For as long as there have been people around to think about this stuff, human beings have tried to give names to the different aspects to our existence. We know that we have a body, but somehow there’s more to it than that. Maybe there’s this concept of a mind within the brain, but somehow also outside it. But what about the part that somehow transcends even that – to some, it feels like it’s communing with something greater. Spirit? But that’s different from a soul, and what about consciousness? Id? Ego? How many other parts of us are there that we can’t see? Aargh!
All these words can help us to make sense of the various facets of who we are. But one side effect of breaking ourselves up into all these pieces is that it makes us think of them as being somehow separate, as if they exist on their own. So we start to think of improving our minds, for example, but as something entirely disconnected from our bodies or souls, as if we can do this in isolation, and it’s not affected by what we do to our bodies.
The truth is a little more complicated than that. Of course, some of these ideas are abstract, you can’t really show me where my soul lives or prove to me that I have one, so that complicates things. But just as our bodies are made up of many parts, and they all affect each other, so too these aspects of us are all linked together into one coherent whole person.
So in some ways you’re a body, a mind, a self, soul, spirit… but they’re all you. These are not isolated ‘parts’ of you, in the same way that a runner can’t ignore their stomach or their eyes or their back and just strengthen their legs. If you try to do that, the rest of your body will start to fail and your legs will follow.
You have to hold all the parts of yourself in a balance. Don’t develop your mind and neglect your health. Don’t shape your body but leave out your brain.
You’ll actually find that:
…exercise helps brain function…
…meditation and spirituality help your mood, which helps your motivation, which makes everything you’re trying to do better…
…people make crappy decisions when they’re hungry (worryingly, this has been shown to include parole judges, who release more people just after a meal and get more irritable and deny parole when they’ve not eaten fo a while)…
… even the most rational people actually respond to facts emotionally, analysing the situation and then deciding how they feel about the analysis.
So you need to take care of all the parts of you. You are the only ‘you’ there is, and you can’t get a new one.