Monday, March 15, 2021
An Update from Campus Ministry
A Diversity@Bard Newsletter UpdateWhen we talk about health we often talk about physical, mental, and spiritual health, but what does spiritual health actually mean? What’s more, how can we identify what a spiritually healthy person looks like, and what tools and practices can we use to become healthier? One way to think of spiritual health is as a measure of our relationship to the existential questions of life—what are we doing here, what is our purpose, and how do we deal with the fact that everything we know and love will one day pass away?
From the Desk of Chaplain Antonio Gansley-Ortiz:
These aren’t new questions, in fact, people have been trying to answer them for all of written human history, and probably before that too. Our collective pondering of these questions has given rise to religion, philosophy, and ethics; thousands of years of culturally dependent answers to these fundamentally human questions.
So, what does a spiritually healthy person look like? If we think of spiritual health as the measure of our relationship to these questions, then the spiritually healthy person is someone for whom these questions don’t provoke deep anxiety. Importantly, this is different from having answers to these questions. It is because we don’t have a single authoritative answer that we ask the questions. Similarly, a spiritually healthy person is not someone who never feels doubt. Doubt is a prime motivator for greater depths of investigation, it can be a useful guide in our search for meaning, and it acts as a check against our own arrogance. The spiritually healthy person is someone who can approach these difficult questions with an open mind, with all of their doubts, and not be afraid of finding answers which may make them uncomfortable, or perhaps not finding answers at all.
So what practices are important in developing spiritual health? There are of course as many practices as there are people who have ever lived; they range from meditation and prayer to reading or art. For me, the most important one is storytelling. Telling stories is one way in which we rationalize the world unto ourselves. We draw from our lived experiences, and then put them in a particular order to convey a message which is important to us. Maybe it's about what we ate today and how difficult it was dealing with the person not wearing a mask behind us in line, or it’s a fictional morality tale which imparts some form of ethical wisdom. Large and small, simple and complex, stories are a fundamentally interpretive act, and the object of interpretation is life itself. Stories also connect us, because we can only be human in connection with each other. They allow people to know us, and when the story is personal, they allow people to hold us and witness the fullness of our humanity.
From the Desk of Chaplain JaQuan Beachem ’17:
Spiritual health is an embodied practice of mindfulness. It is an invitation. An invitation to reflect, of getting to know. It is an invitation of getting to know: getting to know oneself, one’s neighbor (be it family, friend, or stranger), and one’s surroundings. Spiritual health is a daily (monthly, or whenever-one-remembers-ly) devotion to discovering groundedness—in times of trial and triumph, times of lament and laughter alike. This practice can seem daunting or inane from time to time and that is OK. It is a necessary part of the human condition and most things that are new to us appear that way at first.
If one is new to engaging in this way, it may be helpful to think of spiritual wellness as a practice of checking in. Checking in with one’s body, mind, and environment. One can use their breath, freewriting, or physical activity such as a stroll or series of yoga poses. It is crucial to identify how one moves through space, where one may be holding tension or breath. This attention to the energies within, around, and beyond oneself allow for deeper grounding and discovery.
This practice is a challenging one and takes time. Fortunately, there are an infinite number of ways to practice spiritual mindfulness. Furthermore, the individual gets to choose their own adventure and path to spiritual wellness. Fortunately, one does not have to engage in spiritual health alone. Each of the practices shared here can be done alone or in small groups, processed internally, or shared outwardly with one’s community.
Taking the time to hold space for yourself allows you to receive all that you need. The practice can serve as a reminder that you do not have to move through life alone, as well as that all that you need may already be on its way to you. Dare to listen: to your body, new perspectives, and experiences as you discover your balance or homeostasis for spiritual health. With all that is going on around us all the time, one owes it to themselves to pause, breathe, and repeat.
The role of the chaplain is to bear witness and hold these stories, to create a space for the storyteller to investigate their story for its meaning, and to see the storyteller in their fullness.
As Bard chaplain interns, we are here to aid in how to make this engagement of spiritual health your own, affirm your experience, and stretch your capacity to notice and wonder. Outside of virtual one-on-one and small group gatherings, our office is here to support you in your mindfulness via events and programming this spring.
How Do We Live with Grief?
WHO? The Chaplaincy of Bard College and Dr. Kahan Sablo
WHEN? March 31, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. EDT (via Zoom)
Event Description: How do we live with grief? While this question may seem especially relevant during these trying times, it is by no means a new one. For thousands of years human beings have developed culturally and religiously specific traditions and practices to try to answer this question, and to provide care and support for their communities. Join us for an hour-long Zoom discussion as our panelists discuss how their respective cultural and religious traditions make sense out of grief, and what specific practices they have developed to process and overcome it.
For more information, call 845-758-6822.