As I delve ever deeper into the mind-body connection to my health I have become increasingly aware of how little responsibility we tend to take of our lives and our health. To react to the influences in our lives makes us human, but I’ve discovered that we choose which path our reaction ultimately takes no matter how much we may feel the opposite. We can take the path of peace, calm and use a little common sense and wisdom which will lead us in the direction of health or we can take the path of anger, hurt, anxiety and stress which ultimately leads us to illness and dis-ease.
Figuring Out the Path of Disease
It’s taken me far longer than I would have liked to figure all of this out. I’ve spent years of trying to find answers to my own health issues; blaming doctors and wrong medications. Connecting the dots I’m finally recognizing the patterns that have led me to my current path. I’ve come to realize that what I have inflicted onto myself, emotionally and spiritually, has been far worse than any abuse, betrayal, unkindness or hurt that has been directed towards me by others in my life.
Every time I’ve become overly angry, hurt, anxious or stressed due to something or someone’s outside influence I have unconsciously chosen to harm myself. I can only control myself; I have no control over other people or events that surround me. I’ve chosen a negative response rather than doing something – anything, to restore some sense of calm and peace into my life during challenging times. The momentum picks up and it can be extremely difficult to slow down. In time our negative reactions become more than emotionally harmful, they determine our physical health in the long-term. Science has shown us that our bodies don’t know real from imagined hurts. If we think our way into a negative place emotionally it will appear physically in our bodies through our mental and physical health and wellbeing.
This fact has been extremely hard for me to swallow. I never asked to have a chronic pain condition but here I am. 4 years after being diagnosed and not a single doctor has been able to give me any answers. This is what led me to alternative medicine and healing techniques. Looking within myself for answers rather than expecting something to appear on a test result or in some new medical research, a new drug or therapy that will make my pain finally disappear. I know now that isn’t where my answers will be found.
I can see now how the dots are connected, how my chosen reactions, lifestyle and practices sent me on this path of disease. The drama I’ve allowed myself to become embroiled in, the constant rethinking of the past and second guessing the future; all of this has contributed to my current physical, emotional and spiritual health. The momentum of it all picked me up and carried me along until I finally recognized the pattern. My awareness of it began to slow it down, to let me catch my breath and find a new way.
Responsibility and awareness
As I become more aware of the ways I do not take responsibility for my own health, my life and the challenges I have faced are becoming incredibly clear. It’s a wonder I’ve made it to my present in one somewhat complete piece! It has given me a completely new outlook on people and the world; especially those closest to me. The mind-body connection is extraordinary. I find it liberating to finally understand. Even in the moments of frustration when I find my emotions heading in my old pattern of negativity I can stop it faster, recover and begin moving in a better direction easier. I know it will only become easier and easier with practice and mindfulness.
Buddhism teaches us that our awareness of our actions will lead us on the path of self-discovery and change – to enlightenment; I believe this is true. However; I also know how easy it is to blame our reactions on the actions of others rather than take responsibility for our negativity. A loved one betrays you and your anger explodes, someone cuts you off in traffic and you can’t stop yourself from cursing them. A co-worker, friend or family member fails to follow through with a task and you feel the overwhelming urge to act, to do something because in the moment you feel you have no other choice.
Cutting the puppet strings
No matter how cornered we may feel in the moment or how sure we are of what we have to do, it’s still a choice. It puts a whole new perspective on our relationships. Every time I’ve let me emotions, reactions, words and actions hurtle into an unhealthy place because someone else said something, did something or even worse, I think they may do or say something I’ve just handed all of my control and power to someone else. It’s like realizing I’ve lived my life as a puppet and I’ve let others control the strings. Awareness cuts those strings.
True awareness brings clarity, a sense of freedom and release from the cycle of disease in your life. It opens the path of enlightenment.
The next step
The next step is to use this new found awareness in our daily life. We learn far more from our mistakes than our successes and this is no different. We know what doesn’t work; it’s time to put into place what does. Awareness is our first step, now we need to do something when our emotions start to get the better of us. We need a plan of action to help us move beyond awareness and implement actual steps that move us in the direction we want.
Everyone is different and everyone has different things that work for them; so the next time you feel yourself moving into unwanted emotions and reactions try one or more of the following until you come up with what works the best for you:
Deep breathing increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness and relaxation. Take 5 minutes to breathe slowly and deeply. The point is to not immediately react to the stressful situation. Even a few minutes of breathing can make the world of difference.
Meditation gives us a way of labelling our negative emotions which allows us more easily let them go. Scientific research shows that by putting our negative emotions into words and labels it calms the brain’s emotion center. We can in essence, slow down our emotional responses to stressful situations giving us the time to fully evaluate what is really going on.
Exercise is the best natural mood booster there is and science has proven that time spent outside in nature has incredible calming abilities. When your stressed and need to calm down, turn around and walk away for a time. Take a break and walk through the emotional upheaval. Your mind will calm, your emotions settle and you’ll be able to respond with a clear head.
Regular yoga practice enhances mental stability and clarity in addition to stretching and strengthening the body. Neuroscience also shows that yoga literally changes your brain. Practitioners regularly report that in addition to the physical benefits of yoga they also feel calmer and better able to handle stress in their lives.
Sometimes time really is the best medicine. Rather than jumping to respond, give it 24 or even 48 hours. This can allow you to see other perspectives and possible realize that your initial emotions may not have been accurate.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is different from traditional therapy in that you aren’t necessarily digging around in your childhood for issues that have evolved into adult conditions. You discuss what is currently happening in your life and find implementable steps you can take to reduce your stress, handle your life challenges in a more positive way and accept your present to increase the peace in your life.
Change won’t happen overnight but each day can bring increased clarity on the path you want to follow as opposed to the one you’ve been on. It’s easy to let others take the blame for our current situations and the challenges we have to face but deep down we know this isn’t the truth. Each day, this awareness will make it easier and easier to take that responsibility on, to make decisions and react not from the heat of the moment but from careful thought and consideration.
Merging with your inner Buddha
The more you do this, the longer you practice taking responsibility for the entirety of your life, the more amazing and extraordinary your life will become. It opens doors you never imagined would be open to you. The feeling of having absolute control of your life and how you react to any given situation is far beyond what simple words can ever describe. To live life with mental peace and clarity is what many search for in vain; they do not realize that the answer isn’t something outside of themselves because it can only be found within. This is a gift that far too many of us deny ourselves. It’s time for that to change. It’s time to take that first step to living a life of joy and abundance. There is a little Buddha in each of us if we only look within.