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Spirituality and Health

Sprituality and religion have a positive effect on mental health. In this blogpost, Peter Sexton discusses interiority and spirit

Interiority and Spirit - Blogpost by Fr. Peter Sexton

Spirit is the realm of our deepest identity, our values, the sense of our own and others’ dignity, our search for truth, our moral integrity with sense of right and wrong; it concerns our trustworthiness, what gives meaning and motivation to our living, and, above all, it denotes our capacity to give and receive authentic love. Spirit is also, of course the realm of the intrinsic human capacity to search for and experience the transcendent-  a fundamental horizon of the complete human being.

With these qualities  we can become the fully rounded people Trinity aspires to have helped educate in its graduating students. Contemporary culture, including the culture of universities, is rightly sensitive to issues of physical and mental health while students pursue academic goals. That culture and the ‘continuous partial attention’ which can often characterise it is apt to be less sympathetic to the deeper spiritual qualities referred to and the scope for interiority, silence and solitude which students need for their nurture and their grounding.

The writer Karen Armstrong speaks of how in our complex world, ‘we need to counter the culture of the soundbite and the instant opinion, and teach ... that some truths are not instantly accessible.  The assessment of students should test their powers of reflection and their appreciation of complexity as well as their factual and technical skills’.

Armstrong goes on to speak of the fundamental importance of our contemplative faculties : ‘  Not only are certain kinds of thinking impossible at top speed, they also require solitude and silence, which are difficult to achieve in a world where, to quote Philip Larkin, “all virtue is social” and where people increasingly find it hard to take a country walk without a mobile phone.’

Simone Weil claimed that ‘attention’ was the very heart of education.  In our era of ‘continuous partial attention’ one could hardly overemphasise the importance of interiority. American educationalist Parker Palmer has written :”At its deepest reaches, education gave me an identity as a knower.  It answered the question ‘Who am I’? by saying ‘You are one who knows.’”
The realm of the spiritual, the interior, invites us to hold our deepest knowing in the place of our deepest selves, thus helping us be whole functioning, thinking, feeling and acting human beings.