The quest for happiness is really the quest of a lifetime and the purpose of our existence here on earth. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “In a phrase I am sure you have heard many times, the Prophet Joseph Smith once said, ‘Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, [when] we pursue the path that leads to it.’ This is not a new quest. It has been one of the fundamental pursuits of humankind through the ages of time… If you haven’t learned it already, you will learn in the years ahead that most times happiness comes to us when we least expect it, when we are busy doing something else. Happiness is almost always a by-product of some other endeavor.”
Mortality is the first developmental stage we experience since leaving our premortal stage. We will go through many other developmental stages after we leave mortality. We came into mortality primarily to receive a body, to exercise our agency, and to experience the natural consequences of our choices (i.e., to gain wisdom from our experiences). Our body is a key element in helping us fulfill eternal goals. As we consider the miracle of our physical body, we can clearly see the body was created to survive.
Our bodies are actually a combination of “four bodies” that are designed to function in a harmonious relationship with each other. We have a physical body, a mental body, an emotional body, and a spiritual body. They are designed to work in harmony; to be in balance. When they aren’t in balance, we experience pain, stress, apathy, and anger, which puts our spiritual body out of balance as well. They are designed to interact in such a way so as to make learning and developing possible. Our responsibility is to learn to remove any resistance to being in balance. That resistance is referred to as “self-defeating behavior.” Self-defeating behavior comes from a lack of skill. That skill was designed to be learned in a series of developmental stages. Each one of the bodies has essential functions we can learn and apply in order for these four bodies to come into balance. It’s all about learning what we need to know and learning what we need to know how to do.
Each body has five essential functions. 1. Input, 2. Process, 3. Strengthen, 4. Express, 5. Balance. If any one of these functions is omitted, we will experience discomfort. Pain (in any of the bodies) is an important gift that is like an early alarm system to help us pay attention and start evaluating and fixing what is out of balance. Physical pain, mental anguish, emotional stress, and spiritual apathy are important warnings that we are out of balance. Our body is our “learning” tool and it’s important to maintain it in good functioning order.
Let’s take a look these five functions in each of the four bodies and how we address them. There are a few examples mentioned. Perhaps you can think of more to add.
- Input. At the physical level, we know we have to have food, water, and air to live. If we lose a lot of blood, we have to replenish it.
- Process. Once the food is in our bodies, the automatic functions take over and we process the food to activate energy in the body. Water replenishes the vast ocean of fluids which make up much of our body. Air brings in nutrients and oxygenates the blood, etc.
- Strengthen. Whenever you stress or stretch a physical muscle 10%, it weakens the muscle (i.e., you feel sore) and when the muscle heals, it will be stronger. If you routinely stress the muscle more than 25%, when it heals, it will be weaker. This is why it is important to take it slow and easy as the body builds its endurance and becomes stronger. Every day, we can engage in activities that strengthen our physical body.
- Express. Once nutrition is processed, our bodies are nourished. Then we express (eliminate) the waste products. We also express through our sweat glands, breath, skin, tears, laughter, etc.
- Balance. The physical body balances all the functions so that no part of our body is left out. Each cell receives needed nutrition and oxygen. If something “blocks” the flow of input, processing or expressing for a lengthy period of time, we can die if it is not unblocked. We know we would die if we don’t have sufficient food, water, and/or air, or if our body doesn’t utilize nutrients. If we were unable to express or eliminate the waste from our body, we would fill up with toxic matter and die, and if we didn’t move our muscles, would shrivel up and die. Balance in the physical body assures quality of life. A hundred years ago, most deaths were caused by infectious diseases. Today, most deaths are caused by lifestyle choices.
- Input. We provide input for the emotional body by exposing ourselves to experiences; by interacting with our environment; by developing relationships with family, friends, co-workers, etc.; by being willing to feel. Feeling is not good or bad — it simply is. Sometimes when people get their feelings hurt, they want to shut down their ability to feel.
- Process. We process by noticing how we feel, by allowing ourselves to feel, by celebrating our ability to feel.
- Strengthen. It is as important to exercise our emotional body as it is our physical body, and for the same reason. The more we exposure ourselves to experience — the more we risk to feel — the stronger our emotional body becomes. We find that we are able to express joy only to the level of passion we have expressed our sadness. You cannot go “up” to a greater level than you are able to go “down.” As we exercise our emotional body, we are able to quickly move from one emotion to another without getting stuck. Being in balance doesn’t mean being afraid or unwilling to feel; rather, it means being free to feel.
