"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
— Proverbs 29:18
Challenge accepted. In the Nov. 14 Opinions page of the News and Tribune, Susan Duncan issued a challenge to write your own rhyme (in my view a vision) for the new decade fast approaching. She also emphasized the importance of the word "perspective," which flashed mental vision in my mind — the mental vision for developing a clear view of what is important in life and how seemingly different aspects of humans actually work together holistically. Specifically, developing a perfect 20/20 vision for body, mind and spirit for 2020 and beyond for myself and contributing to a wholesome mind, body and spirit of the world, which could use a bit of reinventing. There is always negative talk that our future might not be so bright, but the truth is that our personal future and future of the world will be what we choose, Please consider these ideas, but do not let them substitute for professional medical advice. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan (I have to say this).
My first job was as the Health Club Manager of the old Kentuckiana Sportscenter in Clarksville while working my way through undergraduate studies, and I have maintained part-time work in health and fitness since. Strengthening and maintaining a healthy body is a good start for overall holistic health. I've been asked thousands of times "what is the most important exercise to do" and the answer is the exercise that you WILL do. One key is not just exercising, but exercising and enjoying the process, which is a whole different experience. An exercise program that involves strength, endurance, and flexibility provides a good balanced approach. Being a serious athlete since age 6 and still competing in Masters Track and Field at age 61, I understand aches, pains, and limitations. In September, I attended and presented at The Myositis Association annual conference in Minnesota and taught an easy Tai Chi session to an enthusiastic group of very physically limited beautiful people. Even if very ill, you move it to improve it, and discover motion is like lotion.
Feeding the body properly can be the most important, yet hardest thing to do because equally qualified experts sometimes give us opposite advise. Also, nutritional needs vary greatly. I have intensely studied nutrition since my bodybuilding days in the 1970s, taught diabetes prevention classes, taught nutrition courses in college, and still feel nutrition is out of the scope of my practice to give advice. Only you and your doctor can decide what nutrition plan is best for you. However, the act of eating mindfully and being grateful for your food is one of the most important things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. I have my brunch by a window that lets the sunrise shine in on the pictures of the four generations of my family that I am so blessed to still have in my life as I savor every bite of food. The experience reminds me early in the day to keep the window of my heart open to all circumstances all through the day.
Strengthening the body is crucial, but strengthening the mind can be even more important to holistic health. Millions of years of divine evolution of the nervous system made the brain Teflon for the positive and Velcro for the negative, so we have to make constant conscious efforts to direct our minds to avoid our default setting of our negative bias, but the effort is well worth it. The brain, just like the body, responds to exercise. The field of psychology has provided tremendous benefits by counseling people on strategies to improve their lives, and this often works short-term. However, we can still improve on teaching people how to condition and install positive traits on a long-term basis by daily taking responsibility for their every thought, word, and deed. Awareness of our evolutionary predicament and the barrage of strong cultural forces are keys to maintaining better control of your mind. Impulse control— stopping and thinking before you act instead of just reacting — is so badly needed today.
Some rare cultures in our world still value and embody genuine spirituality in everything they do. It seems that our culture often has no time to understand and ponder the great Wayne Dyer quote that has hung on my wall for decades: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience." I believe our biggest problem in our culture can be summed up by the fact that human life is sacred and profound and our predominant modern lifestyle is not. My counseling career was primarily in large institutions and required I counsel clients holistically — mind, body, and spirit — and I was blessed to work with people from a variety of faiths. At age 18, in my health club days, I started intense spiritual study (that continues today) and was exposed to all the great spiritual and wisdom traditions and discovered that they basically distill to service, spiritual practice, and simple living, so we have time to do the other two. Simplicity, service, and spirituality, the more you complicate it, the more it eludes you.
The SoIN Interfaith Initiative that I read about in the News and Tribune months ago seems a good start in bridging the gap of understanding and shattering stereotypes that lead to fearful separateness. Initiatives like these create a more inclusive society and and focus on similarities instead of differences, which sets up tribalism, which is rampant not only in faiths, but in politics and other areas of life. Back decades ago when I was knocked off my high horse like Saul of Tarsus (who became Saint Paul), I understood the spiritual journey was not supposed to be complicated, abstract, or distant from our daily life. I rejoiced when I had a ready answer for my grandson when we were hiking and he asked the inevitable questions kids ask: "Is God for real papa?"; my answer: "Yes, and you can have a direct connection with God anytime" and explained in simple terms the science of precise fine-tuning, which provides strong evidence for an ultimate source. The second question: "then where is God?"; my answer, "right here, hiding in plain sight and you can see God everywhere because God is infinite and in all people and things." I believe these are accurate, simple, and understandable answers.
Mind, body, and spirit. Simplicity, service, and spirituality. A perfect 20/20 sustainable personal, family, community, and world vision. We have awesome personal responsibility to ourselves, our ancestors, and descendants or continuation (AKA future generations). We all are connected and our thoughts, words, and deeds that fire together can wire together, to weave a beautiful world of renewal in our new decade. But why wait? We can start today to take good care of ourselves and each other. The holidays (holy days) are quickly approaching, which usually leads to over-eating, over-spending, and over-stressing, which we can control if we choose. And for the rhyme, how about: open your eyes and see the beautiful skies of a new world? This dream can become a reality, but working together to find our way is the only way because we are so much more when we work together than when we work alone!
— Mike Matthews is a retired teacher, counselor, and mental health administrator with a mission of creating a healthy and cohesive community.