“For life is more than food, and the body than clothing”
Gospel according to Luke chapter 12, verse 23
“Wellness” is an active process through which people understand and choose a better way of life; as a concept, it combines in itself the idea of a healthy lifestyle (such as food and movement culture) with the idea of the physical, mental and emotional development of the personality, to build internal harmony and harmony with others. This implies knowledge and insight (or at least the desire to learn) into the richness of the inner world – emotional, spiritual – of the individual and of the social environment and above all the development of self-awareness, maturity of perceptions and emotions.
a conscious, organized and stimulating process for the personality to reveal its potential, to achieve intellectual and mental balance;
a multi-layered, comprehensive lifestyle that is positive and affirming;
harmonious interaction with the environment (biological and social).
Bill Hettler, co-founder and president of the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute (USA) developed the model of the six dimensions of wellness, one of which is spiritual wellness.
This dimension is related to the search for meaning and purpose of human existence. It develops a sense and appreciation of the depth and comprehensiveness of life and natural forces that exist in the universe. As you walk the path, you may experience feelings of doubt, despair, fear, disappointment and loss, as well as pleasure, joy, happiness, discovery – these are important experiences and elements of the quest. They will span the poles of your value system, which will constantly adapt and change to give meaning to existence. You will know that you are achieving mental balance when your actions become closer to your beliefs and values and you begin to build a new worldview.
In an interview with the Interfax-Religia agency (October 17, 2006), the following criticism was made regarding the unfair attacks of some officials from the European Union regarding traditional Christian denominations. “Over the past ten years, the European Parliament has condemned the Orthodox and Catholic Churches more than thirty times for human rights violations and never once brought similar accusations against such countries as, for example, China and Cuba,” said the Vice-President of the European Parliament Mario Mauro during the international conference “Europe at a turning point: a clash of two civilizations or a new dialogue?”.
According to him, the main reason for such accusations and similar decisions of the European authorities is in fact “the conviction of many that it is necessary to build Europe without the participation of religion, that we must adhere to such a strategy in order to resist fundamentalism”. “They confuse fundamentalism and religion. We stand against fundamentalism, but we must support religion, because religion is the dimension of man”, – noted the vice-president of the European Parliament. Opponents of the Church’s participation in European public life, in his words, thanks to their positions, can become “sources of destruction of the project for a united Europe”. During his speech at the conference, Mario Mauro also stated that one of the great threats of modern Europe is moral relativism, when “in some countries there is an attempt to build a society without God, but this provokes serious problems”. “The non-believing Europe will sooner or later disappear, it will dissolve,” the European MP expressed confidence. In modern society, human life and honor are devalued, the seven deadly sins are everywhere accepted as welcome guests. The material poverty of the masses is undoubtedly a grave evil in life. There is, however, a much more dire poverty. It is the mental poverty of a large part of people, their spiritual poverty, the poverty of conscience, the emptiness of the heart.
The commandment of Christ is not only an ethical norm, but it is in itself eternal divine life. The natural man does not have this life in his created (material) being, and therefore fulfills the will of God, that is, to live according to the commandment of God, man cannot by his own strength; but it is his nature to aspire to God, to the blessed eternal life. The aspirations of the natural man would remain only aspirations without the possibility of real realization, if the Divine power was not there – grace, which in itself is precisely what is sought, that is, the eternal divine life. The only thing that is necessary is to listen to the voice of conscience and duty – to the voice of the command of God, and to go on the path that leads to piety and charity, in order to resurrect humanity in man.
“Through the Holy Spirit we know the Lord, and the Holy Spirit resides in every person: both in the mind, and in the soul, and in the body. This is how we know God both in heaven and on earth” – with these words of Venerable Silouan of Atonsky, we can begin the study of the question of the relationship between a healthy spirit and a healthy body, which is also the main task of the wellness philosophy. Even the Old Testament writer Tobias clearly reveals that disease is associated with disease-causing spirits – demons in people’s bodies.
