Thursday, January 18, 2007

Balance and States of Well-Being

When I was a kid, possibly early teens, I embarked on the extraordinary effort to learn how to qualify life. I'd heard about the trendy biorhythms and emotional IQ and such, and while it seemed kitschy, it also struck me that there must be some way to measure one's internal prosperity.

What I came up with were what I called the states of well-being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I know these are all over now; my physical therapist brought them up in conversation one day, and my wife attended a work conference where they discussed them (as well as a fifth: synergistic, but I don't buy that one yet). But honest to God, when I was just a lad, I discovered them all on my lonesome, and for a long time I was sure nobody else knew beans about them. I guess I should have published a pamphlet or something.

Anyway, in my amateur philosophizing, I concluded that to establish what I called Balance, each state of well being (SWB) must be attended to. I aligned them on a plus sign, with each pair of complementary SWB's across from the other: physical/emotional, and mental/spirital. I arrived at the conclusion that there was a spiritual SWB not really by observation, as with the others, but by an absence of the thing. I knew people who were healthy, smart, and had it together, but who still weren't happy. I didn't know exactly what was missing, just that something was. I even resisted labling it spirituality for a long time, steeped as I was in my logical view of the world, but it's what fit, so it stuck.

Once I had a basic scheme, I tried to figure out ways to quantify each SWB. I really couldn't, not in a traditional numeric sense anyway. All I concluded was that one had to keep working, possibly improving, in order to maintain that state. But what to work on? That was my next question.

I compiled lists of things that a person might do and/or achieve to keep up with each SWB. The physical list wasn't exactly a no-brainer, I actually used the US Army Physical Fitness Manual for much of it, but it basically is stuff you ought to do to stay healthy and fit. The mental list was more work; it basically says that while you don't necessarily need to earn a PhD, you do have to do your brain justice and keep learning a variety of new things, even mundane stuff, for its own sake. Emotional well-being wasn't an easy list to populate, being very short on it myself (especially at the time) so I filled it with things I thought emotionally healthy people did. Turns out I was right on some accounts: relationships with family and friends, maintaining a personal code of conduct (I later referred to the Air Force Core Values), character, and honesty with yourself are all things I thought might be required. The spiritual list remained blank for years (actually, it's still blank on paper) until I learned about healing arts, body energy, and other such things that usually makes people roll their eyes at me.

Well today I am at the realization that I really need to get back to work on my Balance. I've had too many ups and downs the last several (insert your favorite time interval here; they all apply at the moment no matter how small) to ignore my overall health any longer. Ironically, what I need to work on the least, at my second discovery of my SWB system, is my spiritual self. The rest is buried beneath layers of dysfunction and self-neglect.

So if anyone's reading, send a nice thought my way today. I could use it in a big way. Thanks.

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