You and I hear them all the time. A person scrambling by moans, “I’ve got to get myself together!” Another confides, “I think I’m losing my mind.” Or the ever-popular, “I think I am falling apart!” Each phrase truthfully captures what is going on in us.
A soul is comprised of: our will, mind, body and soul. One could sketch it out like this:
Let’s define* each of these:
WILL: The innermost circle is the will — the capacity to choose . The will is what makes you a person and not a thing. It is important but it is also extremely limited. When people study “will-power” they notice it has a relatively small “fuel tank”. Hence the infamy of “new year’s resolutions”.
MIND: The second circle is the mind-a person’s thoughts and feelings. What we “will” is instructed by our mind’s complex processing of thoughts and feelings. If you have a co-worker who treats you rudely your “feelings” are hurt and your mind records that incident. Future encounters with that person will tap into these stored memories (thoughts) and feelings and informs our actions accordingly.
BODY: The third circle is the body. Our bodies “house” the less visible attributes of will and mind. I like to think of our body as our “dashboard”. It often signals to us what is happening inside our wills and minds. For example, if you are stressed out your body can feel tense, anxious and worn. It is sending you tangible signals that your insides are struggling.
SOUL: The final circle is the soul. The human soul is what integrates all of our different parts into a single person. There will come a day when we will “shed” the body, but our souls will live on. I have had the privilege of watching people pass from this life. One minute “they are here” and the next “they are gone”. What remains is a shell of a person…their body.
* thanks to John Ortberg for the core of these definitions.
When all is well with our soul, there is a harmony between these parts. The body is at rest because the mind is at peace and therefore our will is content. I know what you’re thinking…”can that actually happen?!!” Yes it can! But often when life hits we get unsettled and scattered. Our souls look more like this:
Instead of that settled harmony depicted in the first picture, we are splintered and feel scattered. For example, if our body feels sick, often times our thoughts aren’t functioning well either. It’s also easy to be crabby (feelings) when we’re under the weather and generally our will to accomplish much is shot. This is when you say something like, “I feel like I’m falling apart.” In essence you are! So what can you do to “get it together”?
The healthy soul would respond something like this:
- the will would surrender to the mind’s deduction that we’ve “caught a bug”. Further thoughts would instruct us in what we need to do to care for the body. Drink fluids, take a rest, etc. Although this isn’t our favorite place to be our soul would begin to find harmony because our will, thoughts and feelings are working together.
An unhealthy soul would look like this:
- the will is caught in a struggle because we feel terrible and should take the day off, BUT our boss is a driver and he’ll have a fit if we are gone. So the mind’s process is impaired with competing thoughts and feelings. We push ourselves through the day and finish with a worn body, stressed mind and a frustrated will.
About now a lot of people say to me, “Mark, reality is my boss is a driver and it would be far more stressful to lose my job, so I choose the lesser of two evils.” I get it. But in the midst of living in an imperfect world there are some ancient practices that can help restore our soul. I’ll pick those up in the next couple of posts.