Thrive Spiritually | 3 Practical Ways To Thrive In Spirit

Expounding on Practical Spirituality

In my article, How I Approach Practical Spirituality [a starting place], I communicate the need for body and mind to be cared for in order to thrive spiritually. Now, I’m not saying that there are not spiritual practices that also go into practical spirituality [right?], simply, that if the plane can’t fly… we’re not going anywhere.

How do you thrive spiritually [practically speaking]?

Again, there is no exact method, but here are three practices that surface when I process how to thrive spiritually through the framework of caring for body and mind.

Sleep [margin of the body]

 As obvious as this sounds, if I’m not getting enough sleep, then I’m not thriving physically… in other words, the vehicle gifted to me by God to house my spirit and to navigate life on this planet is out of fuel and will not propel me anywhere. How’s this for practical? -> I own a fitbit watch that keeps track of how much I sleep at night. It tracks good sleep, restless sleep, and intermittent waking during the night. After using it for several months, I found that if I don’t average somewhere in between 7–7.75 hours of sleep a night, I immediately move out of the thriving category and land back in the out of fuel and going nowhere category.

Headspace [margin of the mind]

When I’m overwhelmed with work, projects, or new ideas, it can be easy for me to become distracted during times that I do have carved out for meditation, prayer, reading scripture [practices that help me cultivate a posture toward listening to God], and even sleep. When I find that my mind doesn’t have room for it all [and it doesn’t take much], I cling to my homemade bullet journal as a lifeline. In it, I have a calendar of my productive work and include actionable steps for each project that allow me to focus on small anxiety free steps. In the back of my bullet journal, I also keep a section for notes and ideas that I can come back to when I have time blocked off to process new ideas or thoughts. As my mind begins to clutter, I simply jot ideas down and release them from my mind [especially effective at night when I’m trying to wind down and get to sleep… sleep? yep… sleep— see aforementioned paragraph].

Downtime [margin as a lifestyle]

When our family finds that we are too busy during the evenings, we get out the calendar and look to the coming month and book evening after evening with what we call the no fly zone. These are evenings that we are committed to nothing. We try to make a habit of having two no fly zone boxes each week. This doesn’t mean we have to sit quietly on these evenings, but just means we can do whatever sounds fun to our family in the moment on those evenings. You may be way better at this than we are, so you may not need the boxes, but this has been SO helpful for us!

What would you add to the list?

There you have it! Just a quick group of Phil Rice practices that first come to mind when I think about being intentional in caring for body and mind in order to thrive spiritually. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and process. Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section so that all can benefit from our continued conversation!

Phil Rice


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find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember

ulcerative colitis update

I’m so thankful to all of you for the support and encouragement as I’ve expressed where I am in my journey battling Ulcerative Colitis (UC), and I thought it was time for an update.

After many years of subduing my body with pharmaceuticals, I thought it was time to take a different approach. I started seeing a naturopath in October of 2016 and began my journey equipped with food choices and supplementation. I began with a blood test and a 90 day elimination diet called the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP), eliminating all probable inflammatory food suspects [imagine if Paleo was on a diet… it’s like that].

My blood test came back with a CRP level [a measure of your body’s overall inflammation] of 6/10 [0 = fine and dandy, 10 = Snap! You should already be in the ER w an IV drip … so a 6 is not so hot.]

The AIP diet after 90 days didn’t prove to reduce my symptoms by much, but when my blood test came back at this point, my CRP levels had reduced to 1.8… which is absolutely astounding. Especially considering by the end of the 90 days I was no longer on any of my previous medication [I was fully medicated when I took my initial blood test @ 6/10 CRP]

So, at the suggestion of my naturopath, I’ve continued with a simple Paleo Diet, along with some light supplementation.

While my current experience with UC has not reached remission status, I am feeling much better than I have in over 3 years. I am continuing with the Paleo Diet over the next 12 months and then, depending on where I find myself, we will begin to think through next steps.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support, and know that I feel and experience you all in very impactful ways.



Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Respect Your Body

As a continuation from my article about my journey with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), I wanted to process through some thoughts I’ve had regarding my journey into health and wellness.

As communicated in my post on UC, I have a high value for physical fitness and exercise. And when my experience of UC would hit peaks of inflammation, it would be challenging for me to get a 30 minute run in without having to stop and find a restroom somewhere. It got so bad in at times that I would actually just run laps around a local park that had a public restroom as geographic center. This would allow me to stop whenever I needed to stop — sometimes 4–5 times in what was intended to be a 30 minute run. The continual impact of running was simply too much for my colon, and honestly, for my emotions as well.

