In our culture, we are taught to over-analyze everything. We prize intellect above all other means of obtaining information, and as a result we often lose connection with our inherent, natural source of knowledge. This imbalance compels us to go crazy trying to “figure out” how to live, when the reality is that not everything can be understood with the intellect. One can’t possibly do enough research and collect enough information to solve all of life’s problems by rational means.
When we realize that we can’t control everything with our intellect, we become filled with fear. The problem is that in our society, we are overly dependent on factual knowledge to the point that we don’t consider the importance of developing the skills we need to navigate the uncertainty that is so inevitably a part of life. Ironically, those skills are something we’re born with – we only need to listen to them.
Our instincts are our natural tools for understanding the world; they are how we are hard-wired for survival. Indeed, surviving is not contingent on technology; humans didn’t survive for thousands of years because we knew calculus, had batteries, could drill for oil or perform an operation. We survived by listening to our instincts. If we get back in touch with our instincts and feelings, we will find we have much less to fear.
The enlightened state of perceptual knowledge that Buddhists describe as “knowing which is also a seeing” is achieved only by stripping down to our barest essence and getting rid of all the junk cluttering our mind and affecting our decisions. When we are able to do so, we can listen to our instincts, get out of our heads and begin to truly live. We are finally able to navigate life with a clear mind and the genuine value of all of our senses. This is what I believe “common sense” refers to.
The wisdom here is that we need information but we also need to remain attuned to our environment in every sense of the word to make the decisions necessary to be successful and live well. Within this construct is the knowing that helps us to see things for what they are, unencumbered by our preconceived ideas, thoughts and beliefs or those thrust upon on us by society. Indeed, a scientist can tell us all we want to know about the color, weight, size and life cycle of a mango. But without tasting it, do we really understand its nature?
Question: My doctor says my cholesterol is high, but I’m afraid to go down the path of taking a statin medication, and I’m very stressed about this whole situation. What do you think I should do?
Answer: Without knowing your situation in more detail, I can’t necessarily second guess your doctor. However, what I can say is it’s important for you to put your question in the right perspective.
One who cultivates mindfulness and adopts this holistic view would not, for example, simply exercise to look good, get their heart rate up or lower their blood sugar levels. Taken alone, these are reasonable goals, but they are also narrow, prescriptive and calculated measurements of health. Perhaps, it is more skillful to move, lose weight or lower your LDL cholesterol because they bring you closer to a flow state and support health in a richer, more “holistic” sense. Living in a flow state means that you are using many more aspects of your mind-body-spirit complex than you would by intellect alone and, as a result, you will achieve a more complete and balanced state of existence. For me, that’s the point and the essential goal.
Therefore, it is important to broaden your perspective when you contemplate your situation. Do not set up your day with exercise, adequate rest and a proper diet because they stave off disease, or make you look and feel better. Similarly, taking a medication or following any other “prescription” should be placed in the same context and one must go beyond the simple “solutions” of medications to achieve the desired results. It is best that whatever your decide that you incorporate these elements into your day because they help put you in a rhythm, the cycle of which is supported by nature. This is skillful living and it generally feels better and is a lot more fun.
How have you taken a holistic view of your health?
The new moon in June is known in some cultures as “The Lotus Moon,” a very powerful metaphor for nurturing beauty and positivity in our lives and in ourselves. The lotus roots in mud, and out of the murky water, it produces a most beautiful flower. The symbol of the lotus assures us that a person can rise above being rooted in the messiness, suffering and “imperfection” in the world. Indeed, people in our culture strive for an elusive ideal of perfection; and as long as they perceive their lives as less than “perfect,” they are unable to be truly content. The problem is that nothing is perfect in this sense, and as long as we hold onto that false belief we will remain in a vicious cycle of frustration and despair. The irony is that this perceived imperfection is actually what makes the world perfect–the fact being, sometimes we need the messiness to flower and reach our fullest potential. Instead of focusing our energies on trying to achieve the impossible state of “perfection,” we should realize that beauty can be found in unexpected places. And rather than focusing on what makes something, someone or a situation less than perfect, it is more fruitful to search for that which makes them beautiful. Don’t just look at the muddy water; appreciate the exquisite lotus that grows out of it. By actively seeking positivity in this way you make the choice to rise above negativity and grow into something more beautiful yourself. This is choosing to live skillfully.
Sometimes the bad habit of looking at the negative or ugly things in life becomes so ingrained that we forget to look at the beauty.
Frequently, complaining is an expression of frustration with life’s obstacles. We complain about our bosses, friends and relatives. We complain about finances. Or, we become exasperated with the status quo. “Life is not fair” is something I hear often.
Complaints often result when we fail to recognize that we have more choices than we are willing or able to consider. Perhaps the biggest obstacle in our path is our tendency to feel victimized or deficient in some way. And we put so much energy into maintaining the victim/deficient mindset that we lose sight of the alternatives, which are often staring us right in the face. It’s like looking only at the mud and failing to see the beautiful lotus growing out of it.
Every day, we see examples of people who are impoverished in some manner but who seem content and whose lives are filled with beauty; whereas, others wallow in their condition and are more affected by their circumstances. If it is true that we create our own reality, we can avoid or transcend life’s impediments. Sadly, we do not always do this. Our shared empathy for society’s downtrodden frequently morphs into pity, blinding us to the wisdom and power of contentment.
The key is first to do some self-reflection; to look in the mirror, accept your situation and search for opportunities to be yourself more completely. Make the effort. Do not assume you are handcuffed because there are numerous barriers in your way. Follow the example of others who have also been in challenging situations, yet who managed to find balance, happiness and peace. Crises offer us golden moments for growth and development. Sometimes they are the mud that brings sustenance to a beautiful flower.
Question: One of the obstacles I’m facing in life is my back hurts so much that I can’t really exercise. I know how important exercise is and am wondering what I can do about this?
Answer: There are many modalities out there – some conventional and some alternative – that you can explore to get relief from your back pain. I will discuss a number of these over time, including:
- Physical therapy
- Other forms of bodywork such as massage therapy
And many more. However the principle I would raise here is that whomever you see, you seek a practitioner that has a holistic approach to your issue. The more holistic they are and the broader their perspective is, the better they will be for your back and for your life. The most common practitioner that is sought for your condition other than those in the mainstream medical field is a chiropractor. However, not all chiropractors are the same. I suggest you find one whose holistic approach extends beyond just the problems with your spine.
I will be discussing holistic approaches to back health with chiropractor Dr. John Scivoletto on the June 12th episode of The Skillfull Living Room show. To listen live when it airs at 12 noon EDT on that day, click HERE. After it will remain in the archives of the Business Talk Radio Network.