We’ve previously discussed the vital importance of wellness for human service professionals. Not only does a focus on self-care reduce burnout and turnover, but it helps you better care for the people you serve.
We’ve shared service provider wellness skills adapted from our Healing-Focused Care model on our last Ripple blog. Today, continuing on the self-care theme, trainer and wellness expert Noor Jawad shares her “Well-Beingness” framework.
Peace Greetings Everyone, this is Noor Jawad checking in with you all…
I use the term “Well-Beingness” to describe the holistic state of wellness I believe is integral to the authentic practice of Cultural Humility and the true experience of Cultural Reverence.
Well-Beingness is a fluid sense of wellness that includes the four primary aspects of human wellness in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual domains. Each of these domains requires simultaneous nurturing attention, intention, and regular practice. Someone may be physically and mentally fit, but without emotional and spiritual intelligence, it’s difficult for them not to participate in the dominance dynamic that results in structural and institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of “othering.”
Well-Beingness requires a higher level of consciousness—beyond the physical and intellectual understanding of humanity—to humble yourself to those who are different from you and revere their uniqueness as something to be appreciated and respected rather than feared. I understand why most people are surprised to learn Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, an artist, an opera aficionado, and a promoter of physical exercise. How could such an intelligent, health-conscious person single-story an entire population of people based on their religion and incite the most horrific genocide of the 20th Century? Despite his healthy diet and high level of intellect, Hitler was both emotionally and spiritually impaired. He was consumed with anger and fear, which eventually led to his psychological breakdown, an attempted assassination by his generals, and the collapse of his Third Reich.
From the disturbing example of Adolf Hitler, we can better understand why a more holistic approach to wellness is necessary on the journey to equity and inclusion.
Another important reason for this expanded understanding of wellness is navigating the challenges that come when you choose to participate in a social change process—personally and professionally. Whether it is someone who has experienced bias and prejudices transferring their pain onto you or someone who is in denial to social injustices and refuses to participate in diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation or practice, you will be more effective in responding versus reacting to these challenges when you are grounded and centered in your personal well-being. You will be able to communicate with compassion, patience and a willingness to accept an opinion different than your own.
Let me share with you from my own experience what you can do to grow and sustain your Well-Beingness. I will discuss each of four wellness domains—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, and provide a statement of the primary focus for achieving optimal wellness and balance.
1. Physical Health
“We must look after physical health for the spiritual progress of the soul. Without the maintenance of the body, you cannot have a spiritual life. The body is a container for the soul … If you break the container, then its contents will spill. The body and soul are associated in this very manner, and any damage to the body will affect the soul… [Thus,] We must keep our bodies, in which the soul resides, clean and tidy so that the soul is not damaged.” Hazrat Sir Zafrullah Khan(ra), Islam and Protection of Health
As you aim to embody Cultural Humility and move toward Cultural Reverence, your physical body serves as the foundation for mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Despite the current and growing level of health consciousness around the globe, learning to listen to your body is still a significant challenge for most people in Western culture. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States.
We spend most of our time in service to the demands of our jobs and families and staying “news media” informed and socially networked to such a degree that it is easy to minimize the messages our bodies are sending to us. Cooperating with your body is essential to staying healthy and balanced, especially as we age.
The focus for physical wellness on the road to Equity and Inclusion is, I learn to trust the language and wisdom of my body and understand how it communicates to me.
Here are some of how I maintain my physical health:
- I am connected to and able to listen to my body’s guidance regarding how I eat, sleep, exercise, and practice self-care.
- I drink an adequate amount of water, take daily walks, take salt baths, get regular massages and acupuncture, and do breathwork.
- I also maintain holistic preventive and complementary medicine practices such as health practitioner visits and the use of homeopathics, herbs, and nutrition supplements.
- I am also committed to working with my aging process by accepting that I am no longer in my 20’s and adjusting my lifestyle to support my needs.
- I focus on consuming more fresh plant foods and lean protein, and less processed foods. I reduce sugar because I’ve found it to be nutrient deficient and addictive.
- And lastly, when I am in person or at virtual meetings, and I need a bio-break, I respond to the messages my body’s giving versus ignoring or delaying a response to not cause a disturbance.
With this practice of listening to my body and allowing it to be my primary guide for maintaining my physical health, I have the energy and endurance needed to be present and participate in this important and challenging social change process.
2. Mental Wellbeingness
“The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use, we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.” – Carl Sagan
Cerebrovascular diseases, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, are among the ten leading causes of death in the United States. The overwhelming occurrence of these life-threatening brain diseases, especially in aging adults, has ushered in new neuroscience that has introduced a way to recover from brain impairment and support healthy brain functioning. It is called neuroplasticity. Researchers worked extensively with persons who have experienced strokes, and the results have provided evidence that neuroplasticity helps the brain recover from traumatic injuries.
