WFU Spiritual Wellbeing
By: The Reverend James D. Franklin III
James Franklin serves as Campus and Young Adult Missioner in Winston Salem, North Carolina, primarily at Wake Forest University. He holds degrees from Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas (Masters of Divinity) and UNC Chapel Hill (Bachelor of Arts). James landed his dream job in campus ministry, combining his love of coaching students, providing spiritual direction, preaching, writing, and helping create beloved community. He loves exploring the mountains of North Carolina and lives in Winston Salem with his wife and daughters.
*I don’t need to tell you the statistics behind the benefits of nurturing a healthy sense of spirituality within yourself. I don’t need to tell you it can lower blood pressure, alleviate some anxiety, and increase resilience when life doesn’t go as planned.
I don’t need to cite the negative effects of neglecting this deeply integrated part of you as you seek to be the best human being you can be.
Perhaps you’re already doing it all right: in this new year you gave up hot pockets and pop tarts (which, if you’re a student, I assume is still a thing?), you visit Sutton gym as often as you can, you volunteer, you watch TED talks and Vlogs about productivity and brain hacks (looking at you, b-school peeps). If you’re an athlete, perhaps you’re doing all this and more but still can’t fully enter the “flow.”
Perhaps it’s time to engage your spirituality.
Often, spirituality is the last element of your personhood to be addressed. Whether “spirituality” sounds woo woo or you associate it with “evangelicalism” and organized religion, it is, in fact, an innate part of all of us. My favorite definition is this: “A core dimension of humanity that seeks to discover meaning, purpose, and connectedness with self, others, and ultimately God.”
I’m an episcopal priest and I’ve been a campus minister here at Wake for 5 years. Let me pick on Episcopalians for a minute (because I can). Often Sunday is the main event and the practice. It’s not a bad practice! However, they often miss the depth of wisdom and connection to God and our innermost being that comes from spiritual practices. Sunday is the fast food version: we get our happy meal and recite little prayers together and perhaps the preacher says something interesting about a piece of scripture. Don’t read cynicism here – I’m just pointing out that even (or especially) religious folks neglect this crucial part of well-being. So how might I engage this missing piece of the puzzle that is my own soul?
Here are some practices to try on for size:
- 10 minutes of silence in the morning or before bed (no guidelines here, just sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe.)
- Walking – take slower more mindful steps
- Visit the meditation room in the basement of Reynolda
- Pranayama – take mindful breaths (5 minutes)
- Centering Prayer – pick a sacred word and pray it with each breath (5-20mins)
- Disconnect to reconnect – silence your phone after a certain time each night or for 30 minutes a day.
Or if you’re really not sure and want to talk more:
- Visit the Campus Ministry offices (kitchin basement across from Sutton)
- Visit the Office of the Chaplain
- Check out a Religious Life group on campus
- Find a spiritual director/coach
- Join a 12-step recovery group (if substances are getting in the way)
In my own experience, I believe that God is always and forever striving for unity (reconciliation, wholeness, wellness) or as scripture says, “making all things new.” Engaging your spirituality strives for that same (re)connection. What could be more unifying than an act or practices that help put you back together (and ultimately put us and God back together)? I am deeply religious (I drank the cool-aid). My experience has taught me that the world is not bifurcated into secular and sacred …because of spirituality. It’s taught me that the spiritual and my body are not at odds with one another but in fact, deeply connected. Though our politics may have us more divided than ever before, let’s not be dualistic about our embodied, spiritual selves.
And because of this definition of spirituality that even as a priest I have no problem advocating that you try Buddhist meditation because I believe that the farther inwards we travel in these practices the more we experience Higher Power, unity, and our true selves.
Do yourself a favor: attend to your soul. You may awaken to deeper more secure sense of you. You might even experience the holy.
 MacKnee, C. M. (2002). Profound sexual encounters among practicing Christians: A phenomenological analysis. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 30(3), 234-244