It is particularly important to start this topic by defining terms. Spirit will be treated as the metaphorical spark within us that longs for and revels in connection to something greater. What this greater thing is exactly is up to you, be it deity, universe, personal or human potential, love, community, one’s calling, etc. The process is the same regardless. While one could certainly survive with bodily health and mental health, to thrive spiritual health is necessary. (I acknowledge this may not hold true for the young or those with developmental issues, but exploring that topic is beyond the scope of this writing.)
Compared to body and mind, it is less obvious how to break down and organize an approach to addressing spirit. I invite your suggestions for alternatives. Searching for commonalities across various spiritual traditions, I noticed a pattern of where one might find insight, union, freedom, and wonder. Looking inward, looking outward, and looking beyond each offer unique and valuable considerations for spirituality. “Integrating” is a pulling back from the directed attention of “looking” in an attempt to experience anew the whole.
- Looking inward
- What is most important to me? Answer honestly, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Make an ordered list.
- What can only I do? For more, read Man’s Search for Meaning.
- What does my highest self look like? Not so much the external circumstances, but the internal attitudes. Is this vision both aspirational and realistic? Am I on a path leading to this highest potential? What would my highest self do in this situation, and can I embody that future me right now?
- In the grand scheme of things, knowing that I am only on this earth for a short amount of time, what does success look like? At the end of each day? At the end of my life?
- Inward-focused meditation. I use the Waking Up app, but do whatever helps you practice consistently.
- Looking outward
- What is my just cause: the concrete, selfless, ongoing initiative to make the world a better place?
- How do I promote the dignity and autonomy of the people I interact with?
- What makes something right or wrong? Do I live up to this standard?
- “I don’t care what you believe. Show me how you treat people.”
- Seek the guidance of and participation in a tradition and community.
- Find the beauty in each moment. Visit sanctuaries of beauty: nature, concerts, gatherings of loved ones, etc.
- Looking beyond
- What practices help me feel in tune with the sacred, divine, universal, etc? How can I bring more wonder into my life?
- Nondualism: Every long standing tradition has a nondual sect. I consider it the highest level of consciousness humans have attained. It takes time to wrap the mind around, so best used as a supplement to a core practice.
- High dose psychedelics. Use extreme caution. Have a trained guide.
- Integrating: Contemplating spiritual, mental, and bodily health involves focusing in on details. This focus is a useful tool, but don’t mistake it for life itself. Allow the learning and striving to be in the service of living more fully by savoring the messy, ambiguous, and spontaneous.
- Block out time to be free from agenda, over thinking, expectations, and obligations. Play, be spontaneous and intuitive.
- Experience yourself and the world prior to formulating thoughts about it. This can be done in meditation or on a walk.
- Throughout the day, bring attention to the fullness of this moment. Use all your senses and savor the wonder of being right here, right now. Try to make it the default state, treating thought as a specialized tool, only to be brought out briefly and intentionally.
- Experience what it’s like to know in this particular moment that you are complete, lacking nothing, and that there is nothing to long for. Feel the sensation of completely letting go of all effort.
It was said before and I’ll say it again, a lot of ground is covered across the 3 prongs. Yes, humans are complicated with numerous competing needs. For many of us, these competing needs get disorienting and overwhelming. For others, we wholeheartedly believe we’re doing everything right, yet still find ourselves in difficult situations. The 3-Prong Approach is simply a menu for living better, with signposts directing you toward the one item that is worth focusing on for a while. Hopefully we can step out of the chaos and banality of life, take on some directed reflection and intentionality, and step back into the flow better equipped to savor life’s mystery.