In 2015, while in Tulsa at a family gathering, I was afforded some (much overdue) time with my cousin and good friend, Katherine Shafto — an MD in Minneapolis, MN. Not only does she practice medicine, but she also spends much time and energy dedicated to the study of wellness and nutrition — an incredible combination in my opinion — which has come through her own personal journey in addition to the glaring needs of the medical landscape, which, as she has communicated, is all but bereft of both. As we spoke specifically about my condition and the challenges it presents, she gave me some helpful insight. Speaking from some of her own injury and injury induced physical limitation she could empathize with where I was coming from. While Katherine is not one to draw back from a challenge, she did say that the thing she learned in the midst of her experience was the importance of listening to and respecting your body — a challenging viewpoint in a society that has created disconnect between body, mind, and spirit. If your body is telling you something, instead of fighting it and breaking your body into submission, you should listen to it — respect it.

This was the opposite of what I had been doing. I had been working against what my body was communicating. Instead of stopping to listen and respond to my body with an alternative that would bring positive change to my physical and emotional well being, I was setting up systems and scaffolding to muscle my way through and “make it work.” What Katherine proposed was a complete change in method.

She suggested yoga as a way to stay active while not forcing my body into the unnecessary impact-after-impact demanded by running. The idea that I could simply stop running while still maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle (though foreign) was a breath of fresh air to me — and it came as a complete surprise. I had no idea that I was stuck in my narrow perspective, my normal until I was given the invitation to step out of it.

Yoga, my new normal

Before the conversation with Katherine, yoga had never really been on my radar as a form of exercise that would replace the fast paced cardio that running and swimming provided. I could knock out a run in 30 minutes, while I always thought of yoga as more of a 60–90 minute time commitment. And even with 60–90 minutes, I didn’t expect that it would be much of a cardio option. But thinking through my current setup realistically, my 30 minute daily run had actually become a 60 minute run with a lot of breaks — this was no longer a viable option, physically or emotionally. So I purchased my first yoga mat, the PRO by Manduka, a pair of yoga pants by 4-rth and began my yoga journey.

After some research, I found an instructor, Dylan Werner through an online workout fitness community called Cody. Dylan’s coaching and workout plans hit every point of the spectrum for me when it comes to fitness. While I’m not running long miles, the power holds and vinyassa flows within Dylan’s workouts are plenty to get my heart rate up and get me sweating pretty intensely.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Cody app platform as well… It’s an online community and encompasses a variety of different types of workout plans done via video — even now, just perusing through my app, I can jump into anything from yoga to strength, flexibility to barre, HIIT to weightlifting, and even food health and nutrition plans. If you’re looking for some good workout programs with an element of social accountability and don’t want to mess with going to the gym everyday, check it out. It’s working for me.

This concept of listening to and respecting ones body is a progressive learning experience. Our bodies are in a constant state of change and our circumstances are always evolving. When we set ego aside and ask the honest question, we maintain the coarse to keep up with that change. What does my body — or mind, or spirit — need? a new workout regimen, quiet space of prayer, an earlier bedtime, a later wake up time, time in nature, healthier eating habits, more adventure, less chaos, more structure, less stress, more downtime, less wasted time, more fiction, less instagram, more red wine, less coffee. It’s not about finding one thing and sticking to it. Rather, it’s regularly ask the question, waiting for the answer, and moving accordingly.

Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis

In 2009 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). The CCFA describes UC as “the result of an abnormal response by your body’s immune system. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect you from infection. In [ the case of UC] however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation and ulcerations.” — In short, your white blood cells have joined the other team… bummer.

You’re welcome to research UC in any depth that you would like, but basically, the symptoms of increased inflammation and ulcerations of the colon are frequent and urgent bowl movements, diarrhea, and bleeding of the inflicted area — again, total bummer.

I started experiencing symptoms of UC in 2007, but, as I said, it wasn’t until 2009 that I was formally diagnosed. My initial response to this prognosis was not necessarily a calculated one, but it was my response nevertheless. I was in my early 20’s at this time and I was invincible. Running was my daily exercise of choice. I had run a marathon several years before and would transition into training for and participating in Triathlons in the coming years. I had a healthy lifestyle, I had a good thing going, and no doctor was going to tell me that I had to depend on prescription drugs my WHOLE LIFE — I’m sure many of us can relate to these feelings in one way or another — insert personal life circumstance here. After my initial round of drugs and corresponding inflammatory remission, I decided not to take my prescribed medication and decided that God would either heal me or that my body would figure this out on its own. Neither ended up being the case and I found myself right back where I started.

I have learned to manage a life with UC, through the use of pharmaceuticals, as well as natural methods, but my intention with this article is not to focus on the condition itself, but rather, as an introduction to my journey of health, food, and wellness.

I don’t think of myself as disabled. I don’t dwell on this condition. And for the most part, I don’t let it impact my mood or my attitude day-to-day. Though, as close family and friends will attest, my battle with UC has become a filter by which I process my world. I don’t even say this negatively, but rather, realistically. I’ve gained the ability to say no to certain ways of life — foods, activities, rhythms. I’ve learned to give myself lots of grace in many areas — particularly in the aforementioned. And I’ve determined to look at circumstances through a new lens — opportunity, adaptation, and creative constraint.


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember