I quickly learned 20 years ago, just days after my accident that whatever quality of life I would have from that time on would be centered in the mind and spirit. The passing years have proven that to be true, but my spirit still resides in my physical body and an enduring challenge for Jo Anne and me is to do everything in our power to keep both my body and spirit healthy. I don't want to add "spiritual and emotional paralysis" to my physical paralysis.
The Scriptures teach us, "And the spirit and the body are the soul of man." [Doctrine & Covenants 88:15] Because we are both spirit and body -- dual beings -- in order for our souls to be complete, happy, and fulfilled we must take good care of both our body and spirit. When we receive a trauma to the body or when we are sick physically it usually affects our spirit as well, and vice versa.
Not being able to feel pain from my neck on down is a real liability because pain alerts us to the fact that something is wrong and we can go about getting it fixed before we incur greater damage. We don't like pain because it is well, "painful," but it is really a great blessing to us.
In my situation I generally only know something is wrong with my physical body because I start feeling down, unenthusiastic, depressed, and listless. I have learned to immediately heed these warning signs that come from my spirit, seeking medical help, and invariably finding the physical cause that is triggering my bad feelings. I must also truthfully report that Jo Anne always seems to know something is wrong with me before I do. Girls are just smarter for some reason -- it is maddening but true!
The fact still remains however, that for someone in my situation my life truly is centered in the mind and the spirit. Striving to keep my body healthy is extremely important but I believe what the Lord teaches us in the Scriptures regarding our concern for body and spirit. "Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul [spirit], and for the life of the soul [Spirit]. Doctrine & Covenants 101: 36-37 (emphasis added)]
Now, I don't think the Lord wants us to not strive to keep our bodies clean and healthy but I do think he doesn't want us to obsess over the way we look. If I read the scripture correctly he is telling us that the thing that will be of most worth in an eternal sense is to care for the spirit.
I am in a very interesting situation physically. I get bathed, exercised by my caregiver, teeth brushed, face shaved, hair combed, fed, and an outfit chosen for me to wear every single day. Truthfully, I have not looked in a mirror for about four months -- I don't need to. Oh, I want to look nice or at least presentable -- I don't give Jo Anne much to work with in raw material, but she does the best she can with what she has. We don't get to the temple as often as we would like but I reassure Jo Anne that as she cares for me daily she is doing her work for the dead! As for me however, my physical appearance is something that I don't even think about 99.9% of the time. My challenge in life is not physical but mental and spiritual. My entire existence involves trying to implement the Lord's counsel to "... care for the spirit and the life of the Spirit..."
This is a great challenge! Because I am trying with all my heart to "care for the spirit and the life of the spirit" I constantly seem to do battle with the media (I watch far more TV because of my situation than I would like to) to never let it get the best of me. In trying to care for my spirit I basically only watch Turner Classic Movies and sports on a regular basis. This is not an indictment of all movies or TV shows Hollywood produces -- Jo Anne and I saw several good movies during the holiday season. Maybe it is because I can't use my body at all that my spirit is so repelled by the blasphemy, cursing, violence and blatant sex that Hollywood parades before us in a seemingly endless tsunami of filth. What Hollywood gives us coupled with the sorry news we are exposed to day after day can just poison our spirits.
I was reading Paul's epistle to the Philippians the other day and gained a new insight that is probably not new to you but was quite meaningful to me. Joseph Smith quoted from Paul in writing what we know as the 13th Article of Faith. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." [Philippians 4: 8, emphasis added]
The thing that struck me with this reading was Paul's admonition to "... think on these things!" That was the insight -- "... think on these things!" With our agency every minute of every hour of every day we can choose what to "think on." We can let Hollywood and the world in which we live dictate what we think on or we can make the deliberate and conscious choice to think on those things that are honest, true, pure, virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report. That is why we search the Scriptures daily and covenant each Sunday to "always remember Him."
Paul also beautifully said in his Epistle to the Romans: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." [Romans 12:2 emphasis added]
My daily challenge is to not become conformed to this world but to think on better things as I strive to care for the spirit part of my soul. What is your challenge?