Spiritual fitness for the non-religious

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Brian Potvin
  • Air Combat Command
As Airmen and members of the profession of arms, we've heard numerous times the three pillars of fitness: physical, mental and spiritual. I am not a practicing member of any organized religion, but I have the utmost respect for those who do live by religious beliefs. I think all of us in the Armed Forces need to have respect for the freedom of religion we defend each and every day during our service commitment.

A question on my mind lately is how do those of us without affiliation to a particular religion or set of religious beliefs attain "spiritual fitness?" In my view, there are several ways we can be "spiritually fit," even if we're not religious.

Connections with friends and family
Keeping yourself out of isolation is vital. Yes, we all need to be alone from time to time, but everyone also needs interaction with others. Participation in intramural sports, for example, can kill two "fitness" birds with one stone. You're maintaining both physical and spiritual fitness at the same time. Volunteerism is yet another way to maintain connections with people and at the same time becoming more spiritually fit.

Be nice to others
You know the old saying about how you should treat others. This is one aspect which is religious and non-religious. Treating others the way we know they should be treated is a value all of us in the military should have, and one which serves to help you be "fit" from a spiritual perspective.

Mind-body exercises
Yoga, tai-chi or plain old meditation is a great way non-religious people can maintain spiritual fitness. The best part is that it can be done virtually anywhere, regardless of your particular deployment location or work setting. These kinds of exercises help maintain a connection between your mind and body, which many non-religious people say is how they maintain their spirituality.

Take care of things at home
This is of particular importance to me because I have a wife and three children, and am preparing to deploy for six months. By ensuring my family is cared for, I can be both mentally and spiritually ready to fly halfway around the world and give 100 percent of my effort toward my mission. For example, making sure my will is up to date and getting a general power-of-attorney are some things I've done in order to make sure I can stop worrying so much about family and instead focus on the job I'll have while deployed. I have also ensured that I have ways to interact with my family via the internet, because that connection will do much to make me spiritually fit.

Spiritual fitness is about finding those practices or routines which will help you deal with stressful situations, whether they are in deployed locations or not. It could mean leaning on your chaplain if you happen to be religious, or it could mean leaning on a close friend or confidant if you're not. It could mean transcendental meditation, or focusing on a connection with nature. For me, the bottom line regarding spiritual fitness is all about the ability to overcome stressful situations or bad times, and being able to focus my attention on mission accomplishment.