“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” Hippocrates
The field of medicine has come a long way over the years. We can effectively treat illnesses that at one time were life-ending, and the lifespan of the human species has drastically increased due to the ability we have to preserve life. This is wonderful in many ways. I do feel, however, that many people in our United States culture forget that our bodies, by and large, are naturally designed to keep us well. Yes, it is an absolute truth that disease and sickness occur, and thank goodness we have developed the technology to help alleviate this. What I mean is that we often bombard our bodies with many things that stress our systems, and the average American leads a much more sedentary life than in the past. What then do we do to activate ourselves to promote health and wellbeing?
I am a believer in the mind-body connection. But, first and foremost I want to identify that talking of distinct “mind” and “body” elements is dualistic and artificial. There really is no distinction between them. Without one, we do not have the other. So, what is this “mind” we speak of? Recent literature identifies the mind as being located throughout the body, rather than strictly being contained in the head and brain areas. Our nervous system carries a great deal of data about our physical bodies in rapid succession, to communicate how we are doing from moment to moment. This electrical and chemical communication works to regulate energy in every interaction we have, from physical environment to relationship encounter. We get signals as a detection system of sorts to identify problematic situations and pleasantly experienced ones as well. When our detection systems become out of balance, this could be identified as a “symptom”. Just as our cars need a tune up from time to time, our bodies and minds also need tune ups. This may be physical, as in the case of weight management or particular systems in need of repair such as heart and lung. It could also be psychological, stemming from thought patterns or emotional regulation patters that become difficult to manage.
There is an old phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. What this means is that by taking care of ourselves prior to problems, we may have less of them, and when problems occur we can address them much better. If we can become more mindful of our bodies and mind on a daily basis, and remaining committed to the action of healthy choices, we can tap into the natural regulation systems of our bodies. Now, this is not to say we will never get sick if we do this. Even under the best conditions, as stated above, illness will still find us. My encouragement is to understand that we can manage this a bit better by healthy living.
May all people find balance in their lives!
I see my face in the mirror and go, ‘I’m a Halloween costume? That’s what they think of me?” – Drew Carey
I have always enjoyed the concept of Halloween, both as a child and now as an adult. There is a lot of fun in dressing up as another character and parading around the neighborhood. This was especially true as a child when candy was involved. What I began to think about the last few days leading up to Beggar’s Night is the concept of costume. On Halloween, our costume can be obvious, and is in some way a reflection of our internal minds, dressing as an idealized image or role model (i.e. Superhero Batman), or something that may be an antithesis of our normal life (i.e. serial killer Michael Myers). These costumes are an exaggeration of sorts, and easily identified by others as fantasy. Throughout the rest of the year, our costume choice may not be readily seen by others and in some cases by our own awareness. Often, we see our “costumes” as being simply who we are. These costumes may come in the form of our work attire, a title, a choice in what we eat or drink, and the list goes on. If my premise has merit, then the questions we could ask are “Who am I really?”, “What is under the costume?”, “Is who I am simply a series of costume changes on the stage of life?”. I will leave the answers to those questions up to you.
One further question I may add is this. How do you choose your everyday life costumes? I remember it being difficult enough to choose a costume to wear for one trick-or-treat adventure as a child, only to be discarded for a new one next year. I would premise that choosing the characters we live each day is a much more important choice. Personally, I want to be the superhero in my daily life and not the villain. But… maybe for a night I could look like one for fun. Happy Halloween!
“There is unquestionably a contradiction between an efficient technological machine and the flowering of human nature, of the human personality.” -Arthur Miller
I was recently sitting in a popular local coffee shop so that I could get some work done away from the office. It dawned on me, as I typed an e-mail, that I was working there so as to isolate myself for the purpose of uninterrupted work time. The recognized irony of this is that I was “isolated” in a room full of people. As I glanced around the room, I noticed that there were people talking on cell phones, texting, checking a Facebook status or twitter feed, or sitting silently alone. Sure, there were a couple of people in real human interactions, but for the majority of people (myself included) all interaction was through a virtual world. I guess to add to the irony, I am sharing my reflections via a virtual posting, which is likely to be read by very few people. My point is this. Through the wonderful magic of technology, we are able to connect with others in ways that were never before possible. However, are people becoming less likely to engage in actual “in the flesh” relationships in favor of virtual ones? I see this with my own children too. At times, they have to be reminded not to place something such as a phone-text chat at a greater importance than a live conversation they are having. I cannot help but wonder how the increased use of technology is shaping human relationships and the ability for people to socialize in real time face-to-face interactions. I by no means am anti-technology and truly think it is a wonderful tool. I also have a new inspiration to increase my engagement of live people more often.
“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”
― Meister Eckhart, Sermons of Meister Eckhart
People misperceive things in their lives. Why they misperceive is often complicated. Reasons may include things such as projections from past experience onto current situations, a lack of seeing the data in front of them, or a rejection of the data because they don’t want to see it. Whatever the reason, this causes problems, particularly in relationships with others. What makes things even more complicated is that the truth for one can truly be different than the truth for another. When the belief that the relative truth for one is the absolute truth for all, we mistakenly believe others are wrong and problems ensue. This is like looking through a pair of glasses that are smudged with grease for years. We see the world in a distorted way, and because time passes we forget that they are smudged and begin to believe that the distorted picture is truth.
What is needed is a good lens cleaning. Wipe off the old grime, and see a different picture. We can learn to do this by getting feedback from others, examining our own distorted views, and learning to let go of the belief that our thoughts are absolute truths. Easier said than done much of the time, but entirely possible. The first step is to acknowledge that our lens is smudged with our projections. The rest comes with consistent cleaning and polishing. The more often we do this, the less we have to wipe clean in the future.
