Dalai Lama on Humanity

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:

 

Man.
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

dalailamaThe Dalai Lama, referring to humanity in this quote, definitely touches something close at heart for me. Since returning from abroad last month, I find myself pulled towards this idea of earning money. Of course there is nothing negative or wrong about earning money, yet for many of us this can become end in itself, rather than a means. When it becomes an end to itself, you can easily sacrifice your health (not just physical, but mental, emotional and so on), as well as creating the conditions to not really live in the present, living from the past and fearing the future.

First, let me address the obvious response to what I’m saying: “That would be great if I didn’t need to earn money, yet I have a mortgage, kids, and have to eat somehow”

Clearly one needs to support oneself and honor their commitments to their loved ones. Yet you can still ask yourself, is the work you do fulfilling beyond its ability to earn money to meet these commitments? I’m extremely fortunate in this time to have the ability to support myself and my partner on savings. This won’t last indefinitely, but at the present time this allows me to really ask myself, what kind of work do I want to do?

My first few days back in the United States were very difficult. I felt a collective energy towards being productive, towards contributing towards the greater good, whatever that is. I felt a heavy anxiety, thinking it would not be a good idea to live off of investments and savings, that I should keep the piggy bank full. This feeling lasted for several days – until at one point during a meditation, I observed it drop away. It wasn’t really my anxiety – it was the collective anxiety, the anxiety that first tells us that we need to earn money no matter what, and second, that we should subtly encourage others – our friends, children and colleagues that they should too, because it justifies our behavior.

This is completely new territory for me right now. My ego craves a career, to be able to label myself as xyz, to have a defined place in society. Yet when I deeply look into my values, the vows I’ve made to myself, they don’t align with this movement of the ego. My values involve seeing deeply into the nature of self, strengthening my relationships, nurturing my health and the health of the planet. On a daily basis I find myself confronted with my own patience and resolve in sticking to my values, rather than conforming to that which society and others suggest. Even my closest friends, those who have a sense of what I’m about and what I’m doing subtly challenge me – because whenever you live in atypical fashion, it in a way is forcing those close to you to question what they are doing to. For those unused to actually looking at themselves, this might not be easy.

I am no exception to the human behavior of seeking justification for my actions. Isn’t writing this post or some of the others I’ve written recently doing exactly this? This moves into a another territory of discussion around standing upright in the world, resting in your own certainty and trust. This is a real focus for me – trusting in nothing outside, carefully listening to my heart and my deepest longing, cultivating a profound faith and patience that everything is at it should be.

Naturopathic and Yogic Healing

Last week I participated in a workshop focused on the principles of holistic healing applied in Yoga, Ayurveda, and homeopathy. It was a very informative week, led by Dr. Mihaiela Pentiuc, a doctor Western-educated in medical rehabilitation, physical medicine and physiotherapy and now specializing in homeopathy and natural healing methodologies. She is also a nearly 20-year Yoga practitioner and longtime Agama teacher.

My main impetus for taking the course is that as I move into my 30s, I’m beginning to realize my health is not something I can take for granted and is something that needs regular awareness applied to.  There is also the practical matter of being a vagabond with poor health insurance coverage and needing to avoid expensive treatments and hospital stays however possible!

After completing the workshop, my view on what it means to be healthy has shifted significantly. Like many people, I viewed health as simply the state of the physical body- if there are no symptoms or issues, one can be deemed healthy. From a yogic standpoint, physical health is just one small piece of a much larger pie. Homeopathy, and more specifically yoga, looks at a much wider view of the body: including our energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Someone very healthy physically may be dealing with large emotional trauma or have a serious mental condition. Such traumas and conditions often do manifest in the physical body, but not always. Another shift is the understanding that I completely own my own health. Poor health manifests from blocked emotions, negative thinking, poor diet, etc., NOT just from the environment and outside.  Why does the same cold virus make some of sick and not others?

There were also simple shifts around approaching suppressive therapies. For example, what do many of us do when we have a fever? We try to suppress it with various chemicals. When we do this, we are actually preventing our body from its natural means of healing itself. Of course, in serious conditions of very high fever or the young or old, suppression can save lives. But for most of us such suppression is not necessary.  As a Western-educated doctor, Mihaiela is not opposed to conventional treatments and would often suggest cases where going to the hospital or seeing a doctor is the best option. What she passionately suggests is that there is a balance to be struck between natural and conventional methods that can provide the best outcome.  The World Health Organization’s definition of health is:

Health is a complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity

They’ve gone on to show that under this definition, a very small percentage of the world population is actually healthy. Are you healthy?

Throughout the week we explored a wide-range of topics including lifestyle, diet, spiritual practices, fasting, therapies and purifications. We experimented with yoga asanas for healing, Qi Gong, basic homeopathic remedies, hypnosis, emotional and sexual healing and held a very constructive conversation on diagnosis, treatment and healing of various kinds. I’m by no means a healer now, but think this subtle shift in perception of health and application of alternative therapies can help both myself and those I love remain healthier in the future!