We begin with three aspects that are represented in a long tradition spanning cultures and diverse belief systems from the ancient Vedic scriptures, through Platonic philosophy, to the reflections of contemporary scientists. For example, when we speak of “head”, “heart, and “hand” (or input-process-output or, thinking, feeling and doing), we are invoking these aspects. These aspects have also been described as energies, qualities or basic attributes. We refer to them as mental, emotional, physical aspects, and they can be expressed on a continuum from the material (visible) to the spiritual (non-visible).
In formulating the L4WB framework we added “spiritual” as one of the perspectives to balance the expression of the human experience. This is primarily because there is so much focus on the material end of the continuum that the spiritual dimension is too often forgotten, particularly in contemporary western cultures. We use these four perspectives – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – to provide the foundation for a sense of wholeness, both as a concept and an experience. Together, they represent the dynamic human experience of well-being or wholeness.
The physical perspective relates to the physical senses, to our bodies, and to the material and natural environments. We include the functions of doing, building, taking apart, detailing, producing, and acting. Thus, it relates both to sensation and performance.
Development implies cultivating bodily awareness, healthy habits, and positive attitudes about our bodies and the natural world.
It also relates to becoming aware of how to rely on the wisdom and intuition of the body, and how to make choices about what we produce and build.
The emotional perspective refers to both our intrapersonal functions – our inner feelings and motivations and our interpersonal functioning – our interactions with others. Developing the intrapersonal includes awareness of one’s emotions, the ability to differentiate between them, to understand their triggers and natural cycles, and the ways in which they can, when necessary, be managed and transformed – this also suggests a widening and deepening of one’s emotional range.
In the interpersonal sense, development points to the ability to express feelings and needs in effective ways and to engage and negotiate with others in mutually respectful and rewarding ways; it also includes compassion, implicit and explicit, and the ability to see from others’ perspectives. Development of the emotional aspect also implies accessing the wisdom of the heart, which may manifest as compassion, felt intuition, empathy, and imagination.
By the mental perspective, we mean our cognitive and rational processes. Development of the mental capacity includes envisioning, planning and valuing.
It involves the skills to analyze, synthesize and create knowledge, integrate, manage and communicate information, and to solve problems, assess options and scenarios, plan and organize in ways that are relevant.
Of critical importance is developing clarity of mind, including reflection, paying attention, and seeing objectively. It also includes accessing the wisdom of the head, manifesting as intention, a higher view and concentration.
The spiritual perspective refers to a sense of connection to all things, including the natural and manmade environments. When we recognize a connection with life beyond the material dimension, we are tuning into a spiritual dimension.
Development of an awareness of the spiritual dimension can be supported by practices that allow a deeper sense of the interconnectedness and sacredness of all things, a sense of awe and wonder in nature and the universe, and opportunities to experience the joy of service and expressions of mindfulness and lovingness toward all beings.