Most of us were taught from Kindergarten onward to take good care of our bodies: eat healthily, exercise, sleep eight hours. And we were encouraged to cultivate the mind: read books, study hard, explore nature and the arts. But these two wise paths did not necessarily intersect.
Keeping mind and body separate was likely reinforced by the church. Faith was thought of as an intellectual exercise. Learn about Jesus, accept that truth and practice those moral teachings. The earliest Christian theologians adopted the Greek notions of science and philosophy which presumed that the body was separate from the mind.
But science has advanced over the centuries. The discoveries of quantum physics ended the separation of mind and matter. In her book Making All Things New the theologian and scientist Ilia Delio applies the latest scientific research to our faith in God. She advances a view of Christianity that is based on integrating our mind/body instead of picturing them as separate. She looks at brain science, evolution and the Big Bang to help us see a coherent wholeness to all of life. She suggests that our minds and bodies are in an ongoing dialogue with each other, the natural world and the spiritual realm are not separate silos.
“Relationship is the basis of all that is. Our world comes about through a mutually creative dialogue between mind and body, between the individual and the individual’s personal and material context, and between human culture and the natural world.”
Delio’s thoughts prompt me to wonder about how we might better practice this wholeness. Why do we have a tendency to take care of our physical health but neglect our emotional health? We would never consider not going to a doctor to heal a broken arm but we often stubbornly resist tending to our broken hearts by refusing to reach out to a counselor for the tools to heal the soul. Similarly, we sometimes focus on our exercise regime: body mass index, running times, LDL and HDL levels, but we neglect our spiritual disciplines of community service, corporate worship and meditation.
The psalmist sang in the Bible, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” It seems to me that science can open us up to see the world and the creative energy of God in our midst with new eyes and deepen our engagement with the world in all its fullness and splendor.
Grace and Peace,