Human nature, through the energies peculiar to it, reveals to us the personality of the individual and makes it accessible to others and to God, which means the uniqueness of personal experience either through the revelation of mystical experience or through union in love. Through this contact with God’s energy, the image of Christ is imprinted on the human person, which leads us to the knowledge of God and makes us partakers of the “divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), manifesting our hypostasis through union with Christ. Experts from the scientific center in Colorado, who for the first time restored the volumetric figure of Christ from the image printed on the Shroud of Turin, describe to us the earthly appearance of Jesus Christ: height 182 cm, weight 79.4 kg. Based on the print and with the help of the latest computer technology, American scientists calculated all the parameters of Christ’s body and made a plaster model of it. It can be considered the most accurate recreation of the figure and face of Jesus. Christ was a tall and large man. According to the calculations of specialists, His height was 182 centimeters, and the weight did not exceed 79.4 kilograms. He was a full head taller than his contemporaries. When Jesus walked among His disciples, people could see Him from afar. And even the seated Christ was taller than the rest (quoted from Svetlana Makunina, “The scientists restored the image of the Savior”, Life). It behooves the Spirit of God to dwell in a healthy body, or rather, a healthy spirit in man presupposes bodily health. There are not a few cases when we observe a symbiosis between a healthy spirit in a weak body, when the spirit helps bear the physical infirmities. In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky states: “wide, infinitely wide is a man: he can fall to the abyss of Sodom and Gomorrah. And it can rise to the heights of the Sistine Madonna.” When one lives with evil for evil’s sake, a person is a moral zero, a source of moral poison, a great spiritual minus, a spiritual invalid. Jesus Christ does not consider a single soul lost, because he knows how difficult it is to fully heal spiritually, so that a person can become a living spark of the Divine plan, an aroma of the best colors of humanity. So there are also people with a high moral temperature, with selfless idealism and well-deserved comfort in life. To weed the weeds is necessary, but it is much more necessary to sow good seed. We are personal beings created by God Himself, and what He has given us should not be seen as static gifts. We have the true freedom to be different. Our behavior can change. Our character can be further developed. Our beliefs may mature. Our gifts can be cultivated.
“God fills the person completely – mind, heart and body. The knower, man, and the Knowable, God, merge into one. Neither the One nor the Other becomes an “object” as a result of their merger”. The nature of the relationship between God and man excludes objectification and is existential in its essence, denoting the personal presence of God in man and man in God. A person is horrified by his impurity and corruption, but the thirst he experiences for forgiveness-reconciliation with God is “something difficult to explain to the uninitiated” and no matter how intense the suffering, it is also characterized by the joy of God’s call and the glow of the new life. His experience in other spheres – artistic inspiration, philosophical contemplation, scientific knowledge “always and inevitably of a relative nature”, and also the experience of the deceptive light of the “spirits of malice” allow him to say that his return to the true Light is the return of the “prodigal son”, who received new knowledge about man and being in a distant country, but did not find the Truth there.
The term “Orthodox psychotherapy” was introduced by Bishop Hierotei Vlahos. In his book “Illness and Healing of the Soul” he examines Orthodoxy as a therapeutic method in detail. This term does not refer to individual cases of people who suffer from psychological problems or neurosis. According to Orthodox tradition, after the fall of Adam, man is sick, his reason (nous) is darkened and he has lost his relationship with God. Death enters human existence and causes numerous anthropological, social, even ecological problems. In this tragedy, fallen man retains God’s image within himself, but completely loses his likeness to Him, as his relationship with God is severed. This movement from a state of fall to a state of deification is called healing because it is related to her return from a state of dwelling against nature to a state of living in and above nature. By adhering to Orthodox treatment and practice, as revealed to us by the Holy Fathers, man can successfully deal with his thoughts and passions. While psychiatry and neurology are called upon to treat pathological abnormalities, Orthodox theology treats the deeper cases that cause them. Orthodox psychotherapy will be more useful for those who want to solve their existential problems; for those who have realized that their reason is darkened, and to this end they must free themselves from the tyranny of their passions and thoughts, in order to attain the enlightenment of their minds in communion with God.
