Roadwork on the Inner Path –Spiritual Fitness is the Fourth Pillar of Prevention
Today’s column completes my series on the Four Pillars of Prevention. If you’ve been following, you know for me this is a personal question related to my own immediate familial risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Outside of the common risk of traumatic accident or the possibility of malfunction that might lead to the development of cancer, I’m likely to live long and face the modern challenge of Alzheimer’s. I’m committed to doing what I can now to reduce that risk, and the previously discussed habits of Supportive Diet, Stress Management, and Physical and Mental Fitness figure into how I plan life every day. Today I want to address the fourth pillar – What ARPF calls Spiritual Fitness. And by describing it as fitness we see it as a state that needs to be developed and maintained.
In my many conversations with residents I am always picking up hints at the simple bits of truth that point toward what a teacher of mine calls the “gateway to the miraculous.” These expressions of wisdom and well integrated insight are the qualities that I believe contribute to resiliency, and allow us to meet what comes with acceptance instead of suffering in resistance. What clinicians call psycho-spiritual well-being is the healthy state of living with interest, curiosity and appreciation.
So how do we get on that road? What are the steps on the path? Here are some aspects that you might well recognize.
- Socialization or being with like-minded people
- Volunteering or service without thought of self-reward
- Acceptance and forgiveness of yourself and others
- Patience and allowing yourself to be in the moment
- Compassion and empathy towards yourself and others
- Purpose or meaning in life via self-discovery and building your legacy
- Sense of spirituality, regardless of origin or religion
According to ARPF, modern research suggests that some of the most striking brain benefits of Spiritual Fitness are:
- Reversal of the amyloid plaque which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s
- Improvement in your genes via healthier telomeres
- Slowing of Alzheimer’s progression
The good news for Lathrop residents is that the first two aspects are baked into life here, if you choose to eat from the banquet of options. You may already have these as habits, but if not, like the aspects on the rest of your list, there is always value to carry new intention. Our community is rich with folks well along their a path, and the availability of wise teachers in person and print has never been more abundant. Your neighbor may be someone who has made practice an important part of life. International teachers such as Pema Chodron and Ekhardt Tolle, or the mindfulness guru Jack Kornfield can point us in the direction of greater spiritual fitness. And of course the great religious traditions that may be a part of your current or former life have been guiding human beings to the levels of spirit that they are willing to pursue.
Everyday a new opportunity. Every person a possible teacher. Every action a choice to be in alignment. And of course a good place to start with it all is right within ourselves. Each day we commit to get more exercise or not overeat, and each day we have a chance to accept what we’ve done and start again. That’s practice. And that’s progress. No guarantees of course as the course of Alzheimer’s and the many other fates that may be ours are mysteries. But if nothing else, the benefits of following the guidance of these four pillars will make us feel better along the path wherever it leads.
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