Everyday Spark

Find your spark. Live well. Everyday.

Health as a vehicle

We all have bodies. And we need our bodies to carry us through our lives. We need these physical instruments to move us from place to place, to allow us to sit attentively and listen or work, to interact with the world and people around us. Without our bodies we couldn’t walk, or run, or dance; we couldn’t cook a brilliant meal, or read a life-changing story; we couldn’t hug a hurting child or high-five a teammate after a victory. We take in information through our bodily senses––sight, smell, taste, touch, sound all come in through our bodies. We experience the world through our bodies and express what is happening internally through our bodies. In essence, our bodies are lenses through which we take in everything, and a medium through which we relay information about our current state.

If you see someone sitting, eyes half-open, slouched in their chair in a waiting room, you can make some guesses about what they are experiencing: they may have been waiting a long time, they are probably tired, and they are not especially engaged with their surroundings. If you are having a difficult conversation with your boss, and you see the muscles in her jaw tighten as she clenches her teeth, you might imagine she is not especially relaxed or thrilled about what is being presented to her. And in the same way, our physical state will influence how we interpret and act in response to these situations. If you sit down next to that exhausted, possibly frustrated, person in the waiting room and you are feeling rested, calm, and patient, you might attempt to strike up a conversation, to elevate that individual from their current slump. If you yourself are feeling dejected or tired or ill, you may sit next to them and commiserate––or slouch into your chair and say nothing at all. If the night before that big conversation with your boss you hardly got any sleep, seeing that clench in her jaw might be just the trigger it takes to get you flying off the handle. On the other hand, if instead you had just eaten a nourishing lunch while listening to a new album on your iPod in your favorite spot in the office, you may feel grounded, relaxed and be able to react in a thoughtful way to her obvious tension.

There is a tendency in western culture to think about health as another item on the to-do list, as if it is one of the dozens of things taking up our time and energy. It’s broken down into a number of small tasks that get added to our schedules, so cooking healthy meals and going to the gym get squeezed between going to the post office and dropping off the kids at baseball practice. And sleep––who has time for that?! The concept of “health” or “wellness” quickly becomes a list of things we know we should do because they’re good for us.

Recent concepts of holistic wellness offer a more valuable and accurate way of thinking about health and the actions we take to maintain our whole person, mind, body and spirit. Health is a vehicle. It is the means through which we are able to be present in our lives in the fullest capacity available to us. When we are well, we are able to show up for the activities, people, and causes that matter to us. If your car had a flat tire, it would not take you where you need to go very well. In this same way, chronic tension headaches might be keeping someone from playing with their kids, performing well on the job, or any number of important life activities. Maintaining one’s body, mind, and spirit, and exploring the connectedness of these aspects, allows us to live up to our highest potential.

Health is not the absence of illness, but the presence of vitality. And this vitality channeled into our own individual actions, creations, and relationships is precisely more of what the world needs.

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