Redefining Our Way Of Being

Despite living in an age of brilliant advances in medical technology and the development of sophisticated medications, chronic disease and chronic fatigue have reached epidemic proportions.  This is not news to anyone nor is the fact that the pains and fatigue, which have become pervasive in our world, are largely due to the excessive stress people feel in today’s extraordinarily fast-paced world.  By attempting to do more in less time, people are overstressed, overworked, overweight, and overwhelmingly unhealthy.  Never has this been clearer than in the wisdom of Deepak Chopra (1993) when, in his insightful book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, he coins the term, “the disease of being in a hurry” (p. 131).  Stress has become a global illness (Schaefer, 2006) and I believe our fatigued, stressed bodies are inviting us to look at some of the current beliefs we have accepted and their impact on how we are BEING (our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions) as we seek to heal and experience renewed vitality.

We can start by examining the notion that self-worth is solely derived through doing and producing, something which has become widely accepted yet doesn’t acknowledge the inherent worth of all beings through their very existence on this earth. Society has programmed us to believe we must DO more and more, and, as a result, we’ve become “human doings” and forgotten we are human beings.  This had lead to health-harming daily habits such as mindless, rushed eating.  What was once an opportunity to nourish our minds and bodies through eating and interacting with loved ones and friends, has become something which, although necessary for our survival, is often perceived as a nuisance that interrupts our ability to work.  “Fast food” is symbolic of how we live in a sympathetic dominant state (think fight or flight) that shuts down digestion and impairs our health (David, 2005).  “The same part of our brain that turns on stress turns off digestion” (p. 19).  Consuming food quickly stresses the body as we develop shallow, infrequent breathing patterns that blunt digestion and lead to poor assimilation of vital nutrients.  As a result, we are often left feeling tired and unsatisfied as we deny ourselves the opportunity to fully enjoy this important aspect of our lives.

Mindless living, specifically mindless eating, creates a vicious cycle of perpetual consumption as we seek to fill a void that cannot be satiated under our current way of being (David, 2005).  Until we recognize the lack of awareness that pervades much of our behavior, we are slaves to this reckless pattern and destined to experience less than optimal health.  Slowing down, cooking with loving intentions, and eating in the company of friends, I believe, are means of revitalizing our minds and bodies.  Rather than rushing though life and our meals, we can consciously choose to spend time deriving great pleasure from the experience of relaxing and eating with others, treating it as a joyous celebration of being alive.  By relishing the present moment and feeling gratitude for the pleasurable, health promoting food we consciously choose to consume, we allow ourselves to be truly nourished. This type of awareness coupled with gratitude offers powerful healing benefits.

Slowing down and living mindfully also offers us an opportunity to look at the manner in which we respond to stress.  Being adaptable in the face of adversity has been shown in studies to be among the most common traits of individuals who live to 100 and beyond and, the good news is that recent research has proven that we have the ability to control how we respond by consciously controlling bodily processes once considered automatic (Pert, 1997).  Studies show that we can enhance blood flow to a specific body part through visualization, thereby improving available oxygen and nutrients to detoxify our bodies and nourish our cells.  Medical students have proven that they alter the output of interleukins when feeling anxious and yogis have exhibited the ability to manipulate their heart rate at will (Chopra, 1993).  In essence, the body acts as a mirror of the mind and vice versa.  The implications of these findings are profound as they shed highly illuminating light on the power we possess to influence our physiology through conscious awareness and strong intention.

I believe we all could benefit from paying closer attention to our bodily pains and fatigue as they may be calling us to slow down a bit and recognize the imbalances and lack of harmony in our lives (David, 2005).  There are lessons that our body is seeking to teach us if we are open to receiving the messages they are conveying.  Yes, we all have responsibilities and yes, we all are subject to stress but the level of awareness we bring in response to our daily stressors determines our how we react.  The experience of stress, pain, and fatigue can be an opportunity to consider which beliefs are impairing our health while rediscovering what matters most in our lives.  It can be a time to reflect upon the things and people that make our hearts sing and bring us joy.  The direction and speed of our lives may come into clearer focus as priorities shift and we discover what makes us healthy and happy.  By listening to our bodies and bringing enhanced awareness of how we relate to the world around us, we can transform our ability to respond more skillfully to our daily stressors and choose to lead a life filled with peace, health, and vitality.

References:
Chopra, D.  (1993).  Ageless body, timeless mind: The quantum alternative to growing
             old.  New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

David, M.  (2005).  The slow down diet: Eating for pleasure, energy, and weight loss.
             Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Pert, C.  (1997).  Molecules of emotion: The science behind mind-body
 medicine.  New York, NY: Scribner.

Schaefer, C.  (2006).  Grandmothers counsel the world: Women elders offer their vision
 for our planet.  Boston, MA: Trumpeter Books.

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