Many yogis pay special attention to our physical health. We exercise, stretch, drink a ton of water, eat the right foods. Physical health is important to our overall wellbeing and should not be discounted, but what about our spiritual health? Even the most physically fit person might be spiritually out of shape. This lesser-known but equally important aspect of our holistic health is something that our society often doesn’t place a lot of value on, despite the increasing evidence that spiritual health is related to physical health.
So what is spiritual health and why should we care about it? Spirituality is our relation to creation. It is the connection between ourselves and our Source. No matter what you believe, we were all created from something. You can think of it as a person, or as energy. It flows through us constantly with wisdom far beyond our conscious mind. Spirituality is our relationship with that energy: Do we feel it, do we acknowledge it, do we follow its guidance?
Spirituality plays an important role in holistic health and our enjoyment of life. A connection to something higher than ourselves gives meaning to our lives, and provides guidance in the situations we encounter. It is our anchor, a constant thing we can turn to for stability and peace in an often unstable and unpeaceful world. In this post we’ll go over five common obstacles to spiritual health and growth, and how we can implement change in our lives to overcome them.
Spiritual Health Obstacle #1: Busyness
It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily routine and responsibilities and neglect time for ourselves and our spiritual growth. This is how it works for me: I go on a vacation or take a couple mental health days from work to recenter myself. I spend time meditating, writing, and focusing on turning inward, and it makes me feel great. I feel refreshed, clear-headed, and determined to bring my newfound bliss into my daily life. Then it’s time to do the laundry, go to work, pick my son up from school.
My responsibilities are right there waiting for me, urgently sometimes, and I jump right back in. Within very little time, that blissful feeling I had when I gave myself a break is nowhere to be found, and I realize I’ve gotten caught up in busyness.
Sometimes I go days in a row tending to the things I need to get done from the minute I get up until the minute I go to bed, and I wonder why the days go by so fast. Being busy and focusing only on our to-do list is draining. By the time we’ve got everything checked off, five more things have popped up that need our attention.
We all have responsibilities: bills to pay, children to take care of, things to plan. There is nothing wrong with getting organized, but when we get completely caught up with tasks we lose touch with our higher selves, the Self that interacts with the Divine and not just the external world we live in.
Taking time to do things that make you feel spiritually full is crucial to both the clarity of our mind and the equilibrium of our bodies. Taking time away from our responsibilities, no matter how busy we think we are, can help us realign our perspective and our priorities, and help us determine what needs to be done right now and what can wait.
Spiritual Health Obstacle #2: Skeptical Family/Friends
There is literally no one in my family who is interested in things of a spiritual nature. They might humor me when I talk about yoga or astrology, but no one is really interested. When I attempt to bring up a new thing I’m trying, it’s met with a lot of “oh, that’s so cool”, much like you’d talk to a 4-year-old showing you their new toy. When I started practicing yoga, most people assumed it was a phase for me, another fleeting interest that would pass with time. This bothered me at first and made me question whether or not I was on the right path.
When someone becomes interested in pursuing a spiritual path, their agenda becomes different from people who aren’t. Some of us want to figure out the answer to…”why am I here?” or “what should I be doing?” or “how can I be truly happy?”. Others seem to already know, or maybe they just don’t have the curiosity. Pursing a spiritual path means some people in your life will not understand and will maybe even try and talk you out of whatever it is you want to try. A lot of the things we do in the name of spiritual health may seem silly to others, or like a waste of time.
I can tell you now that I have been practicing yoga for almost a decade, and it catapulted my life in a new direction I had never even considered for myself before. It gave me confidence I had lived for so long without, and made me feel as if I had the strength within me to overcome just about anything. Had I listed to the skeptics, or believed what people said about yoga being a fad, I would never have taken up this life-changing practice. After seeing how much yoga has changed me, even my harshest judges eventually had to admit I was on to something.
This obstacle can be particularly difficult to overcome because the skepticism of others can make us question ourselves, especially those of us who have a pretty bad habit of doing that anyway. This is where turning inward and tuning into our intuition can be invaluable. When people in my life don’t understand why I need to go to a retreat or why I need to spend an entire day alone, I just don’t care anymore. These things are necessary for my spiritual health and growth, and that is far more important than what people think.
Spiritual Health Obstacle #3: Disconnection from Intuition
Disconnection from intuition comes from a lack of trust in ourselves. When we don’t trust ourselves, we’re unsure of which voice inside of us to believe, which gut feeling to follow. Not being able to identify or trust our intuition can lead us down a path that is not meant for us, at which point we’ll meet resistance and confusion. It can also leave us in a limbo state, being so out of tune with ourselves that we don’t move forward with anything because of uncertainty. We need to be able to identify and trust our intuition’s guidance if we want to be confident in our choices and direction in life.