To help keep the brain plastic—meaning able to rewire, reorganize, and even grow new neuropathways—new experiences and regular repetition of certain mental skills or activities are necessary. Engaging Cultural Humility and Cultural Reverence will always require disrupting conditioned mental models regarding bias and prejudice, so it’s essential that our brain is functioning healthily. My focus for mental wellness is, I am committed to life-long continuous learning to keep my brain healthy.
Throughout my adulthood, I have been able to maintain a curiosity about life. I’m always interested in learning something new to improve my mind’s alertness and health. I consider myself a life-long learner willing to explore and dig deeper in search of new information that I am passionate about. I am willing to learn about myself from the perspective of others, experience new people, places, and situations. Recently I made a shift in my career by transitioning into a collaborative, entrepreneurial situation.
For many years I had the desire to live in a tropical environment. Two years ago, I took a giant leap of faith and moved across the country with my family to an entirely different state. Although my move was grounded in my commitment to better support my health by moving to a warmer climate, I had much trepidation about what my new life would require financially and socially.
To my deep gratitude, my health and livelihood improved. Within a few months, I found myself connected with a group of new people playing Pickleball—deemed the fastest growing tennis-like sport for people over 55! This is something I couldn’t have imagined that I would be doing as a mature Muslim woman. It feels good for my body, mind, and soul.
All of these experiences greatly contribute to my brain health. By allowing myself to explore beyond what I already know, I’m more able to navigate the uncertainties that arise as I continue my journey of learning and growth.
3. Emotional Health
“A sad soul can be just as lethal as a germ.” – John Steinbeck
Emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman—author of the book by that name—is the following:
- Knowing one’s emotions: Self-awareness—recognizing a feeling as it happens—is the keystone of emotional intelligence. An inability to notice our true feelings leaves us at their mercy. People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives.
- Managing emotions: Handling feelings, so they are appropriate is an ability that builds on self-awareness. People deficient in this ability are constantly battling feelings of distress, while those who excel in it can bounce back far more quickly from life’s setbacks and upsets.
- Motivating oneself: Self-discipline in the service of a goal is essential for paying attention, self-motivation and mastery, and creativity. Emotional self-control—delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness—underlies accomplishment of every sort. People who have the skill to “get into the flow” tend to be more highly productive and effective in whatever they undertake.
- Recognizing emotions in others: Empathy is another ability that builds on emotional self-awareness. Empathic people are more attuned to the subtle social signals that indicate what others need or want. They do well in caring professions, human services, teaching, sales, and management. Others perceive them as safe and trustworthy. Empathy is foundational to the first tier of our Healing-Focused Care model.
- Handling relationships: The art of relationships is the skill of managing one’s own emotions while responding to emotions in others or social competence. People who excel in these skills do well at anything that relies on leadership, interpersonal effectiveness, and social influence.
I choose to be emotionally intelligent so that I can take full responsibility for my emotions and hold space for the emotions in others. Emotional wellness is inseparable from mental wellness, and both are necessary for experiencing the state of Well-Beingness.
Historically, those of us participating in Western culture would rather not deal with emotions. It’s more common to engage in self-numbing rituals and addictive behaviors in hopes that the painful emotions we fear will just go away. Fortunately, there is no lasting escape from the pressing human need to be connected in peace, joy, and love with others. This inherent and inescapable need encourages and supports our willingness to utilize and strengthen our emotional intelligence.
The journey to Equity and Inclusion demands that we expand our circle of connectedness to all humanity versus only those with whom we are intellectually, socially, and environmentally aligned. To achieve this goal, we will need to get in touch with our emotions and commit to learning how to address pain from a place of love rather than fear.
For four years, I lived with a severe chronic autoimmune illness, with frequent hospitalizations in an isolated and controlled environment. I had two young children at that time and had to leave them in the care of my family. The physical, mental, and emotional stress of the illness was so exhausting that, at times, I couldn’t see any progress or believe I would ever recover.
My emotional and mental state plummeted, constant anxiety debilitated and derailed my efforts at making healthy decisions. I had begun to let fear become the driver of all my thoughts and generate deep hopelessness. I recall being in such great despair that I couldn’t access any creative ideas or positive possibilities. In addition to the stress of my condition, I was exhausted from the effort of keeping that fear camouflaged from others. I was so committed to the external appearances of looking good and the habitual referring outside of myself for validation.
As difficult as those years were to go through, I learned something about my emotions held deep within, awaiting allowance to surface for my benefit. As I learned to surrender those parts of my condition that I could not control, I felt less of a victim, and new pathways opened for my relief, and my healing began.
