In my opinion, true health is all about balance. There are many factors affecting the balance for us and so we are forever travelling along a health spectrum, sliding up and down the scale, trying to reach the point where we feel well and can function at our optimum level. This optimal point is not only about building and operating a healthy physical body successfully, the part we can actually see, there are other factors that I have found need to be considered. The phrase: ‘mind, body and soul’ sums this up for me.
Up until I had my children you could say that I believed health was defined only by one aspect, the physical state of your body. I thought I had always been quite healthy; I had always played competitive sport to a high level, ate reasonably well (at least I thought I did though I knew always a little too much), had a fantastic childhood in rural New Zealand, had suffered no serious illnesses with lasting effects that I noticed, enjoyed a job that I was good at and was in a stable relationship. So why did I have some self-confidence issues despite appearing confident on the outside and why did I not feel completely satisfied with my body and direction in life? I had never asked myself these questions at the time, I didn’t even consider that there were questions to be asked! It’s only with experience and a great deal of learning behind me that that I can look back and see the answers with much more clarity. I had achieved some form of body balance, but I had never considered looking inwards to find real meaning in my life.
Soul or Spirit
I’m not sure I feel comfortable addressing the next part as my soul quite yet. I feel more comfortable thinking about it as my life’s purpose, the place where my passion comes from and the ‘life force’ that gives me positive energy to live a meaningful life. I love Joseph Campbell’s phrase ‘follow your bliss’ which I seemed to stumble across at the perfect time in my life for me to fully understand it’s meaning. I had not long had my second child, discovered the world of natural health and healing, changed my diet and environment, and started thinking more clearly to begin to see the pieces of my life puzzle coming together. I truly believe that to find ultimate health and happiness you need a purpose in life, not one you’ve fallen into by default or given to you by someone else (like your parents), but one which you are easily self-motivated for, which lights your fire and really doesn’t feel like hard work so that at the end of each day you can feel fulfilled. To find balance here for me it is a matter of working through the activities from what I call my previous and unenlightened life, and gradually replacing them with the activities for my new mindful life whilst considering the circumstances of my husband and our children’s lives. I seem to want to do everything now, and know everything now, I get impatient and frustrated at times, but I have learnt to slow down and focus on one thing at a time in order to make changes that are more realistic and sustainable. I know that the pressure I put on myself to ensure I get as close to perfection as possible can cause me considerable stress and so works against me at times, so I have to work hard to find and recognise the balance here.
This brings me to the mind which I now recognise as the link between the body and the soul. I have witnessed so many situations where thought/thinking can be your worst enemy or your greatest healer that making this leap was relatively easy. The best way I can explain it is that your mind is able to interpret the feelings and emotions coming from your soul, and has the power to engage your body to react, or not. I think one of the problems we have today is that our minds are constantly bombarded with external influences from society and the modern environment (including peer pressure, materialism, laws and regulations, chemicals, electromagnetic waves, nutrition-less food, terrorism, pollution etc) that a lot of the time we can’t even get close to sensing the direction in which our souls are trying to guide us. When faced with a recent significant decision I received some excellent advice from natural health advocate, which was to practice more frequent meditation. This makes perfect sense when you understand that meditation is a way for us to quieten the mind sufficiently that we can access the soul and regain our sense of control and direction.If we are out of balance, unwell or have some form of dis-ease we need to do some healing work to re-balance.
Considering the mind, body and soul connection we need to identify where the imbalance is and address the root cause. This kind of healing is quite the opposite of the ‘band-aid’ approach that modern, conventional medicine would apply through its use of allopathic treatments and pharmaceuticals which are designed to suppress symptoms. This lends itself to prolonged use of these treatments because the root cause is not always identified and the imbalance itself is not corrected.I believe that the body can heal itself if you let it, but you must put your conditioned responses to one side, learn to listen to what the signs and symptoms are telling you and prioritise your health so that you are an active participant in managing it.
My own personal approach to healing has changed significantly in past years with the catalyst being the birth of my second (and last!) child. I had a kind of maternal epiphany and the shocking realisation that I am now responsible for the health and wellbeing of these two completely helpless little human beings (my husband feels the same and so we work together in this mission). I have read/listened to/attended many books/talks/lectures to soak up as much information as possible to educate myself on the best way to raise them healthy, with the least risk of imbalance. I absolutely love learning. Once I had a basic understanding of the three different aspects of health and their connection i.e. the mind, body and soul, I looked into each of these further because I want to manage our health proactively i.e ‘prevention is the cure’.
My first steps were to address my own health properly, making lots of changes, some overnight others much more slowly. In the beginning I worried that I was being selfish in implementing this new healthier lifestyle myself before finding the time and patience to adopt it for my family, but I now know that you must apply the airline safety principle here and apply your own oxygen mask before applying anyone else’s. Plus, children learn very much from copying what they observe so I have to practice what I preach.The principal I use to guide our health and healing is to consider what our ancestors of hundreds and thousands of years ago might have done as much as possible and I’ve found it to be a pretty sound system which avoids over-complicating things with science, difficult diets and things that in reality are too difficult to sustain when you’re a full-time working mum. I don’t like the idea of labeling a diet, every body is different with different needs so we need to consider this and adapt wherever possible. I try to serve nutrient dense foods, ensure the kids get enough playtime, spend as much time outdoors (and barefoot!) as possible, encourage quality sleep, educate as they become old enough to focus on the most important things and not stress about the things they can’t change, not expose them too much to the accepted norms of childhood (e.g mindless toys, sugary foods and sweets), remove as many chemicals from our home as possible and when they are ill I use tools like nutritious food, homeopathy, essential oils and carefully selected supplements to get them back into balance.I can honestly say that since starting on this journey I’ve opened up the connections between my own mind, body and soul and the result has been a very calming sense of control. The funny thing is that I never realised that I was out of control before.
I think the same can also be said for finding balance for a healthy life. It is more often than not that we only realise afterwards the times in our lives when we may have achieved sufficient balance to provide optimal performance. The key word here is optimal, because it implies that your health is really only relative to your situation at any one time. What was healthy for you ten years ago, or even last week, may not be what you need to achieve balance and health in your life now. The key to happiness, which is perhaps the ultimate goal (even if we don’t realise it) is recognising a balanced and healthful state when you have it and then allowing yourself to enjoy it.