All this treatment and healing or psychotherapy is closely related to the contemplative tradition of the Church and to its hesychastic life and is preserved in the texts of “Kindness”, in the writings of the holy fathers of the Church and primarily in the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. Certainly no one can ignore the fact that the contemplative and hesychastic life is the same life that can be seen in the lives of the prophets and the apostles, as accurately described in the texts of Holy Scripture. From this it is clear that the contemplative life is actually the evangelical life that existed in the Western world before it was replaced by scholastic theology. Even modern scientists in the West note this fact. The human spirit seeks completeness and wholeness, inner peace and tranquility. In the chaos and pain of the modern world, we must find this healing way and live as the holy fathers of the Church recommend us. Certainly the Holy Fathers predate modern psychologists and psychiatrists. One sees one’s physical flaws in the mirror, and one’s own spiritual vices in one’s neighbor. If a person sees a vice in his neighbor, then this vice is also in himself. We look at ourselves in it as in a mirror. If the face of the beholder is clean, the mirror is also clean. The mirror in itself will neither stain us nor cleanse us, but only provides us with the opportunity to look at ourselves through the eyes of others.
Modern man, tired and discouraged by the multitude of problems that torment him, seeks rest and harbor. Most importantly, he seeks a cure for his soul from the permanent “mental depression” in which he lives. To explain the reason, many explanations given by psychiatrists can be found in circulation nowadays. Psychotherapy in particular is widespread. While before all these things were almost unknown, now they are a common occurrence and many people turn to psychotherapists to find solace and comfort, which again shows us that modern man feels he needs healing for various mental and physical ailments. The Orthodox Church is the hospital where every sick and depressed person can be healed.
According to Henri Bergson in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, the world is God’s enterprise of creating creators so that they may be assimilated to His being, worthy of His love. Besides blessing and glorifying God for the world, man is also capable of reshaping and changing the world, as well as giving it new meaning. In the words of Father Dimitru Staniloe, “Man puts the stamp of his understanding and intelligent work on creation… The world is not only a gift, but also a task for man.” Our calling is to cooperate with God. According to the expression of app. Paul, we are God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:9). Man is not only a thinking and Eucharistic (grateful) animal, he is also a creative animal. The fact that man is created in God’s image means that he is also a creator in God’s image. Man fulfills this creative role not through brute force, but through the purity of his spiritual vision; his vocation is not to dominate nature by brute force, but to transform and sanctify it. Blessed Augustine and Thomas Aquinas also advocated that every soul possesses the natural ability to receive grace. Precisely because she is created in the image of God, she is able to receive God through grace. As Albert Einstein rightly observed, “The real problem lies in the hearts and minds of men. This is not a problem of physics, but of ethics. It is easier to purify plutonium than the evil spirit of man.”
In various ways – through the processing of the cast, through his master’s skills, through the writing of books, through the painting of icons – man gives voice to material things and makes creation capable of speaking for the glory of God. It is significant that the first task of the newly created Adam was to name the animals (Gen. 2:18-20). Naming itself is a creative act: until we have found a name for a known object or experience—an indispensable word indicating its essential character—we cannot begin to understand and use it. It is also significant that when we offer the fruits of the earth back to God in the liturgy, we do not offer them in their original form, but transformed by human hands: we offer to the altar not ears of wheat, but pieces of bread, and not grapes, but wine.
Thus, by his power to give thanks and offer creation back to God, man is the priest of creation; and by his power to form and give form, to connect and separate, is the king of creation. This hierarchical and sovereign role of man is beautifully expressed by St. Leontius of Cyprus: “Through the heavens, the earth and the sea, through the wood and the stone, through all creation, visible and invisible, I offer homage, I worship the Creator, the Lord and the Creator of all ; for the creation does not worship its Creator directly and through itself, but through me the heavens proclaim the glory of God and through me the moon honors God, through me the stars glorify Him, through me the waters, the raindrops, the dew and all created things honor God and His bestows glory.
Source: “Wellness for all”, comp. Gramatikov, Petar, Petar Neychev. Ed. Business Agency (ISBN 978-954-9392-27-7), Plovdiv, 2009, pp. 71-82 (in Bulgarian).