I learned tremendous life lessons at that time, and the experience continues to enrich me today. I wouldn’t have chosen the curriculum, but now I wouldn’t trade the rewards of the experience for anything. I learned that mastery over my emotions is a choice and that it is wise to exercise that choice with each situation where fear dominates. I knew that it is not wise to deny my feelings. They are present to inform and guide me, and like my thoughts, they are a part of my personal experience of myself; they are not who I am.
The journey of Cultural Humility to Cultural Reverence, equity, and inclusion is an emotional journey. There will be deep disruptions and uncertainty along the way. It is a journey that will reveal what you’ve been believing about yourself and others, and it will call you to choose who you want to be. What would it be like if it were true that I am now the person I desire to be?
Taking on growing our capacity for emotional intelligence will contribute significantly to our emotional wellness as we navigate Cultural Humility to Cultural Reverence. Emotions need direction and boundaries to be established and held in check.
Unbridled emotions lead to what the world has witnessed for centuries as some have oppressed, enslaved, and lorded over others. Untethered emotions call forth events like the storming of the United States Capitol building and the horrific murder of Mr. George Floyd and scores of others before and since.
4. Spiritual Well-Beingness
“Spiritual intelligence is like a vaccination against greed, arrogance, and tyranny.” ― Saidi Mandala, Know What Matters
Richard Griffiths is a psychologist and corporate trainer who, through his research, established a spiritual intelligence paradigm. He views spirituality as the intelligence of the soul and that this spiritual intelligence displays the hallmarks of human maturity in the form of wisdom, compassion, and integrity. He defines spiritual intelligence as an ability to access higher meanings, values, abiding purposes, and unconscious aspects of the self to live in a meaningful, purposeful, and ethical life:
When spiritual intelligence sets the standard of personal conduct and collective governance across the whole of society, including corporate and government sectors, on a national and international scale, transformation follows worldwide in the form of cooperation, tolerance, social justice, eco-sustainability, shared prosperity, and peace.
My personal belief, and that of my colleagues within the Collaborative, is that we are all spiritual beings; we are all connected. We have a physical human experience for a limited time on the Earth. This belief guides my actions, interactions, and relationships with others. My unity consciousness humbly fuels my heart with reverence for humanity and all living things. This unity of humanity is a cornerstone in the foundation of my beliefs and my work with diversity, equity, and inclusion. I embrace my spiritual intelligence to remain connected to humanity.
Science has traced the origins of human DNA to one source from Africa. The science of genetics, and its sister epigenetics, verify the truth of our interconnection as a human species. Quantum physics has proven that the Universe, and all within it, is made up of the same material from one Source.
We are members in a unified field of energy that connects us at every level of existence, including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of who we are. That connection manifests in the material world. Our actions, thoughts, and emotions create a ripple in the energy of our connection. Nurturing the well-being of our Spirit is an essential component for the journey from Cultural Humility to Cultural Reverence.
Maintaining and growing my spiritual intelligence is a chosen obligation I have to my Creator and my fellow human beings. I have been practicing Islam since I was in my twenties. One of the 5 Pillars of Islam is to pray five times a day. When I lapsed in that practice many years ago, I began to lose my ability to access my higher consciousness easily and connect with my authentic, loving self. I found it more challenging to transcend my ego when navigating relationships and situations. I found myself falling into “single-storying” people who were “different” from me and unable to shut down those thoughts quickly. I found myself believing that all that is is only what I know and believe. I felt like something inside of me, that I valued, was dying.
That experience resulted in my upgrading my spiritual fitness and maintenance. Prayer is more important meditation and turning to my God for guidance on how to practice benevolent behavior with His creation is a daily inquiry.
I consciously practice daily to ground myself in my true purpose and develop discipline and mastery over the direction of my thoughts, emotions, and actions. Some days go smooth and easy, but life is messy, and some days do not. I’ve learned that when I falter, I can recover, and it’s the “showing up again” that keeps the lifelong learning process evolving. My commitment and intention are what prevails.
Closing Thoughts on Well-Beingness + A Gift
As we move toward creating more diverse and inclusive organizational cultures, I believe that Well-Beingness will provide a powerful set of tools for growing our consciousness and opening up our hearts to each other as never before. As I have shared in my storytelling, Well-Beingness is not static or something that happens overnight. It truly is a life-long journey that calls for a deep level of inner examination, personal reflection, commitment, and willingness to consciously become the best version of ourselves—connected, compassionate, generous, loving, and peaceful.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, the author of Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself, says that when we are being kind and giving, it opens up the centers in our hearts. Ultimately, having our hearts open will enable us as humans to reach the cultural reverence pinnacle.