In last month’s newsletter we covered 3 key essential elements of health and wellness. Today I want to travel deeper, to go back to the single most powerful element of health and wellness as it is the context in to which all other aspects of health sit and find their power. With a greater understanding of this key to optimal health every other action that you take will have greater effect and significance.
I see in the main stream health world a perpetual bombardment and focus on products and activates that are all, to varying degrees, peripheral to the foundations of health, to the elements that in the long term become the determinate factors of your true health and wellbeing.
Over the years I have found that I spend more time discussing and debating with clients as to what the essential nature of health actually is. The fact being that the deeper ones understand of health the clearer the actions are that a person really needs to be taking to be well and the more compelling it is to get straight to the point. The apparent paradox that I see almost every day is that those people who have the most pain (either physical and or psychological) are the ones who will defend their position (all be it a very painful one) the hardest. And who will not want to accept or believe in the actions they may need to take to become well or healthy even though that acceptance is evidentially in their best interest! It is the same mind set and emotional experience that both resists and expresses the pain so there resistance is the evidence of the necessity to transcend it in order to heal.
Be like the water in a mighty river – hold no position, flow around the obstacles and bends with ease possessing the potential of incredible power!
As I have come to see holding and defending a position that is the primary root of pain is the normal stance. For this reason I want to premise this discussion with the matter of ‘holding a position’ and why even in the scientific world this is not a sensible psychological bearing as it leads to looking to verify and reinforce ones view point whilst shutting out alternative ideas. This can lead to potentially dismissing concepts without giving consideration to either there potential validity generally and to the potential they may have in changing the very situation from which the disease or apparent health problem is emanating.
I have learnt to walk in the direction of holding a ‘positionless position’ as a therapist and healer this is the only integrous outlook to take. When assessing someone in any respect we need to simply look for the truth of what is occurring rather than to back up or confirm a theory or presumption of what we think may be arising. This must also be the same with learning whether that is science or philosophy, objective or subjective. To move forwards to grow and in this context to heal and be healthy we have to be prepared to change our thinking and to let ourselves evolve… change is not defeat.
This in turn means that the wise must learn to trust the wiser. We need to be able to read the works of people that have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of understanding there subjects in the clear knowledge that they may know more than us. It’s then our undertaking to understand their work and to then either verify its accuracy and agree until proven otherwise or to develop our own theory and present that to the wider world in the hope that it might nudge things in the direction of greater understanding a greater truth of the subject in question.
What is it about a meditative or contemplative practice that connects to the essential nature of health?
So with all this in mind we can now look at why a meditative practice is so intimately linked to the experience of true health and vitality. Firstly we have to look at what it is to be healthy.
The oxford English dictionary states:
- The state of being free from illness or injury: he was restored to health
- A person’s mental or physical condition: bad health forced him to retire
So from these simple statements we can see that it is generally considered that health is both mental and physical. It can then be observed clinically very clearly that a disease in either aspect can negatively affect the other and then bounce off each other creating a negative spiral or decent in to a worse condition.
It is my observation that the primary source of disease and so ill health can start in either the physical of the psychological and then spread to the other. The point is that if the psychological state is good the physical can be overcome in a much quicker and more profound way and the problem can be resolved, however if the psychological state is not so good then it can be very problematic to resolve the physical. This then demonstrates that the foundational issue is the psychological and emotional state. So if health is both physical and psychological and the psychological is the foundation then what is the psychological and emotional state that we would deem to be a ‘healthy state’? I would say that the state would be one of happiness and contentment, if we are truly happy and content is there anything ells to add?
In this state of happiness the parasympathetic nervous system will be dominant which means increased muscular relaxation, improved digestion, improved cognitive function and decision making and much more, so we can see how the emotional state of happiness has direct physical health consequences.
So then happiness is the primary base connecting emotion to health as in this state not only are we happy and content (which is good!) but we are reflexively positively influencing the physical condition in an upward spiral of health and healing.
The essential practises of health and what they can offer
How then does a meditative or contemplative practice bring me to the healing and healthy state of happiness!
Consider it this way, we experience emotion as sensation in the body and the thinking of the mind reflects the emotion. The inner process can also go from a preconditioned thought arsing that is then followed by an emotional response. However are the thoughts we have actually real outside out own minds? No. our thoughts are things that pop up in our head as a result of things that we perceive have happened in the past and things that we think may happen in the future and the emotions that are arising.
These thoughts will reflect different emotions in the body, if we think about something we perceive as devastating in our past what are the dominant emotions that we experience? Perhaps anger, regret, shame and as we then project in to the future allot of the time we may feel the emotions of fear or anxiety.
Meditative practice then allows us to observe the mind to take less if any notice of the thoughts that reflect the painful emotional states that lead to ill health and disease as they can be observed as a simple reflection of an emotion that can be allowed to pass. In time and with practice slowly like the rising of the sun the emotion of happiness begins to fill the inner space simply because the clouds of the negative emotions are fading. This then suggests that happiness and contentment are our foundational state and so in turn we can see that health is our foundational state… thinking just gets in the way!
So the literal and practical key to health is a meditative or contemplative practice. Simply sit in a quite calm and relaxing space. Breathe deeply and slowly in to you belly, spend some time inwardly observing your breath, following it up and down. When you feel ready observe your thoughts and practice letting them go rather than getting involved and jumping in to the paper chase of thought. When ready to go deeper still allow yourself to observe the sensation of the emotions and allow them to be present, to fill their space. Give up resistance to them and know that it is safe to do so. This is what is termed ‘letting go’ to experience the emotion out. Once that experience has come about and one comes to see that emotions can actually be let go and that thinking then changes accordingly the world and your journey of health will never be the same again.
There are many texts on meditation, if you’re truly interested in your health why not begin the journey of exploration… I can assure you it’s a fascinating and rewarding journey!
In health and happiness