Inspire! Topic: Spirituality/Faith/Ethics and Mental Wellbeing
Saturday, December 15, 2018
As I grew and changed, so did my perception of God and Jesus. I came to admire the humanness of Jesus and to move away from an interpretation of God as a being to God as more of a benevolent energy. Through the highs and lows, more often lows, of a life that reads much like a soap opera narrative, I continued to find peace and comfort in knowing that I was part of something that kept me from being entirely abandoned or alone.
Eventually I went through the dark night of the soul in which I did know abandonment and utter loneliness. My sense of relationship with the divine will never be what it was, but my conviction to make this a better world is stronger than ever and I am experiencing a deeper state of eudaimonia than before.
Eudaimonia is not a virus. Eudaimonia is a Greek word. Eu means “good” and daimon means “spirit.” It is commonly translated as happiness or welfare, but a more accurate definition is “human flourishing.” In moral philosophy, eudaimonia is used to refer to the right actions that result in the well-being of an individual.
Then along came Socrates. He took a very different view of the good life. For him the good life was a life of questioning popular opinion and tradition. It meant cultivating the practice of critical thought and self- awareness. It was Socrates who said, "the unexamined life is not worth living." The good life, he believed, was an inner life of contemplation and an ever-expanding mind.
Socrates student, Plato, also believed in self-examination, but felt the goal was to enter into the realm of the divine. According to Plato, our psyche had three main parts: the intellectual or rational system, a spirited or emotive system, and a basic system of physical appetites. He felt the “highest” part of us is our reason and that this was a divine fragment of God. This is what he felt made us different from other animals. He believed we need to cultivate this divine part of us and use it to control our emotions and physical instincts. In doing so, he felt that we would accomplish eudaimonia or the state of human flourishing.
Plato believed that humans are vessels for the divine, he believed that ultimately we could reach a state in which our individual ego is lost in ecstatic union with God. Sound familiar?
This idea of the ‘ascent of the soul’ was very influential in the mystic traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In fact, eudaimonia is a concept found in all mystic traditions. Buddhists call in “waking up.”
Today psychologists and psychiatrists are still finding a link between our internal orientation (our spirituality, faith or ethics) and our overall well being.
We can think of that internal orientation in different ways. One way is to define it as the meaning and purpose you look for in life. It gives you a sense of your own worth and value. Practices can include:
• Belonging to a faith community,
• Meditation and prayer.
• Living by a set of rules that you set for yourself.
• Focusing on spiritual values such as honesty, kindness, hope and compassion.
• Following a religion.
These practices can help you to develop inner strength, peace, hope and optimism.
And that can be very helpful when it comes to managing stressful life events and improving our health. There are a few ways that spirituality, faith or ethics can help our mental wellbeing.
• If you are part of a spiritual or religious community you may have more support and friendship.
• You may find it helpful to feel connected to something bigger than yourself.
• It may help you to make sense of your experiences.
• You may feel strength or hope from your spirituality, religion or philosophy
• You may feel more at peace with yourself and other people around you.
Over half of people who use mental health services find religion or spirituality helpful to manage their mental health issues.
Our reflective time this morning will use music as a catalyst for cultivating our own inner awareness. As Vienna Teng sings the song, “Soon Love Soon,” I want to invite to you listen to her words and see which of them stand out for you. There is paper and pens on the table. I want you to listen and ponder and at a few times during the song I will ring this bell. When you hear the bell, write down the word that is most prominent in your mind or in your heart.
We are then prompted to ponder and consider these questions with our table-mates:
Many thanks go out to our friends and supporters! Marco’s Pizza provides lunch for each month’s Inspire! Event.
Thanks to Dan Anderson for being the House Musician!
And once again, Thank you to the Tri-Cities Kiwanis Club, for underwriting this month’s Inspire!