"Faith and a spiritual life, from ancestral believes to the diverse faiths of today" - Kodiak Alutiiq Cultural Value
Spirituality- An important part of life and health
At the core “Spirituality” is “Spirit,” meaning the spark of life that resides within all humans, plants, animals, and all of nature. It is part of any person regardless of culture or religion.
To ignore ones spiritual health would be the same as ignoring their physical or mental health. The primary concepts for holistic health (disease is a result of physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental factors) and wellness are: balance and connectivity. Spiritual health is one of the three building blocks of a human being along with the mind and the body:
Spirit: Your spiritual self. This includes the spark of life, energy body, relationship with a higher power, connection to the world/others and world view. This is the focus of this page.
Mind: Your mental and emotional health. This includes thought, feeling, imagination, problem solving, relating to others, and responses to everyday life.
Body: Your physical body. This includes your genetic make-up, sexuality, physical manifestation of emotion, diet/nutrition, lifestyle, physical sensation, and physical activity.
How do you achieve spiritual health?
Getting rid of feeling hurt, guilt, anger or pain is a key to mental, emotional and physical health. You can achieve this is through forgiveness. But, what does “forgiving” mean?
- Forgiving means to take back your personal power.
- Forgiving means to accept and learn from a situation. It does not mean forgetting. If you forget how could you do it differently next time?
- Forgiving means that you can change and grow to become a better person.
Acceptance is another key to being an individual with a healthy mind, body and spirit. Acceptance is the understanding that we are not perfect, and that is the way it is supposed to be. You are perfectly imperfect in all your perfection! However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement.
Responsibility means that each person is responsible for their choices. Taking on responsibility for yourself and making healthy proactive choices is another part of being healthy in mind, body and spirit.
And, of course, there is the key ingredient called Love. Love can take on many forms: Divine love, familial love, romantic love, love for self, and acting in a loving way. Here is an interesting fact: “Falling in love” with a person from the opposite or same sex is actually based on a bodily response, and you will hit rock bottom unless this first sensation does not turn into real love within 18 months. There are books written about how this happens, so please forgive us for not discussing it here!
For many people around the world, religion plays an important role in achieving spiritual health. Religions can offer tools, rituals and connection to a community that foster spiritual health. Religions are generally created around the cultural norms and expectations from the land where they originated.
For many indigenous people, ceremonies are traditional ways to strengthen the spirit. They can be a part of everyday life through:
- Showing respect for yourself and others
- Honoring your ancestors and family
- Asking permission to work, live, pray, and play on peoples traditional grounds
- Opening and Closing Prayer
- Sharing meaningful songs, poems, and Elder teachings
- Speaking from the heart
- Respecting nature: plants, animals, people, and environment
- Respecting diverse cultures and peoples
- Honor of cycles by proper actions and ceremonial activities
Our ways are valuable. We are valid. Our ways are powerful medicine for the mind, body, and spirit. Alaskan Native people’s spirituality and the quest for spiritual health through:
- Responsibility for self and actions. Including inner thoughts and emotions.
- Valuing life more than money and power
- Judgment between positive behaviors and actions versus negative ones
- Courage to stand up for nature, community, family, and self
- Stewardship to Earth, Air, Land, Fire, Plants, and Animals
- Acknowledgement of a higher power then one’s self
- Living within the energetic and natural flow of life
- Listening to Creator, Ancestors, Elders, Nature, and your Spirit
- Understanding the difference between personal wants and community needs
- Helping Elders, Youth, Widows, and those in need
- Continual observation, education, and learning
- Honoring the balance of creation and walking in harmony with it
- Honest communication from the heart with everything
Ceremony and religious practices are both part of spirituality and can live in harmony with each other. In addition, spirituality is not limited to ceremony and the various practices of major world religions. You can choose your own unique spiritual path to achieve spiritual health.
By Meda DeWitt Schleifman, Tlingit Traditional Healer
If you have questions about this article or would like to contact the author, please contact us with "Spirituality" in the subject line.