HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
What is spirituality?
By definition, it is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Oftentimes, there is a misunderstanding when approaching the spiritual pillar of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.
And, that is religion.
One of the most controversial topics in history, religion, is also one of the most misinterpreted words according to Ted Brinegar, violence prevention integrator on Holloman.
"The origin of the word, religion, means 'reconnect'," said Brinegar. "The Latin word, 'ligio', also used in 'ligament', means 'living connection'. To reconnect is literally about feeling. If your spiritual practice, whatever that is, provides connection and feeling, that is an amazing spiritual practice. If it does not, it literally does not meet the definition of the word.
While religion and spiritual practices are often associated with worshipping a deity or deities, they do not have to be for anyone who may not feel connected this way.
“Religion needs to be practiced the way martial arts is practiced,” said Brinegar. “It should create an anchor and a rhythm of life.”
In addition to practicing his organized religion, Brinegar pursues spiritual fitness through his work in violence prevention and giving back to others.
Before coming to Holloman eight years ago, Brinegar was the Outdoor Recreation director at Fort Carson, Colorado, during the beginning of the base’s resilience initiative.
“I recognized the parallels between the skills they were trying to teach with the resilience curriculum,” said Brinegar. “But, also noticed that if we only taught them cognitively, it would be very unlikely that people would actually be able to utilize the skills when they mattered the most – under stress. So, I started to incorporate the resilience lessons into the adventure activities, and used the stress from the activity as an anchor for the resilience skills that were being taught in slideshow presentations.”
Over time, resiliency in the military curriculums shifted from a response mindset to a prevention mindset, which led to the opening of Brinegar’s current position.
“The five big stressors of life are relationships, money, work, health and legal challenges,” said Brinegar. “We all have stressors in those areas, but the question is – do we have the skills, the resources or the support system to handle those constructively? Part of what makes life so fulfilling, longterm, is the connection to our spiritual values that help us move past these stressors.”
When Brinegar is not making a difference with Airmen on Holloman, he is making a difference in the local community, running a non-profit organization that builds homes for homeless veterans.
“Continuing my work with Foxhole is a big part of what I am doing to practice my spiritual fitness,” said Brinegar. “Service to others, especially military members and veterans, is very important to me.”
Since the only constant in the military is change, spiritual fitness is imperative when it comes to maintaining balance.
“Life is not a destination, it is a journey,” said Brinegar. “Just as plants cannot grow without food, some of the stressors we experience that seem really, really tough become the fertilizer to some critical growth in ourselves.”