19th Elul – spiritual twisties

Elul 19th  27th August

In the Olympics this year, Simone Biles brought a curious word to the world’s attention – “twisties”.

The term ‘twisties’ is the informal name used by gymnasts for a condition of disorientation. It gets its name from the aerial twisting skills gymnasts perform, but far from the graceful and fluid movements we are so used to seeing in top flight athletes, it is essentially a mental block, a disconnect between body and mind so that the gymnast loses their spatial awareness and becomes disoriented.

While it is apparently a marker of stress and anxiety, showing the athlete to be at risk of mental ill-health, it also puts them in danger of physical damage should they fall or land badly. They could – indeed some have – damage spinal vertebrae and nerves, giving them life changing injuries.

Like many who watched I empathised with Simone Biles and applauded her bravery, while barely comprehending either the terror or the danger she was experiencing. But it also left me wondering about what might be called “spiritual twisties”, when we find our soul disoriented from our bodies, our minds dislocated from our daily living.

Jewish tradition teaches that the soul is at some level separate from the body. When the body ceases to live the soul continues in some way. There is a communication and a relationship between the two. But sometimes we have lost contact with what our soul wants or needs as we press on with more worldly goals, or in our search for spiritual closeness to God we may not listen to the demands or requirements of our bodies. We become disoriented and unaware of how we are moving through the world, what effects we are having on others, what consequences we are storing up for ourselves too.  Sometimes we have to stop, take a breath, draw back from our imperatives and give ourselves a spiritual check up. Are we living the best way for our own mental, spiritual and physical health? Are we working in partnership with God for the betterment of our world?  And if not, then maybe take a leaf out of Simone Biles’ book, and stop, reflect, take the time and the care to put ourselves back into harmonious relationship of body and soul.

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