Basics of self-help: body soul mind spirit
This brief sketch has very little to do with Buddhism, and everything to do with commonsense.
If you are living through a difficult period, for whatever reason, it is a good idea to try to make sure that the four key elements of ordinary life – as far as it is possible for you to acknowledge them, given what you’re going through – are in a state of equilibrium; that is to say, that none of them is being seriously neglected. Achieving a state of equilibrium will not, of its own, radically alter anything, or fill you with joy, but it will at least help you to get a clear sight of what you are up against, and what can be done to put things right. It’s simply a question of making life easy for yourself at ground level. More to the point, this simple formula is the best way to live ordinary life, trauma or no trauma.
Balanced lifestyle: making sure, as best you can, given your circumstances, that the four primary key elements of life – body soul mind spirit – are in some measure of harmony. Push yourself to achieve this, but don’t go to extremes. And if somehow you overdo it, then take a rest, and wait until you feel a natural optimism return.
Body: go for a balanced, intelligent diet, based somewhere in between what you need, and what you like. Watch your weight: do whatever it takes to keep a healthy body mass. If necessary, eat less. Sporting activity is extremely helpful: casual exercises like walking, cycling or housework are not enough; you need to find a sport which taxes your muscles, lungs and heart. You need to push yourself into an activity which leaves you breathless, so your body has something to respond to. If you are naturally lazy, given to excuses to avoid exercise, you will have to force yourself. In time, you will be angry with yourself for not having exercised sooner. Jogging, swimming, martial arts, fitness training are all good. Join a club or go to classes, if need be. Yoga and ‘gentle’ taijiquan are not enough on their own, as they don’t strengthen the lungs and muscles.
Soul: your psyche needs to be fed with psychological stimulation: art, crafts, music, films, books, plays, television, architecture, travel, socialising, discussing.
Mind [intellect]: learning, studying, thinking, trying to increase your knowledge, sharpen your intellect; go to night school, join classes; reading groups, study groups. Also, follow the news, and politics. Read newspapers and magazines. Take an interest in the world. Know who all the main public figures and celebrities are, their names and faces, and what they are all about, even if you disapprove of them. Obviously there is only so much you can take in, but try to maintain a healthy interest in everything.
Spirit: try to tackle the big questions of life: what’s it all about ? Why is it a mystery ? How could one find an answer ? How could you be sure of the answer if you found it ? and so on. Persist; don’t give up. Genuine Buddhism starts right here.
All this is really very simple and straightforward. It is square one of a modern existence, and good for life in the country, or in a city. Applicable in America, China, India, England, Brazil; pretty much anywhere that allows ordinary people a measure of individual freedom to live their own daily life.