Can Police Live By Bread Alone?

TAKING care of the soul is crucial, but I kept procrastinating and deferring because it seemed the most irrelevant thing to nurture in this fast-paced, busy world. Hitting the gym occurred to me as the most pragmatic and prudent thing to do than sitting cross-legged on the ground with my eyes closed.
Can Police Live By Bread Alone?

Chennai

So the decay and neglect of my soul went on until I ran into an old childhood friend of mine while boarding a flight a few years ago at the local airport, which made me realise that all the striving in the outer world had not fetched me any joy or lasting happiness. On the contrary, I figured out that all the grind was not only depleting me physically and mentally but also leaving me drained and spiritually parched.
Harking back to my childhood days, I can vividly reminisce several fond memories of time spent with this boyhood chum, either trapping guppies at the local pond with plastic bags or going catapult hunting in the fields or playing truant at school to binge on Clint Eastwood’s movies at the local cinema. I lost touch with him when they left the neighbourhood after his father got transferred. After over four decades, on that random evening at the airport, we were suddenly staring at each other, thrilled beyond words at the reunion. There was something magnetic about his presence that instantly stupefied and hushed me. His saintlike demeanour radiated deep peace and expansive compassionate energy. Despite the hustle and bustle of milling crowds around us, I could sense his presence, exuding an energy of indescribable joy and peace unknown. A quick conversation with him revealed he had veered to a life of service and contemplation after jettisoning a glamorous profession. This brief interaction was so profound that I desperately wanted to gain all his hallowed qualities by subjecting my being to spiritual disciplines.
Over the years, especially after the tryst with my childhood buddy, I have since uncovered that tending to one’s spirit is far more valuable than caring for one’s body and mind. Because our spirit can be strong and glorious as ever even after age has atrophied our muscles, the skin has got shrunken and shrivelled; the brain has got permeated with plaques, and the blood vessels have got clogged despite our relentless quest for fitness and longevity.
Most police officers like me, at some stage of life, realise that there must be more to life than day-to-day existence, and some entertain thoughts of having a rich inner life. Contemporary policing has become more complex and challenging. It has become more demanding and stressful than before. Cultivating spiritual disciplines could help police officers grow and strengthen their souls. Eventually, bolstering the ability of a police officer to feel inner peace, demonstrate moral courage, get insights, conquer bad parts of oneself, endure hardships and act unselfishly. Inculcating spirituality in the lives of police officers does not mean making them religious. It implies helping them develop a deeper, more transcendent meaning of life which is untrammelled to roam and explore their life bereft of all calcified dogmas, tenets and traditions.
So, spiritual disciplines are specific habits that develop, grow, and strengthen our spirit, build the muscles of our character, and train our soul. Just as we grow our muscles in the gym by lifting weights or grow new neurons in the brain by challenging the brain with new tasks, we can consistently train our spiritual muscles with spiritual activities like meditation, service, prayer, gratitude, fasting, silence, journaling, etc., to prevent us from becoming spiritually unfit, spiritually barren, and spiritually stagnant.
Hence, to strengthen the soul, we would have to train in a conscious, intentional manner, like how we overcome resistance by pushing weights in a gym. We need discipline in all walks of life. We need the discipline to learn a new art or craft, go to the gym, lose weight, or achieve something in life. The same steadfast laws that underlie discipline in the physical world also apply in the spiritual realm. We must intentionally choose to train the soul consistently. Persistence is essential. Just as we earmark a specific time for physical exercise, we must make time for spiritual activities. Wellness and vitality that accrues from such practices could enhance the quality of service that we, as law enforcement professionals, provide.
Thus, incorporating spiritual disciplines during the basic training could go a long way in building and insulating resilience and spiritual strength in the recruits to better combat stress and face the worst-case scenarios in their future duties. Interweaving spirituality into the training curricula could help in embodying personal resilience into police officers’ lives as an antidote to stress. During the training, trainers could help recruits reflect on their purpose and examine what lured them to police work.
Further, the trainers could also teach recruits to develop effective spirit-based coping strategies. Understanding emotional resilience, which links a person’s physical and emotional reactions, could help a recruit infer the cause of the body’s adverse reaction and help him devise suitable strategies to combat it. For generating ethical police officers, it is imperative to strengthen the spirituality of recruits. Ethical on-the-job decision making often correlates to employee spirituality. Hence, the spiritual dimension could be a critical element that could significantly influence physical, cognitive, and emotional aspects by providing recruits with direction or purpose or connectedness or inner completeness. Connectedness here could be a connection with God, people, or nature.
Now, research is disclosing spiritual development can effectively protect the police against the harmful effects of policing. The pronouncement of Jesus Christ that man does not live by bread alone in the Bible implies that it’s not enough to feed the body with food and ignore the spirit. The soul also needs nourishment in the form of meaning and connection. Ample evidence is emerging from studies to prove that police cannot live by bread alone as spirituality is a vital component that provides purpose and direction to police personnel. Therefore, to infuse a culture of contemplation, we have established dedicated silent spaces called ‘Zen Zones’ and ‘Zen Dens’ for officers and men in all the TSP Battalions under me to serve as sanctuaries of serenity and calm reflection.
Finally, imparting such training to police officers would help them understand how they could nurture and maintain their inner spirit of compassion, noble service, and connectedness. As a result, they would be much more likely to develop that sense of inner calling and meaningful purpose in the quality of their work. So, overhauling the police culture to integrate spirituality and emotional wellness into law enforcement is essential. It can help police officers understand the spiritual connectedness to their inner sense of duty and the needs of their fellow officers and the society. Hence, training institutions should endeavour to encourage and promote the non-religious spiritual practices of recruits to produce well-rounded police officers who are adept at physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Police officers need bread to live, but we are all spiritual beings having a human existence, so the soul is paramount, and we can’t afford to starve the soul and live on bread alone.
— The writer is ADGP, Armed Police

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