English Standard Version).”
Sadly, the art of quietening the mind, reflection and meditation is fast disappearing, despite the marvels of humanity’s advanced achievements in medicine, science, technology and education. Ironically, we seem to lose our sense of caring, being there for one another, when spiritual wellness goes out the window. Does this not perhaps lie at the very core of why we find ourselves in a world struggling with insurmountable problems, including conflict, hatred, wars, poverty, political turmoil, inequality and single parent families; even though we are endowed with an abundance of knowledge and expertise in virtually every field of endeavour.
Well-renowned theologian and author, Richard J. Foster, wrote in his book entitled Celebration of Discipline…the Path to Spiritual Growth, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
A floodgate of spiritual gurus has entered the market in recent decades, teaching varied interpretations of how we can become spiritually healthy and wise. Beliefs such as: I create my own reality or, I am my own universe, or connecting with the creation rather than the personal Triune God who created all things, and who loves each one of us intimately and unconditionally. As one spiritual master emphasised, “We need to rise, on our own, to a higher level of consciousness, which religion excludes.” In essence, as though religion, maybe more specifically the Christian faith, is of a lower state.
And so we find ourselves grappling with a bewildering range of spiritual belief systems coming from philosophers and revered masters, many of whom regard themselves as modern day sages of spirituality and wisdom. However, most of these teachings focus on the God we want rather than the God who is. Thus, we are at liberty to explore and find a spiritual credo that suits our lifestyle, being the God we want. And there is often very little said in this literature about the marvellous eternal future our loving God has in store for each one of us, beyond imagination.
Spiritual wellness flows from God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit as we abide in His presence; and in turn touch the lives of those we engage with every day. When what we do is aligned with who we are in Christ, it can only produce good fruit. Our actions flow out of participating in His divine nature. It is helpful to inculcate a regular time and place when we can press the pause button and ask ourselves some searching questions through reflection and meditation. For instance, is my lifestyle bringing me closer to enjoying an intimate relationship with Jesus or is it tearing me far away from Him?
Meditation enables us to apply the principles of ‘thought awareness’ by observing our thoughts and in so doing become aware of what we are thinking…taking a look at your stream of consciousness as you consider a trying situation you might be experiencing. Do not supress any thoughts; let them run their course while you are watching them. Some may find it helpful to journal their thoughts, as it helps them to crystallise their thinking. Thus through prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, we can let go of the toxic thoughts and attitudes that are affecting our spiritual wellness.
Unfortunately, the fast paced lives we lead today tend to inwardly strangle the re-creating presence of God’s Spirit in our minds. King David led a busy life, but found time to meditate. “I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” (Psalm 143:5). In stillness we are able to find God and embrace His presence. Mother Theresa said, “God cannot be found in noise and restlessness.”
Nurturing the soul by maintaining a spiritually healthy lifestyle will create a unique opportunity for God’s transforming presence to take root in your life, giving you the courage and resilience to face life and all its issues with an inner peace and joy that transcends all understanding.