It is truly a wonder that we human beings have what are called VITAL HUMAN STRENGTHS. These are innate capacities which we have and are able to mobilize in the pursuit of our life as we try to give meaning and purpose to our lives in accord with our chosen values and way of life. Just as there is a logical network of laws and principles at work in the physical or tangible universe; so there is a similar logical network of laws and principles at work in the spiritual or intangible realm, which is also called the Kingdom of God.
One agency which offers formation in the "Actualization of our Vital Human Strengths" is IFHIM - the Institut de Formation Humaine Intégrale de Montréal - which you can tell by its title operates mostly in French. However they have at times in the past offered formation in English.
We human beings, in accord with this perspective on human existence, have six "vital human strengths", which are so many abilities:
Ability to choose and accomplish one goal at a time = Self-esteem.
Ability to choose effective means and renounce others = Self-confidence.
Ability to take sufficient time and live past and future time freely = Hope.
Ability to repeat accomplishments, learn from mistakes, and improve = Competence.
Ability to consistently overcome obstacles and accomplish one's goal = Fidelity.
Ability to persevere in developing all these abilities to accomplish the goals one chooses to freely give meaning and purpose to one's life = Love of self.
© Dr. Jeannine Guindon, IFHIM, 55 Gouin Ouest, Montréal, Québec, H3L 1H9 Canada 514-331-6861
TRY IT AND SEE FOR YOURSELF - CHOOSING A GOAL
Dear Reader, if you are interested and would like to investigate this perspective on human vitality, then I'd like you to freely choose to do a physical activity, a gratuitous physical activity such as a walk or exercise session at home or at a gym, or a swim... the purpose of which would be to freely choose to give yourself a GRATUITOUS GOAL: to change your mood for the better or to dispel tension you might be feeling. Depending on your condition, there may be some discomfort or even pain involved in setting your whole body into motion, but whatever resistance you may experience, you have within you a capacity to forge ahead in the pursuit of this good goal of feeling better.
It is to be expected that at some point during the physical activity that you will have some enjoyment, fun, satisfaction, good sensations, or simple gladness to be alive. Little pleasures are good as acknowledged by Jesus when He walked this Earth. If this visceral experience of goodness is not evident the first time, it will come, because such goodness has been built into us by our Creator. Even severely handicapped people come to experience satisfaction as they do something to be active and care for themselves.
Now it is important that you personally want to do it, perhaps because I ask it, but actually for the purpose I suggest, namely, to choose to do a physical activity so that by means of it you might come to feel better, even if only a little better. The best means would often be one that is most readily accessible: closest to hand, least expensive, one that would not involve too many obstacles or generate the least distractions along the way. This is because the sole purpose is to allow yourself to hopefully feel better.
Now this is a simple thing to do - to want to feel better and to do something in order to achieve this goal of feeling better. It is a simple thing to give oneself a gratuitous walk or other physical activity. The purpose of your chosen physical activity will be to get the whole body in motion, a continuous motion of your whole body, because God our Creator designed the human body for motion, and during sustained motion of the whole body, our whole living organism goes through a process that could be called "RESET" by which the diverse parts of us converge and coalesce in a kind of "hum" to restore proper functioning of the whole in equilibrium and harmony.
However, we human beings are not entirely simple and we live on simultaneous levels of complexity, or to put it differently, we observe at times very complex movements unfolding simultaneously within us in our body, mind, heart, psyche, and soul. For the simple reason of our human complexity, and in order to help you experience the wonder of a gratuitous physical activity, I offer you the following suggestions or instructions or "mini course". Please receive these instructions in the spirit with which I offer them, that is, simply to help you enter into these helpful dispositions no matter what may happen within you in the course of your freely chosen physical activity the purpose of which is simply to feel better as a result of doing it. Don't let yourself get caught up or worry or be afraid. Simply notice these instructions now and take them in, and trust yourself to remember enough of them to do you good as you pursue your goal and accomplish it.
CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE MEANS TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOAL
So the activity will be your chosen MEANS to obtain this good outcome for yourself: to feel better. God is not cruel but good and the Holy Trinity very much want all human beings to experience the goodness of life and to feel well and grateful to be alive as much as possible at any given moment. This is a universal truth and principle, and a major corollary is that in times of trouble, God wants us to face and handle the trouble - with divine help - to endure the trouble as long as it lasts and with as much serenity as possible, and to get over the trouble as soon as possible so as to return to a state of goodness in love, peace and joy in God. Why? So that we may be free to give meaning and purpose to our lives in accord with the universal transcendental principles put in place in the universe by the Creator: truth, goodness, and beauty.
To accomplish any goal, we need to give ourselves the proper means. This requires that we choose one means out of many possibilities and, in choosing this particular means, we must necessarily renounce any other possible means. In order to choose one means, one way to achieve your goal by engaging in this particular physical activity, you will need to renounce other possible means and be free to invest in this chosen one. It will be a gratuitous physical activity in that you will not accumulate any other ends to the activity: no mailing of letters or picking up of groceries or any other practical thing or conversations with anyone along the way.
