“Glory of God is man fully alive”– Ireneus
A joyful, committed missionary life requires the physical intelligence whereby the intelligence of the body is recruited to support our missionary commitment. Often unbalanced zeal and workaholic tendencies under the guise of passion for the mission ruin both the missionary himself and the cause for which he has given up everything. Both physical indulgence in over eating or drinking as well as total neglect of one’s health are signs of alienation from our close collaborator and friend in living our vocation: our body.
Physical intelligence is not about what we should eat or not eat, what kind of drinks are healthy or toxic, what diet we need to follow or the doctors we should consult
It is about how we treat ourselves and how we live and celebrate our vocation in our body-mind-soul unity.
Physical intelligence is the ability to listen to the subtle signals our body gives us, then respond wisely. Our own bodies are good at telling us what they need, from one moment to the next, and over the course of a lifetime. Our bodies want to collaborate actively to fulfill our mission in life.
When we listen carefully, our bodies reward us by feeling good, by behaving well, by taking us to places we want to go, pain-free. How does the body tell us what it needs? Often, it speaks in whispers: stiff neck, sneezing, pain, discomfort, weight gain or loss.
Physical intelligence requires that we not only be on the lookout for times when the body is telling us that something is amiss, but also for times when the body is rewarding us with vitality and support for our work, for respecting and confiding it. Indeed the vitality of a healthy body engaged in the service of the gospel provide those subtle joys that the habit of over eating and sickly drinking never let us know.
If we are consumed by activism, we tend to tune out of our body’s pleas for attention. A busy person is likely to ignore lower-back stiffness during his work and then sleep poorly and take stronger medications to silence the pain. He might ignore the stiffness for months, then “all of a sudden” suffer from debilitating back pain.
At that point, the back will be impossible to ignore. The body will have “won” the bargain by forcing the person to take time out and go for treatment. But by paying attention earlier — even by simply standing and stretching now and then — he might have prevented the problem in the first place.
Here are a few guidelines for developing physical intelligence:
1. Awareness: What is your body saying? It’s trickier than it sounds. When your knee hurts, is it okay to keep running or not? When you’re hungry, are you hungry for food or affection? Note the physical sensations, then employ emotional and intellectual intelligence before deciding what, if any, action to take.
2. Respect the body and know its language. Your body is your closest friend and life long companion. Treat your body with the respect due to a trusted friend. Take up your engagements in consultation with your body. You may do much more than what you are currently doing, if you know how to engage your body into your mission rather than bullying it.
3. Help your body to be at its best in its respective stage of life. It is one thing physically to be at 20 years of age and yet another thing to be at 60. Physical intelligence also involves knowing the limits of your body and supply what it cannot detect on its own. On your own you will not know the level of your cholesterol nor the early symptoms of cancer. That is why you will need to do the routine check up and periodical revision of your health situation (sugar, cholesterol, prostrate exams etc.) in a professional way.
4. Humility and love to live moments of illness with quality. There is another equally important aspect of physical intelligence which is often overlooked. Your body is limited and will eventually collapse. Your body is susceptible to sickness, disease, breakdown and accidents. Physical intelligence illumined by spiritual intelligence will enable you to live any inevitable disease or physical damage and embrace eventual death with deep meaning and love that marks a higher level of existence.
Your relationship with your body is an important relationship to count on in fulfilling your life’s purpose. If you refuse to listen when your body speaks, the resulting poor health, poor body image, lethargy and discomfort will interfere with every other relationship and the responsibility you are trusted with. Your physical collapse then is neither glorify God nor do good to others.
Prepared by Fr. Mathew cmf