Integrating Mind, Body, Spirit
By STEPHEN L. SOKOLOW
We are holistic beings living in a holistic world. Comprised of
mind, body and spirit, these three aspects of our being are interconnected
as part of the same whole.
A useful way of thinking about these three aspects of us as part
of a unified whole is the integration of head, hand and heart. When
we can align what we think with what we do and feel, we are the
most powerful. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “When you work
with your hands, you are a laborer. When you work with your hands
and your head, you are a craftsman. If you work with your hands,
your head, your heart and your soul, you are an artist.”
Artists are continually engaged in creative expression. So when
we use our head, hands and heart in an integrated fashion, we can
live and lead more creatively. In our work and personal lives, the
goals we should pursue in depth, not only for ourselves but also
for those we lead and serve, are the ones that allow us to integrate
our head, hand and heart.
In the scientific community and among the general public a growing
awareness exists of the mind/body connection. It is pretty well
accepted that what we think and feel affects our body. The thoughts
we formulate in our minds and the emotions we have affect our physical
health and how well our bodies function.
The reverse is also true. Our physical health affects the way we
think and feel. We know that exercising our bodies produces chemicals
that affect our feelings and mental clarity. In the imagery being
used, heart is a placeholder for spirit. Our spirit guides us through
our feelings and intuition and provides us with an internal sense
of right and wrong--like an internal moral compass.
A network connects our mind, body and spirit. Each component affects
the other two. Our mind affects our body and spirit. Our body affects
our mind and spirit. Our spirit affects our mind and body. If we
change our thinking, our actions and feelings will be affected.
If we change what we do (our actions), our thinking and feelings
will be affected. If we change our feelings, our thinking and actions
will be affected.
Depending on your age, you may remember a circle dance called the
Hokey Pokey in which everyone stands around in a circle and at different
stages of the dance you are asked to put different parts of your
body in the circle: left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot,
left shoulder, right shoulder, head and finally your whole body.
The goal is to get your whole self in the circle and “shake
it all about.”
In terms of mind, body, spirit integration, when we get all three
in the circle, we are functioning holistically. Our mind is in the
circle when we have an intention as to what we want to do. Our body
is in the circle when we act with skill to carry out our intention.
It encompasses how we go about achieving our intention.
Our Spirit is in the circle when it tells us whether what we are
doing is right by looking at why we are doing it and letting us
know if our motivation is aligned with our internal moral compass.
When all three are brought to bear, our power increases, our wisdom
increases and our effectiveness as leaders increases.
Stephen Sokolow, who spent 26 years as a superintendent in New
Jersey, is executive director of the Center for Empowered Leadership,
9 Sandburg Drive, Allentown, NJ 08501. E-mail: SLsokolow@aol.com.
He is the co-author (with Paul Houston) of The
Spiritual Dimension of Leadership (Corwin Press).
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