Our intuition is the still, small voice within us that is filled with wisdom and knows exactly what we should do next. To hear it, we need to silence the other mental chatter that goes on in our brain, distracting and confusing us. When we can create space in our minds for inward reflection by eliminating outside distractions, we can tune in to the guidance of our highest selves. We can see our next steps with clarity and move forward with confidence and spend less time running around in misguided circles.
Being able to trust your instinct is priceless. Internally, we have everything we need: Wisdom, guidance, clarity, peace. But we cannot access it if we are following the guidance of our ego. Our ego is the image of ourselves we create in our minds based on expectations and experiences; it is not the same as our true self. Our ego is guided by fear; our true self is guided by intuition. Identifying and trusting your instinct is like exercising a muscle. Over time and with consistent practice, the ability to tune into your instinct will grow stronger.
Spiritual Health Obstacle #4: Disconnection from Our Bodies
This is a chronic problem in our society. Disconnection from our bodies causes avoidable illness and death every day, and the way our society attempts to fix it is a whole separate problem. We treat our bodies as an afterthought, often neglecting self-care that would improve our physical health. We eat mindlessly, don’t get enough sleep, drink ourselves into an oblivion every weekend; all of these are ways we become disconnected from our bodies. Often subconsciously, we neglect the very thing that carries our soul through this life.
A big focus of spiritual health is to understand that this life and all things in it are temporary, even our bodies. But honoring and optimizing our body is different than identifying with it. Our bodies hold the wisdom of creation. Inside of us are the intricacies of the entire universe, and when we can appreciate that, we make healthier choices. We can be in awe at how our body heals itself, and feel empowered when we learn things we can do ourselves to improve our health.
I discovered that I was severely disconnected from my body when I started paying attention to my breath. Half the time my breathing was shallow and rapid, and for the other half of the time I was holding my breath. For most of us, our breathing is chronically restricted which restricts the flow of life-giving energy in our bodies. We tend to breath shallowly, not taking in full breaths and not breathing out completely, especially during times of stress. When we breathe like this, we’re depriving our bodies of the nourishment of the air we breathe.
Reconnecting with the body requires awareness and action. We can look at the ways we neglect or harm our bodies and try to make improvement in that area a priority. If it feels helpful, we can meditate on why it is we neglect ourselves in that way in the first place. We might be able to discover that we eat mindlessly because it distracts us from our anxious thoughts, or that we don’t exercise because we’re in a rut and have become unmotivated. Once the problem is identified, we can focus on a specific solution.
Spiritual Health Obstacle #5: Lack of Consistency
Growing spiritually is very much like exercising a muscle. Only with time and consistent work will it get stronger. Also like exercise, the benefits of spiritual health are gradual. This can be tough for those of us who crave instant gratification, and often thrown in the towel when something doesn’t change our lives after a week. A lack of consistency can leave us jumping from one thing to the next, never experiencing the full benefits of the practices we try.
Very few people, if any, will experience instant spiritual enlightenment. For most, the joy and peace that come with spiritual health also come with consistent, mindful action on the part of the individual. We all have something we can do that helps us connect to the Divine and our higher selves. What this looks like is unique for everyone. The key is to find something that makes you feel spiritual full and content, and to incorporate it into your life in any way you can.
The contentment and insight that comes with spiritual health are not things that can be obtained by occasional effort. Being spiritually connected is a peace that surpasses all worldly pleasure. When we feel connected to our Source, our daily struggles become less frightening and overwhelming. We become more compassionate toward others as we recognize our interconnectedness and shared human struggle. With spiritual health, we can feel as though we’re right where we need to be when it feels like things are falling apart.
Spirituality is important to our holistic health and appreciation and enjoyment of life. Being spiritually connected frees us up from a lot of responsibility that we erroneously take on when we fail to recognize that we are being guided and supported. The obstacles we face are not easy to overcome, but the results of doing so can change your life and maybe even help you change the lives of others. Find what works for you, and make it a part of your life!
Inspiring Actions is here to meet you right where you are in your spiritual journey. Our studios in Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin offer classes and events designed to help you connect with your highest self and live your best life! Take a look at our class schedule, or browse through our upcoming events! If you are new to yoga and would like an initial deep-dive, join our Yoga 101 series to learn the basics. We also offer free Karma yoga classes twice a month to support the Abundant Yoga Community. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you at Inspiring Actions!