Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Healthy Whole


I have been getting many wonderful messages of love and support.  Lots of digital hugs and kisses.  They lift me up and encourage me.  They solidify my confidence in my relationships.  But, I don't think most people realize how... how great I feel.  I'm having trouble deciding how to explain to you how I can be so happy and healthy, because I am, in the midst of the current situation.  Yes, it's difficult, and I definitely have my days, but when you feel like you are getting distance from something that causes you pain, it's liberating, and how high and how low you go depends heavily on how you handle things.  And, the thing is, I am handling them really well.  Remarkably well.  I surprise myself.

I think navigating life's challenges and blessings is dependant on your health.  Your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.  If each of those is in order, not much can bring you down, not that it's simple to do.  Often times, as in any relationship, the components give and take for each other.  That's fine, as long as effort is put toward homeostasis.  Maybe it can't be achieved, but the attention you put toward it matters.  Everything matters.  Something you did 15 years ago might matter to the state of your life right now.  What if you had gotten drunk and stolen your mom's car and lost a foot when you were 15 years old?  That would matter to you when you were 30.  What if you won a grant when you were 25 that led you to win a Nobel Prize when you were 40?  Those are obvious examples, but just because something isn't obvious to you, doesn't mean it's not affecting your life.  Be nice to the cashier at the gas station.  It all matters.

As for physical health, since that is the most straight forward to describe, I do the Spartacus workout (SW) 3 or 4 days a week.  I take a multi-vitamin (a nice organic, food-based one), I eat my fruits and veggies, and I usually don't eat too much.  That is key for me cause I'm a little person with a big appetite for many things, including food.  It's a lot easier in Japan to make the right choices, I think, because often they are made for you.  Maybe you wanted the super size, but all they offer is the kinda-small size, so there you are, forced to make a reasonable portion choice.  They don't have Olive Garden, let me tell you.  Moderation is cliche, but key.  I want lattes, and I drink them, but I drink green tea sometimes instead.  I want cookies, and I eat them, but I eat nuts at school (usually).  Also, it's harder to eat a whole bag of cookies when you have to unwrap each one.  I also choose to take the stairs, walk when I could ride, and get out for a lunch walk almost every day.  Drink lots of water, don't ignore pain... you know the drill.  It took me a while to figure out how to get my exercise in Japan.  I had a lot of requirements, and my routine could not conflict with anything Knox related, so that's how I ended up with the free, living room based SW.  I don't have to travel and I can do it anytime I please.  Someone even gave me the weights, since we JETs redistribute all of the things that were left behind by our predecessors.  The SW has been a godsend (Thanks Andrei!). 

Speaking of God, I'll go from the easiest to describe to the hardest.  Although, one way to stay healthy and happy is to respect the times when you don't have the energy to do something.  Right now, I don't have the energy to describe my spiritual beliefs.  But, in pursuit of happiness, I think you have to know what yours are.  I think it is essential in life to divine what you believe, at an age where the decision is truly yours, and not simply what you keep doing because it was impressed upon you.  Everyone can reassert themselves when they become independent, but most people are not inclined to do so.  I think that sucks, but that's ok.  I was inclined to do so, and luckily I like to read and study.  I honestly want to get better in every way I can whenever I have the opportunity, which is at every moment, really.  Statistically, people who have a spiritual practice report more life satisfaction.  Take it or leave it, but I agree.  Our finite minds are presented with so much...

Mental health is physical, too.  You have to feed your mind if you expect it to keep working for you.  Feed it some combination of books, music, art, new environs, puzzles, and problems to figure out... Education feeds the mind, and educated people are better at organizing their worlds.  If the mind is not fed, the mind's partner has too much responsibility.  I'm speaking of Madame Emotion, and no one wants her in charge.  She's important, but she should not be running things on her own.

As for the emotions, they seem to rely on the health of the whole more than the others, to function in a healthy way.  But maybe that's my experience talking, because I think that mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health are each equally important and fragile.  The pickle is that emotions are not like the others in that they don't need to be fed; they feed themselves; they multiply like gremlins (which, if you haven't seen it, put the popper on).  Emotions need to be expressed, I think.  That's how to keep the whole healthy.  While the mind, body, and spirit can dwindle without care, the emotions increase.  If we don't do anything to release the excess in a gradual way, we release the excess in an explosion.  We yell.  We throw chocolate.  And sometimes worse.  Some people drink to put the excess emotions to sleep.  Most of the time, these kinds of reactions are avoidable.  Most of the time we can take the time to release our emotions at a healthy pace and choose to respond, instead of react.  Draw, write, dance, talk, punch a bag, run, rock out on the air guitar.  Express yourself. 

We can try to do everything in our power to stay healthy, but sometimes things are out of our power.  People get injuries and diseases, people have chemical imbalances in the mind... I don't know if the emotions or spirit can have diseases of their own -maybe that's where monsters are born- but the dis-ease in any part of the body affects those, too.  Make sure the whole is strong so that when misfortune finds you, and it will, it doesn't beat you.

In short, do what you know is good for you.  I know that's not easy sometimes, but the measure of masochism I witness is baffling.  Your body really is your temple.  It is you, and it's where you live.  Respect it. 

The next part is almost in spite of what I've said so far, and it's because I'm teetering between the two.  I've come to a point in my life where I can look back and connect some dots... and I think I've been a bit too principled and a little too hard on people close to me for not living up to what I saw as their potential.  And I've been too hard on myself for not being exactly what I thought I should be.  I've started to relax.  There is strength in letting things be, and there is virtue in accepting things for what they are.  I don't want to confuse acceptance with inaction, but we don't have to be perfect and we don't always have to be achieving to be valued and valuable.  I used to see things in such a black and white way, and I admit that I still do a little, but I'm trying to calm down, back up, and see the palette.  I'm trying to go easier.   

Here is a prose poem by Max Ehrmann.  It has helped me many times.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Sorry I kept you so long today.  :-)  I just want you to know that I took this advice, strengthened my spirit, and the others, and I am smiling.  I missed the last bus the other day.  I just took a stroll, ran into some friends and had a good talk, and then conned a cabbie into taking me home for the change in the bottom of my purse, as I had also run out of money.  The little things are not bothering me.  The big ones, I'm handling.  And I feel good. 

From Japan,

1 comment:

KIm said...

I love the desiderata!!! Lovely writing as usual ....very thought provoking!