Military News

Friday, March 07, 2014

Step Up, Step In: Spiritual fitness makes life worth living

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/7/2014 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy  -- To increase Airmen resiliency, the Air Force has adapted a culture of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, helping instill four pillars of standards to ensure Airmen are "fit to fight" across the board in four separate categories--mental, physical, social and spiritual.

Most people correlate spirituality with religion, but according to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John Tiller, 31st Fighter Wing, being spiritually disciplined is an understanding and sustainment of one's sense of self and purpose in adverse conditions.

"When you're talking about combat, multiple deployments, the loss of wingmen or anyone you care about, those are the types of things that will really stress the way you think about life," said Tillery. "Spiritual resiliency has a grounding effect. It's that spiritual depth that can help you bounce back from even those difficult types of things."

Without a sense of value and worth, Tillery warns that service members can invite feelings of inadequacy or stress into their daily lives.

"We see that without a spiritual aspect in someone's life, there's a loss of optimism, hope and purpose. I think a lack of developing the spiritual element results in a loss of a sense of purpose," said Tillery. "Once you begin to move into an area of meaninglessness, then that has a way of depressing you in your other areas. Your mental activity then begins to revolve around very narrow and particular things. Like, what do I have to do today? Must I get out of bed today?"

While each pillar of comprehensive fitness is equally important, some believe that a person does not have the ability to be spiritually fit , yet be deficient in the other categories.

"I believe the pillars are inter-related and while I believe that a person can be physically fit and not be emotionally or mentally fit, I find it impossible to be spiritually fit and not be fit in every other area as well," said Chief Master Sgt. William Harrington, 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron, chief enlisted manager. "I just think it permeates who we are in every other area because you have a sense of purpose and drive. You must be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually fit to deal with the ups and downs of military life."

Realizing what makes one passionate is the first step in exercising an individual's spiritual discipline.

"One thing a person should do, is reflect upon what your spiritual beliefs are. It's hard to strengthen something that you don't know what it is," said Tillery. "Sit down and think, 'What are the things that give me self-worth?,' and 'What gets me up in the morning?,' or 'What is it that keeps me optimistic about life?,' and once you sort those things out, well then you can begin to strengthen those things."

Spiritual fitness can be demonstrated through an array of activities or disciplines that bring someone a sense of connectedness. Activities such as hiking, meditating, watching the sunrise in the morning or choosing to express an individual's religious demeanor can all have an impact on one's spiritual disciplines.

"Anything that is seen as greater than one's self has spiritual aspects to it," said Tillery. "We're talking about values that give you worth as a person."

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