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Feb 09 2012

The Five Pillars of Good Health

by Christine Angelard

pillar good health

Health is not just the absence of disease; it includes peace and harmony of body and spirit. If energy flows fluidly and freely inside me, I am healthy. In Chinese medicine, the blockage of energy circulation leads to suffering. Fluidity of energies is also fluidity of thought: not lingering too long over things that bug us. Life is movement—a slow, regular movement, like the beating of the heart.

Watch out for vitamins, food supplements, and medications taken throughout the year, all in the name of health! They exist to help us get over a problem or to replace something missing, but after a certain time, they must be stopped. Permanently overloading the liver with such products, however good they might be in themselves, in order to avoid getting “sick” is ultimately self-defeating.

We can however take responsibility for our health by attending to the five major points that are really behind our ability to be—or not to be—healthy.

1 - Food

We care about the gas we put in our car or the components we use with our computer; surely we can do the same for our bodies. Eating properly means eating according to the rhythm of the seasons, choosing whole or nearly whole foods, reducing sugar, and eating good fats instead of trying to cut out all fats. It means introducing sprouted grains into our diet; they are veritable storehouses of vitamins and minerals. And it means drinking water instead of juice or milk. A varied diet contains better calcium than that found in cow’s milk, which is not actually useable by the body. Ages ago, Hippocrates taught that we all have a doctor inside us—our food.

Eating properly means enjoying eating. We’ll come back to this in the last chapter. Eating organic, healthy food in a tense, noisy, or conflicted environment is worthless. The quality of what we eat and the way we eat it determine our digestion, our ability to take in our fuel, and the benefits we get from it.

2 - Freedom from Trauma

Unresolved trauma and emotional shocks leave their mark on the brain. Think of these things as time bombs. The hurts, betrayals, violence, injustice, and horrors we have experienced stay buried in our memory and coalesce into energy blockages. All these unhealed wounds affect us on the level of the brain, whether consciously or unconsciously. Whenever a memory conjures up powerful emotions, we are forced to acknowledge that, even if our heads have closed the file, our hearts have not fully healed.

Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger’s work on transgenerational memory of conflict, unspoken messages, and drama, together with Marc Fréchet’s on remembered life cycles show, as do more recent neuropsychoimmunology studies, that unresolved trauma can be a triggering factor for pathologies and accidents, and at the very least can weaken an individual’s immune system. For researchers in this new medical discipline, the connection between stress and immune response are no longer open questions.

EMDR is a well-known neuroemo­tional integration technique that uses eye movements. This method has the ability not to erase memories, but to eliminate their harmful effects on the brain. The eye is in fact an extension of the brain tissues, since the optic nerve is connected to a part of the cortex where the blockages are located.

The power of the word is about saying aloud what is strangling us from within, expressing our pain and suffering to an attentive, compassionate listener. As Françoise Dolto put it, “I lend you my ears so you can hear yourself better.” The power of the word brings freedom—and also healing. It liberates us from trauma to transform life. The benefits are instantaneous and remarkable. The inflow of freed-up life energy is felt by the subject on the deepest level.

There are other simple techniques to be practiced under the supervision of a therapist, such as certain writing therapies and other exer­cises used to exteriorize old wounds.

3 - Finding Your Center, Axis, Balance

Centering ourselves means recover­ing our inner potential with all our strengths, like a trapeze artist for whom balance is vital. The flood of our thoughts and fears and those of society make up a deafen­ing noise that cuts us off from our center. By reconnecting with our center, we become once again master of our lives.

Science is once again establishing that people who practice meditation and relaxation have a much healthier immune system than others. A reduction in cortisol levels is seen, together with better adaptation to various types of stress. In other words, by calming our heart and breathing rates, we calm our brains. This is called cardiac coherence. Practicing these exercises two to three times every day—five minutes in all—with visualization can bring about extremely positive effects on the way we handle stress and above all our health. Benefits include better cell oxygenation, greater mental calm, as well as improved perception and concentration.

4 - Regular Exercise

Just walking in the fresh air, silently and at a good pace, oxyge­nates not just our body, but our brain, our heart, and our digestive system, allowing us to get rid of a panoply of toxins produced during agitated mental states. Remember that the danger of disease looms up when life stops circulating freely in through our bodies. When we walk, we stimulate our metabolism, that is, our body’s chemistry.

Walking quietly and consciously in the fresh air also helps us feel connected to the universe and its elements. Human beings are a bridge between the Heavens and Earth. Stuck in our cars, shut up in concrete buildings, we lose the ability to feel ourselves as that bridge, that axis between earth and sky, the pivotal point of which is our heart. To paraphrase David Servan-Schreiber: swap Prozac for Adidas.

5 - Joy

When someone stops smiling or stops laughing, it’s a bad sign. When was the last time you had a good laugh? Stay open to joy and laughter; stop taking yourself seriously; keep your heart open. Laughter and joy are part of the heart’s energy. Just plain joy, as well as the joy of starting, creating, or discovering something. Joy is openness: openness to others, openness to the world.

Here too, biology confirms these things: there are even classes in laughter. What kind of society have we created, when we need to relearn laughter? Laughter and smiles are what make us human. Remaining open is a privilege. The things discussed here can teach it to us.

If I am set free of my traumas, if I learn to find inner peace, and if I make a connection to nature, joy and laughter will come all on their own. This joy inside us is there to be found and cultivated. This joy will light up our lives and the shadows we inevitably encounter. Once I have integrated these habits into my life, I develop my potential for simple joy. The pleasure of being connected to all things: that joy of simply being. This is what my life depends on, and no one can take it away from me. I can find it whenever I want: I’m lit from within.

Finally, the way of the heart is the way of touching. Our bodies build up tensions and, when words are hard to find, touch can say a lot. This is when the techniques of massotherapy, fasciatherapy, and osteopathy can help us. Good health means using these techniques to free up the tensions congealing in our bodies before they become blockages. In the energy regulating system of Chinese medicine, energy from the heart can lighten the kidneys, which are where fear builds up.

So, aspiring masters of your own health, think on these five pillars: eating, liberating parcels of memory and sorrow, returning to the silent center, conscious walking, and last but not least: cultivating the joy within. Contemporary individuals spend their lives chasing time or money; they fall ill and die without ever having lived. Now is the time to return to balance and good sense. Time to return to the path of light.

Light is what heals us: the light of words, of inner silence, of nature, of joy rediscovered. When light flows inside us, life does too, even when storms come. This is the spark we have to nurture in our lives—take care of it. No one else can do it for you.

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