Integrating Mind, Body, Spirit

by Stephen Sokolow

We are holistic beings living in a holistic world. Comprised of mind, body and spirit, these three aspects of our being are interconnected as part of the same whole.

A useful way of thinking about these three aspects of us as part of a unified whole is the integration of head, hand and heart. When we can align what we think with what we do and feel, we are the most powerful. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “When you work with your hands, you are a laborer. When you work with your hands and your head, you are a craftsman. If you work with your hands, your head, your heart and your soul, you are an artist.”

Artists are continually engaged in creative expression. So when we use our head, hands and heart in an integrated fashion, we can live and lead more creatively. In our work and personal lives, the goals we should pursue in depth, not only for ourselves but also for those we lead and serve, are the ones that allow us to integrate our head, hand and heart.

Network Connections

In the scientific community and among the general public a growing awareness exists of the mind/body connection. It is pretty well accepted that what we think and feel affects our body. The thoughts we formulate in our minds and the emotions we have affect our physical health and how well our bodies function.

The reverse is also true. Our physical health affects the way we think and feel. We know that exercising our bodies produces chemicals that affect our feelings and mental clarity. In the imagery being used, heart is a placeholder for spirit. Our spirit guides us through our feelings and intuition and provides us with an internal sense of right and wrong--like an internal moral compass.

A network connects our mind, body and spirit. Each component affects the other two. Our mind affects our body and spirit. Our body affects our mind and spirit. Our spirit affects our mind and body. If we change our thinking, our actions and feelings will be affected. If we change what we do (our actions), our thinking and feelings will be affected. If we change our feelings, our thinking and actions will be affected.

Hokey Pokey

Depending on your age, you may remember a circle dance called the Hokey Pokey in which everyone stands around in a circle and at different stages of the dance you are asked to put different parts of your body in the circle: left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot, left shoulder, right shoulder, head and finally your whole body. The goal is to get your whole self in the circle and “shake it all about.”

In terms of mind, body, spirit integration, when we get all three in the circle, we are functioning holistically. Our mind is in the circle when we have an intention as to what we want to do. Our body is in the circle when we act with skill to carry out our intention. It encompasses how we go about achieving our intention.

Our Spirit is in the circle when it tells us whether what we are doing is right by looking at why we are doing it and letting us know if our motivation is aligned with our internal moral compass. When all three are brought to bear, our power increases, our wisdom increases and our effectiveness as leaders increases.