- Express. Whenever we feel an emotion, the next step is to express it in some way: laugh, cry, hug, dance, paint a picture, wear a red dress, sing a song, hit something or someone, throw a pillow, clap our hands, and scream. In some way, we are moved to express. When we don’t express our feelings, we stuff it away and we feel discomfort or unease. When we do this long enough, the effects of this shutting down will surface on the other three bodies.
- Balance. It is important to experience all emotions as good news. One of my favorite greetings is, “Are you feeling?” The ability to feel is far more important than what you are feeling. Being willing to feel allows your emotional body to be in balance. Judging one emotion as “bad” and something to be eliminated from your life can create imbalance. Feelings are not subject to “right” or “wrong,” they simply are.
- Input. We feed our mental body by exposing ourselves to opportunities for learning by reading, watching TV or movies, listening to commentaries on everything from politics to medicine to religion, etc. In every way we interact with other people and our environment, there is opportunity for mental input.
- Process. Once we have our “pantry” full of information, we can allow our brain to sort through and organize the information. Some information we will retain as useful and some we will discard. We analyze, match, sort, combine, and discard. It’s the job of the brain to organize information and compare it to what is already been filed away. So long as our thinking brain is functioning, we are processing in the mental body.
- Strengthen. We strengthen the mental body by challenging our minds with new input. We allow ourselves to explore a new area of interest. We seek out opportunities to expand our field of interest. It’s how we expand our ability to think. We can come to a place where we no longer think in terms of “I’m right” and “You’re wrong.” We can honor another person’s perception without feeling obligated to claim it as our own. We are able to recognize the difference and we are comfortable with being different.
- Express. We express by sharing information with others. At first, we tend to gravitate towards those who agree with our view of the world. When we become confident within ourselves, we see the value of developing relationships with those who have perceptions that are different from ours. We are willing to consider the possibility there may be more to learn.
- Balance. Understanding that multiple perceptions are valuable in building relationships allows us to balance our intellect with our humanity. Being more concerned with loving people rather than judging them allows us to rely on our intellect when it serves and to recognize when our intellect is a block to human development and humanity.
- Input. We receive spiritual food when we quiet the inner dialogue. We take time to “smell the flowers” and to fill our soul with gratitude for the abundance we enjoy. We pray for help and guidance. We understand that when we say “amen,” that is the first part of the communication. Now we allow time to ponder and listen for the promptings that come through the Spirit from our Creator. We begin to view our life as God views it. We understand it as God understands it and we are at peace.
- Process. We process by meditating and allowing the Spirit to break through the fog that has been facilitating our mental, emotional, and physical bodies’ learning. We process by choosing to accept and not resist the learning process. We process by choosing to feel, to live, to love, to grow. We process by choosing to trust the process which was designed by our Creator. We are willing to be subject to His will.
- Strengthen. We strengthen our spiritual body by releasing control, fear and judgment. We strengthen by being willing to accept that everything we experience is for our learning and gaining wisdom. We strengthen by allowing ourselves to be a spiritual being being a human experience. We are no longer content to merely do a human experience or to simply have one. We choose the plan for evolving. We accept ourselves as evolving beings who are allowed to learn in whatever way that teaches us.
- Express. Spiritual expression is love—unconditional love for self and others, and unconditional acceptance of all that is within the laboratory of learning. It is absolute trust and willingness to submit to the process of life without judgment; a sure knowledge that we are proceeding according to a divine plan and that God is in charge, and that He knows what He’s doing.
- Balance. Spiritual balance is the allowing and honoring of whatever learning process is required for the physical, emotional, and mental bodies to fully develop. The spiritual body is the personification of balance at all levels of existence. Perhaps more than that, it is a fully aware choice to BE.
One of the most interesting books I have read about this subject is It’s Not What You Eat, but What Eats You by Jack Schwarz.
When we fail to understand and apply how to take care of our body(ies), we will experience the natural consequences. I find it fascinating how our bodies are created to take care of each other when we get out of the way and follow simple rules. They are in constant relationship with each other. So get to know your body… It’s a friendly place to live.
Sonja lives with her husband, Dale, on Anderson Island, Washington. She and her husband are Church Service Missionaries serving in the Addiction Recovery Program, focusing on pornography and sex addiction. She is also a certified life coach and teaches "Life Skills for Emotional Self-Mastery" in her stake twice a month. She does not teach you only to process something traumatic done to you in the past; rather, she helps you learn to feel it, heal it, and LET GO of whatever you still do to yourself and to others in order to cope with what was done to you in the past.