Spirit, Soul, and Body

Everybody should hereafter be oriented to the wonderful situation that when you look at another human being, you’re looking at three distinct and separate components. These three are interrelated, but they are independent.  Each component embodies a different path to achieving wellness. The whole is complex, as revealed by this orientation.

In the spirit of balance and harmony, and in recognition of the three systems at work in us, I thought today I would send a separate and distinct wellness message to your different components because one message for all simply won’t do.

1. The Head System

O head, you soar on high, positioned above it all. You keep a bird’s eye view, above the fray. You are level and like a calm and cool environment. You collect all sorts of sensory input. The world makes an impression on you. You receive and process. You connect us to the universe as you are the center of thinking and spiritual activity. You help us to understand.

Dear thinking head, since you love to learn I want to send you an elegant message about how to access health from “the top down,” through appreciation and striving towards virtue.

Dear head, do you know what an agora is?

“The agora was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. It is the best representation of a city-state’s response to accommodate the social and political order of the polis. The literal meaning of the word ‘agora’ is ‘gathering place’ or ‘assembly’. The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, business, social, spiritual, and political life in the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens is the best-known example.” (Wikipedia)

Agoras are good. You’d have to be unwell to want to avoid it or to be afraid of it. Agoraphobia is actually an illness because agoras are so grand. Who would want to stay away?

Next, I want to tell you what a stoa is.

A stoa is a covered walk or colonnade, usually having columns on one side and a wall on the other.

The Greeks and Romans loved their stoas.

he world’s most famous stoa is probably Stoa Poikile “erected around 460 BC on the north side of the Ancient Agora of Athens. It was one of the most famous sites in ancient Athens, owing its fame to the paintings and war-booty displayed within it.” (Wikipedia)

How nice that the most famous stoa was located in the most famous agora! This stoa gained further historical renown due to the group of philosophers that regularly met there. They came to be known as the Stoics, named for the fact that they hung out in the stoa! They believed that virtue was central to achieving a good life. Happiness and health stemmed from virtue, they believed.

I recently encountered this list of 7 tenants being put forward as being representative of Stoicism. They are a great and elegant message to the head system seeking health from the top down.

  1. Don’t speak ill of yourself. Never engage in self-deprecation.
  2. Don’t boast about self-improvement (humility); let action be the testament to your improvement.
  3. Don’t be a glutton: stop excessive indulgence. Moderation is key.
  4. Don’t be a big mouth: Listen more than you speak.
  5. Don’t be too focused on the future: to be happy, be mindful of your present.
  6. Don’t be ungrateful: practicing gratitude is the way of acknowledging the positive aspects of life.
  7. Avoid complaining: complaining tends to bring negative around our lives and the lives of others. Our happiness depends on our perception. Complaining is an unreproductive cycle, it creates a sense of victimhood.

Thanks, Stoics! Balance, gratitude, generosity, and presence are all represented here. Some historians say Stoicism represented a decline from the best of ancient Greece; it was eventually overshadowed by the spread of Christianity. Even so, it’s a nice list. Virtue as a health-giving impulse as demonstrated in ancient Greece is still monumental, especially as far as the head perspective is concerned.

2. Chest system

On to you, O, System of the Chest.

You are the middle system. You are the center of rhythm in the body. The heart and the lungs tirelessly keep a rhythm throughout our entire lives. Yours is the realm of the soul and the life of feeling. Courage is your highest end. You are where we connect and make bonds.

I have a message for you, Chest. I have a message about heart and soul health that can lead us to happiness and longevity.

I want to point out the conclusions from one of the longest studies on health and happiness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

“The project has followed 724 men since they were teenagers in 1938. (Approximately 60 men, now in their 90s, are still left.) The group consisted of men from various economic and social backgrounds, from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods to Harvard undergrads. (President John F. Kennedy was even part of the original group.) Over the years, the researchers have collected all kinds of health information, and every two years they ask members questions about their lives and their mental and emotional wellness. They even interview family members.

“They found that specific traits and behaviors were linked with increased levels of happiness across the entire group.” (Harvard Health Blog)

What is the x-factor?

“The Harvard Study has found a strong association between happiness and close relationships like spouses, family, friends, and social circles.”

Connection heals. Isolation ails.

What’s a city without a hopping agora? How troubled are we in the modern world with our epidemic of loneliness and screen times topping 9 hours per day (2023 numbers for 11- to 14-year-olds)? Tend to your relationships like your middle system depends on it. It actually does.

A community just is who we are, at least as far as the chest system is concerned.

3. Metabolism and Limb System

You’re next, O, Metabolism and Limbs. You are the system with which we come in contact with the world. You get into the mix. You put your stamp on the world. The will is expressed through you. Motion is your modus operandi and makes you well. Get the body warmed up if you want to see the metabolism and limbs thrive!

Dear Metabolism and Limbs, with you we find the foundational basics of health for the physical body. I want to keep your message simple. A good detoxification lifestyle and good habits with hydration, movement, nutrition, and routine go a long way with you. Today’s simple reminder from the world of basic body health is one thought about a healthy approach to sleep.

There are many important ideas about sleep, like the power of being consistent with bedtime and evening routine but the one body pointer that I have on my mind is about importance of the the hours between 10pm to 4am.  These are the priority hours for sleep. Set up your sleep structure to blanket as much as possible of this time frame with sleep and your body will perform optimally.

Three for one

Three messages for our three systems, all contributing towards one goal: your good health and meaningful self-expression in the world.

I’ll leave you with a fitting slogan that the Three Musketeers liked to say, “All for one and one for all!”