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES ALONG THE WAY
It is truly a wonder that we human beings have an innate capacity to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of our goals. If someone greets or engages you in any way, you may gently acknowledge them but not slow down or stop your activity, perhaps thanking them but letting them go with a "See you later" or "have to let you go" or other such "goodbye phrase". This physical activity will be for your good alone and for your good only. In your value and dignity as a human being created in the image and likeness of God, you have the right to keep your own company and to put others off entirely or until another time. You have the right to defer to another time any obligations you may have to others whether they like this or not. Their reactions are their own and you are not responsible for them.
GIVING YOURSELF THE APPROPRIATE TIME
Having chosen a particular physical activity to get your whole body into sustained motion, you then will need to chose an appropriate TIME and also to allot yourself "sufficient time" in order to accomplish your chosen goal, which is to change your mood and to feel better. This also means letting go of any thoughts that may come to you about past time, for the past has passed and you can no longer do anything to change it. In order to be fully available to yourself in the present moment for this physical activity it is important that you leave all the past behind in order to be fully in the present. Similarly, it is important that you simply let go of any thoughts or considerations about future time - the near future or the far future or any future - that may at any moment come to you. Notice such thoughts and let them go... return to walking or.... Notice... let it go... keep walking... breathing....
The human mind and imagination and memory are busy faculties that can generate considerable activity... please resist any dark temptation to berate yourself or judge yourself or be harsh to yourself over any such thoughts about the past or the future... you are only human and such thoughts naturally come in due course until the day we die. That you may have such thoughts is no big deal... I only ask that, if and when such thoughts that are not about the present might come to you, that you simply acknowledge them - just notice them - and immediately put them aside, let them go, refocus on the present and your physical activity which you continue to freely choose to do because you would like to feel better. These and any other "distractions" that may "flow" within you are merely functions of being a living human being, and the wonder of it is that we all have within us an amazing capacity to "manage" all this "traffic" within us and allow much of it to gently "slip into the background" by acknowledging it and gently letting it go by refocusing our whole attention on our present freely chosen activity, this walk or... whatever it is. This is actually much easier to do when I allow myself to enjoy my walk or other physical activity.
IMPROVING TOWARDS COMPETENCE and PERSEVERING TOWARDS APPROPRIATE LOVE OF SELF
Overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of our goals is a human vital strength which brings profound satisfaction the more we exercise this function and actually overcome obstacles and go on pursuing our goals or, in this case, our singular goal.
So, to the extent possible for you, all I need to add is ENJOY, HAVE FUN, no matter what "dark thoughts" may come within you or cause resistance in giving yourself permission to do this, or to even think of feeling better.... If nothing else works, then please trust me, and just decide to do it for your own good.
Reader, if you wish, you can invite someone to freely to engage in a similar exercise for themselves, for their own good. Of course, if you do, then this would add a dimension of solidarity for you with each other, but your motivation would be to do it for your own good first of all, to change your mood and / or to feel better, such as to feel better after feeling stressed or emotional in any other way or agitated or worried, etc. It may be too distracting initially to do the same activity together at the same time, unless of course you are already accustomed to doing so. However, if running or swimming or walking has been part of a "training mode"; then this would be entirely different. In training you are setting a specific time or distance for yourself, which is a completely different motive. This time, the duration or distance are not at all the goal, but simply "to feel better". So you may want to do it is such a way that, once you do realize you have come to feel better, you won't have to far to go to return home; lest you overexert, get tired, and unravel your benefit of "feeling better".
As you pursue this course and actualize your vital human strengths, you will find yourself learning, improving, and achieving levels of competence. In time and as you persevere in the pursuit of your goals in efforts to give meaning and purpose to your life in accord with your chosen values, you will experience within you an authentic love of self, which is a visceral conviction that you are doing all you can to welcome and embrace the gift of your life and to live your life as fully as you can for your own good and the good of all. There is no greater goal than to live your life as a gift of love. There is no greater love than to give one's life that others may also live.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-REPRESENTATION
While we all have these vital human strengths, in order to actualize and develop them fully, it helps to become more aware of our use of them. One way to do this is for an interested person whom you trust to take interest in your experience and engage in conversation with you about a specific activity, such as the walk or swim or cycle you chose in order to change your mood and feel better. As this interested person asks you specific questions about your decision and activity, your desire to answer them will cause you to go back into your memory of the walk. As you recall your experience and hear yourself relate elements of the experience in order to reply to your friend's questions, hearing yourself in the telling will cause you to REPRESENT YOURSELF TO YOURSELF, in other words, you will bring to full awareness in the present what you did, how you did it, why you did it, what obstacles you overcame, and so on....
Peace to you and to your families....
Pax + Caritas, Fr. Gilles