What comes to mind when you hear the word spirit? An energy or force? The life within someone or something?
Would you describe spirit as a ‘spark’, ‘zest’ or ‘fire’? Or do you see “spirit” as something even more ambiguous, an essence or an aura, sometimes linked to soul or life source, or even a life force, a ‘non-physical’ part of our humanity?
Whatever we understand ‘spirit’ to be, it could be argued that our spirit somewhat defines our character, somehow our spirit is who we are or maybe how we’re received by the world. We talk of children being spirited when they have a lot of energy and opinion! We describe people who live life a little on the edge of normal as free spirits. We talk about events or experiences that ‘lift our spirits’ and we talk of our ‘spirits being dampened’.
What is it though that affects our spirit? What causes us to be in “good spirits” and what causes us to feel ‘poor in spirit’?
Often our spirits are high when life is going as we intend; the job, the relationship, the children, all as we hoped it would be, or near enough. We almost don’t give much thought to the state of our spirit while we take for granted that life is good.
We seem to become more aware of the state our spirit is in when we lack the energy that usually sustains us. We might try to find enough distractions to boost our spirit but often the insane, incessant pace of life or the everyday, consistent demands on us can leave us feeling as though we’ve reached the end of our resources.
So how do we restore our spirit when it’s lacking the zest we’d like to have?
Maybe there’s something about recognising that the aim of life isn’t to always be ‘in high spirits’, that our ultimate goal isn’t to be consistently happy. What if a healthier aim is to be more connected to our spirit, more aware of what causes our spirit to soar and what causes it to feel lost and low? What if it’s more important to understand ourselves, to know what influences us than it is to try to force ourselves into feeling good? What if a little more self awareness allows us to respond rather than react to a situation? Which in turn helps us to be more the people we’d like to be, more consistent and real? What if being aware of what causes our spirits to fail and falter allows us to tread more lightly around certain circumstances or people? What if by treading more carefully we find we’re not so entrapped or entwined with events or individuals that cause our spirits to become low? What if that level of awareness means that even when spirits are low, we’re more able to journey through the moment, however long it lasts, learn from it and keep moving forwards?
All good thoughts, right, but what if there’s something more? What if “spirit” isn’t as individual a concept as we perhaps think? We often talk of community spirit, or the spirit of a company or team, as though it’s the ethos or the energy that drives a group of people. As individuals we can find that, while we may not be in a good place emotionally, mentally or even spiritually, when we’re with others, part of a collective, a group who together create community, our sense of spirit does thrive. When we find our spirits are connected to others we find that they are also lifted because of that connection, because of a sense of belonging. What if this has huge implications for how we choose to live. What if our spirit is most alive when in relationship with others, however that relationship is defined, whether its love, a ‘dance’ of conversation or experiences or a more intellectual sense of knowing? What if identity and purpose, our sense of who we are and why we’re here makes more sense when found in relation, association or attachment to others?
Which really does raise the question of whether our spiritual wellbeing thrives when we are part of something beyond or more than ourselves? Does our mental health benefit when we find a place to belong, or when we connect into community and find places that we are listened to and understood, places we can contribute to, give back to or just simply be known? What if finding those places and recognising what they offer and what we can offer to them, is what really makes our spirits sing and community spirit thrive.