I have been writing about various aspects of health this week because with new turns in our healthcare systems it seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind. As praftiones lets us each take a step back from the headlines and consider the bigger picture.
Within a bigger health perspective, health and disease involve the overall state of a human being and are interwoven with many non-medical factors, such as economics, education, social/cultural milieu, and ethics or morality. Health is therefore to be understood in its wholeness. It is the expression of harmony–within oneself, in one’s social relationships, and in relation to the natural environment. To be concerned with our health means to be concerned with the whole person: our physical, mental, and moral dimensions; social and work relationships; as well as the environments in which we live and acts on us.
The tendency to understand health only in relation to our physical being, is not our best approach. In the Buddhist traditional perspective, disease is the expression of the disturbed harmony in our life as a whole. By its physical symptoms, disease draws our attention to this disturbed harmony. Hence, healing in Buddhism is not the mere treatment of these measurable symptoms. It is more an expression of the combined efforts of the mind and the body to overcome disease than a fight between medicine and disease. Its real aim is to enable one who is ill to bring back harmony within oneself and in one’s relationships with others and the natural environment. In this context, healing is not an end in itself; rather, it is a means by which medicine helps to serve the value of human health and well-being.
Health depends on our lifestyle, that is, the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we live. The majority of modern illness (by no mean NOT all) Illness is the consequence of an unhealthy lifestyles – unhealthy foods, over indulgence, poor sleep habits stress and more. In my daily work I see results and turn around in those who apply themselves whole heartedly to the mental AND physical aspects of healthy change. I also have seen the tragic results of those who do not invest in longer term mindsets and fall victim to the trappings of our modern samsara. Now I want to note here that I am NOT endorsing hearings or other activities outside of modern medicine as a cure-all. Buddhism advises us that for practical purposes we have to look upon all diseases as though they are produced by mere physical causes. This is because even if the disease has a mental tie in, it should be treated. Spirituality and mental healing practices can and should go hand in hand with what modern medicine, scion and care have to offer.
Health is not given. It has to be gained by our own efforts, and we should not fault others for the suffering we may be going through because of the disease. We have to have a foundation, a perspective to cope with the painful aspects of life. For example, suffering from terminal illnesses such as leukemia or a more malignant form of cancer with tranquillity and without fruitless struggle, without a negative and depressed mental state may not cure the problem, but none of us can deny what that attitude and perspective could ADD to our life in such times. Such acceptance will also enable us to overcome despair, endure the condition to our final days, and thus pass peacefully.
Lastly we should look at the socioeconomic factors – for example, unhealthy/dangerous and healthy/safe working conditions–can act as a hazardous/supporting environment for the illness/health of an individual. And society could hold employers and businesses responsible if they did not maintain a healthy environment for their workers or provide safety measures. This concept of social responsibility has always been present in modern business practices and society as a whole (agree or disagree?) and this implies responsibility on the governmental, healthcare and insurance systems to provide adequate health care services for all its citizens in proportion to their health needs, medical conditions and ability to afford basic human health care and attention.
Pay mind to your own life, your own health, and wholeness. Then share and show others the way, for a bleeding heart is of no help to anyone if it bleeds to death.
Peace and Love, Jim