“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― Lao Tzu
Life is full of ordanary things. For many, this can seem like a mundane fact and they seek out excitement and novelty. They can get trapped into thinking that happiness comes from something different than what their lives are, and in an effort to correct what they think is missing they miss what is right in front of them. The problem with this seeking is that the novel becomes less novel, and the extraordinary can become ordinary. What then? More seeking. Seeking becomes all encompassing, satisfaction continues to be just out of reach and dissatisfaction and loneliness within your life sets in. Contentment, on the other hand, comes from the engagement with your life here and now. And oddly enough as “ordinary” as it is, life is extraordinary. For instance, when you sit and think about it, how wonderfully extraordinary is it to be able to push a button on the newest smart phone and talk with a loved one across the country? Twenty years ago that was science fiction, and people of that era would most certainly marvel at the seemingly impossible feat of communication we now consider a common necessity. People have become so used to the ordinary nature of a digital phone call that they become dissatisfied when the call drops due to a service glitch. Of course, there is nothing wrong with advancement in life and technology, and certainly working towards bettering the world is a noble endeavor. The problem only occurs when we seek for something that doesn’t exist at the expense of being fully present in our current situation. The world is yours to have. You own it for your lifetime, so relax and take a good long breath of fresh air, drink a cold glass of water in the summer heat, and notice something (extra)ordinary.
“I was never lost, but I was bewildered once for three days” – Daniel Boone
Life direction can be difficult to find when we are not sure where we are going, and this can get in the way of our optimal functioning. When this happens, we can feel “lost”. In reality, we cannot be anywhere but the current place and time. Being “lost” implies we should be somewhere else, or that we are absent from where we are. The only antidote for this is being present.
I like this quote from Daniel Boone, which was his response to the question about whether he was ever lost in the woods. I believe there is a great deal of wisdom in his response. If we stop and look closely, we can see exactly where we are at any given moment. The situations we are in and the relationships we have are right in front of us. Because of this moment-to-moment awareness, we are therefore never “lost”.
Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a book entitled “Wherever you go, there you are”, which embodies the idea that we have the capacity to be ever present with ourselves and our lives. He writes, “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” True that we may be bewildered or confused about which way to go at times, but finding ourselves in the present situation helps to gain perspective in how we can engage our lives to our best ability. In fact, by allowing a state of not knowing, we are given the widest berth for developing awareness to know.
“The reverse side, also has a reverse side” – Zen proverb.
We get stuck in our ideas. This is a part of the human condition. We start to believe that what we think is the truth. Some times they are correct. Other times, they are not so correct. Seeing the reverse side is simply about taking perspective and an effort to get out of our own head and realize that there are many perspectives and understandings available to us. There is a famous story about a group of blind men all coming upon an elephant. Each man has a different understanding due to the part of the great animal they experience. The man experiencing the tail understands it as a broom, the man at the leg percieves the trunk of a tree. Both make different mistakes, but given what they have to work with they are doing the best they can to understand. This is us as people every day. We do our best to make sense of our world and understand our perceptions. If, in fact, we can let go of this attempt as being the only possibility, we can open our understanding to take in a greater truth in awareness and more fully understand our lives and our selves. The reverse side has a valuable lesson. It also has a “reverse side”, which is our original side. Clinging and rejecting are much the same problem, so we have to acknowledge our side, the reverse side, and everything in between. Simple right? In a way yes, but also difficult because of the way that we have been conditioned to learn. My encouragement is to question everything, even this! Ask yourself, is this true? What is this life? Who am I? What is my direction in this life? Answer with both sides, and ask again.
I have noticed a trend in that when many people talk of letting go, they are faced with a challenge or are experiencing something as unpleasant. The goal of the “letting go” is utilized as a way to dismiss or escape. When things seem ok, letting go isn’t seen as a necessity. What is missed is that by clinging to the pleasant, we help to set up the very condition of wanting to escape the unpleasant. Letting go is a comprehensive process of not holding or rejecting ANY experience. Those experiences and feelings will come and go on their own. Letting go is acceptance of the truth without adding secondary causes and conditions on the moment or to our reactions. Let go and live life more freely.
The vernal equinox has come, and spring is upon us. In north-east ohio, this transition to spring comes with a new blanket of snow, and many people lamenting about how they long for warmer weather. I too am looking forward to some warmer days, and at the same time feel that nature has it covered. Our ideas about what “should be” can often get in the way of enjoying “what is”, and often leads to dissatisfaction. This is not to say that we have to like everything. Acceptance that we have nothing else but this very moment can free our mental resources to engage our lives in a more honest way. Welcome spring, a symbolic time of change, in all of it’s snowy glory and enjoy the gradual changes that unfold in our life’s seasons.
Sometimes a simple “Hello, how is your day going?” can lead to some interesting connections. Today, while investing in a small break in my day, I went to get a cup of coffee. I asked the gentleman in front of me in line how his day was. He stated that his day was very good because he just visited his daughter who was going to a local university. She was in fact studying psychology and wanted to go for her doctorate. He explained how she had a number of questions about where to go to persue her advanced degree and what things to consider in her search. I explained that I was in fact a Psychologist by profession, and the Training Director of a psychology internshiph program, offered my help, and gave him my card. I would have missed an opportunity to help someone if I hadn’t simply said hello. How often do we as humans walk through our day next to people that may value our connection, and yet say nothing to them to even have the opportunity to find out? I pose an invitation, for each of use to genuinely say hello to people more often and see what happens. It might surprise us!