The Prairie Messenger, October, 1986

Book Review: Wellness, Spirituality, and Sports

If the intent of Jesus was to bring fullness of life to people on earth, then activities which enhance our life—not just in the hereafter, but also here on earth—are part of our  spiritual life.

This is the message that Fr. Thomas Ryan, a Canadian ecumenist and athlete, reminds us of in this book which integrates spirituality with a holistic view of life.

Ryan notes that the fitness craze and the search for spiritual meaning are two of the greatest hungers in North America today. However, there is an affinity between the two. Ryan says, “The human qualities underlying sporting activities are the same as those underlying spirituality life activities. Discipline, dedication, enthusiasm and perseverance are a few of the human qualities.”

Ryan opposes the false dualism introduced by neo-Platonism into Christian spirituality, the view which has no appreciation for the body. He links spirituality with a positive, holistic  view of health, which is wellness.

He describes wellness as enhancing “the qualities of our lives by making health not just the absence of disease but the presence of a high-level energy and a sense of well-being.”

Ryan divides his book into two parts. The first half develops the spirituality of wellness and takes a holistic view of sports and leisure. The second half applies his thinking to four activities in particular: running, swimming, skiing and dancing.

Ryan practices what he preaches. He is familiar with the literature on fitness and wellness. He recommends 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week.

The sporting activities he recommends are within the reach of any age group or economic class. They can help a person have a higher state of consciousness and a greater awareness of their potentiality. I will conclude by letting Ryan argue his own case:

“Through a spiritual discipline like running or meditating we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. You may never have considered running as a ‘spiritual’ discipline, but . . . there are many reasons why it could be related to as such. If it is good for your body, it’s good for your soul. There is only one, seamless you.”