A Philosophy of Health

  What goes into being healthy? That is as rhetorical as a question can be. But, it sets up what is to follow.

            A healthy lifestyle is more than eating well and exercising. It includes how we set limits, draw lines and establish boundaries—and bear the pain of living within them in conjunction with everybody else on the planet doing the same thing.

            The way we live has implications for us and for all people everywhere. Implications that include complications, conflicts, contradictions, paradoxes and collisions. How we work it all out determines how healthy we are.

            Basketball is played best when two teams of five players each dance together for two twenty-minute halves. How hard can that be? It is impossible.

            An individual basketball player goes through spans of time when they are on-and-off, dancing-and-not-dancing, in the flow of the game, in sync with their team members, doing what needs to be done in each moment of the game, moment-by-moment-by-moment, and not in the flow, not in sync, not doing what needs to be done. Back and forth, in-and-out, here-and-now and not-here-not-now. For two twenty-minute halves.

            How each player responds personally to the in-and-out nature of their “game,” and how the other team members respond to the player—and to their own in-and-out-ness—has implications (complications, conflicts, contradictions, paradoxes, collisions) for the entire game, and for their life together off the court.

            If a player gets angry/frustrated with being off their “game” and tries to force their “game” to be at its best all of the time, their “game” deteriorates even further, and spills over into the “game” of the other players, so that the entire team gets out of sync, out of rhythm, out of “the grove,” out of “the flow,” and it becomes quite a mess in a very short period of time.

            The key is recognizing what is going on, understanding the nature of “flow,” being patient with the process, and waiting for their individual “game” to come back on its own. The tide ebbs and flows. The rhythm of a basketball game, of life, of the universe, is always in flux. It is always coming in, or going out, or turning around. We do not control the coming, or the going, or the turning. We participate with awareness in what is happening—or not—but we do not determine what is happening. While we are not in control of what is happening, we can be in command of how we respond to it, of what we do about it. And our best choice about what to do in response to what is happening in each moment is to keep playing with awareness of what is going on, moment-by-moment, and let the game come and go as it will.

            This is called “Being in the game without being in control of the game.” Can we play without being in control? Can we play “just seeing, just knowing, just doing”—without opinions or judgment? Without evaluating our performance? Just being aware of our performance without trying to force it to be anything more than it is? Just being intently, and intentionally, aware of the game and our place in it without emotional reaction/response? Without trying to control what cannot be controlled? Without trying to force what cannot be forced? Responding spontaneously to the unfolding of the moment without interfering with what is happening, and what needs to happen in response?

“That” means “this,” period. “This” is required in response to “that.” If we make a bad decision, that is just “that,” and what needs to happen in response to it is what we need to do, without opinion, judgment, evaluation, condemnation, etc., about “that.” We do “this” without spending any time dwelling on “that.” “That” just means “this.” No more, no less. “That” flows into “this.” And we flow with it, in command of our response, and not in control of what is happening, and not bothered by being not in control—with no attachment to, or investment in, the outcome, only with the process, with being who we are needed to be in the situation as it arises, moment-by-moment-by-moment. And dealing with what interferes with that, simply by being aware of it, and letting nature take its course.

As players, we have to be patient with this process and wait for our “game” to come back on its own. This enables our “game” to be what it can be in every game. The key to being able to do this throughout the game, and throughout our life, is bearing well the pain/anxiety/fear/frustration of not being in control. Not being in control is the source of our pain. How well we square up to that, and deal with it, tells the tale we are living out “in each situation as it arises.”

How well we do that depends upon how often we enter the silence, how much time we spend there and how well we meet what meets us there.

Everything comes up in the silence. Silence borne well is the way of health. Silence borne poorly is the way of dis-ease. We have to be easy with the silence. We have to know what to do with the silence—how to listen to the silence, and bear well what we encounter there.

In the silence, and out of it, we have to ask the questions that beg to be asked, and say the things that cry out to be said, and hear the things that need to be heard, and see the things that need to be seen, and wait in the silence for the way to emerge, appear, occur to us.

We can enter the silence anywhere, everywhere. In the middle of a basketball game—in the stands or on the court. We can open ourselves to the silence wherever we are, and wait while we are eating popcorn or dribbling toward the basket.

We do not think our way to solutions to our situation, we wait for them to spontaneously appear. This is not good for the economy, of course. The economy, and the culture, is based on providing us with means of coping with situations beyond control—an economy/culture founded on symptoms and illness, sickness and death. The silence teaches us that we do not need what the economy/culture want us to have, but can find what we need simply by bearing the pain of waiting for it to become apparent—and it may not be what we think it is, or should be.

The economy—the entire culture—depends on us sleepwalking through our life, never opening our eyes, never being aware of what is plain to see, just following the cow in front of us from the barn, to the pasture and back to the barn. The economy/culture is grounded, based, on illness, sickness, dis-ease. The economy/culture depends upon us to be endlessly wanting to feel better, but never getting better, certainly not getting/being well!

We are fighting for our life against an economy/culture that both sustains and enables our life, and is killing us by keeping us only alive-enough to sustain and enable the economy/culture. The culture does not want us bearing our pain! The economy/culture is a monstrous pain management system. It enables us to live via diversion, distraction, denial through various forms of entertainment, sex, drugs (“medications”), alcohol—and all of the “positive” addictions, which are, nevertheless, still addictions, keeping us in the eternal cycle of pain-and-escape-from-pain.

Health is freedom from addictions. Freedom from escapes. Freedom from denial. Health is facing straight-on, straight-up, what needs to be faced, and doing what needs to be done about it in each situation as it arises. In any situation, there is what is called for and what is not called for. Healthy people do what is called for, when it is called for, where it is called for, how it is called for, for as long as it is called for. That is the path of good health.

One of the key principles of good health is this: “When things come up, you should respond appropriately.” Acting in accordance with what needs to be done in each situation as it arises is the basis of good health. To live like this is to be in the flow, in the groove, on the path, on the beam, at one with the good of the moment, moment-by-moment-by-moment. And it is the fundamental ingredient in Integrity.

Integrity is the spiritual equivalent of good health. Good health is the physical equivalent of Integrity. People who are healthy are in accord with themselves, live in conjunction with themselves, keep faith with themselves, are transparent to themselves, and live in ways which exhibit the truth of who they are at the core of their life and being. Symptoms point to something being off center, out of tune, out of alignment between our life and our core. Dreams offer directions, suggestions for reflection, in finding our way back to the path, in harmony with who we are.

There are no steady states of being. Health and Integrity, harmony and discord, vary with the tides and the movement of the spheres. We are in flux, moving into and out of relationship with ourselves and with the situations of our life. Our mind is in motion, carrying us toward, and away from, the best interest of life and being. We are not in control of the elements that make up our life.

It is as though we are playing two twenty minute halves of basketball. How well we do that depends on how awake we are, and how much our awareness of each moment, here and now, guides us in living in response to what is happening then and there. The quality of our health is an indicator of where we need to get to work in being aware of what is going on, and being aware of what to do about it.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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