HEART, SOUL, MIND, & STRENGTH
by Nick Steffen, LMHC, Pastoral & Clinical Counselor
In the gospels, Jesus recalls the book of Deuteronomy when asked what the greatest command is. He instructs us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. While the conceptual understandings of these words may have shifted over time and we may not be certain about their precise meanings, the text is clearly reminding us that each part of who we are is to find its purpose and meaning in serving the Lord.
There are two implications of this command that I would like to draw particular attention to. The first is that we are complex beings, ourselves composed of multiple parts. Secondly, Jesus asks us to draw each of these parts together in order to love God more fully.
The first implication may seem obvious. When asked who we are, it can be challenging pointing to just one thing. Our bodies, our minds, and relationships all have something to do with who we are, such that subtracting any one of them would leave us the lesser.
FITTING TOGETHER THE WHOLE
We generally have an easier time understanding how to love God with our strength and our thoughts, but struggle to see how we can love God with the other aspects of ourselves. But much like a choir, each voice has its own important part to play in the whole. Some voices can be hard to listen to and may need more attention to foster their voice. Others are so strong they may seem to drown out the rest. In order to help integrate them together, we want to begin by allowing each distinctive aspect to speak on its own before drawing them together. The first act of love is our directing our attention to something. This allows us to deepen our understanding and connection to another.
DIRECTING OUR ATTENTION
So often, our spiritual lives may feel dry and disconnected. Recognizing how easily we allow our practices to grow rigid in their attention to traditional forms (e.g. thinking that the only way to connect with God is through Bible study), I often encourage my clients to take a more holistic view. To this end, I have used a reflective practice that I borrowed from Dr. Daniel Siegel. This practice involves directing your attention to each aspect of your experience, including fostering focused attention on different parts of your body, open awareness toward your mental activities (e.g. thoughts, emotions, wishes, dreams, etc…), and compassion in our relationships. I would encourage you to give it a try.
Use this chart as we walk through a 20 minute “Wheel of Awareness” together, to center our bodies, pray and become more aware.