There’s a story about a rock climber named Wim Hof, who has become a guru of sorts. In his younger days, he was attempting a dangerous climb with no safety ropes to catch him if he fell. In the middle of the climb, while clambering on the side of the cliff, he developed a severe charley horse in his calf. Without the use of that leg, he could not go up or down—he could only hold on for so long until he would fall. He knew panicking would not help. He had studied meditation, so he began to meditate, and by using his mind he literally thought away the cramp. The climb became a lightbulb moment when he realized that his body would do whatever he asked it to do, and he needn’t fear that it was ever going to betray him. It’s a beautiful thing when you have complete and total trust in your body to do every task you ask of it. In today’s world we have been programmed to think the opposite. We’re told we’re just an impending diagnosis away from disability, disease, and death. We are constantly reminded to fear our bodies and be ready for the day when something goes wrong.
The mainstream media and the medical establishment does a great job in cultivating this fear. We’re told the body is fragile, weak, and easily broken. It’s not true; we are all tougher than we give ourselves credit for. Childbirth is an absolutely beautiful example of how trust in your body can accomplish an incredibly complex and difficult task. I believe most women have that trust built in, but from the first OB visit it is reprogrammed into fear. Every detail is scoured for abnormality, and every genetic test forces you to consider what you would do if your child was born with a disability. We learn of every possible way that birthing can go wrong. It’s a terrible place to be, mentally, going into labor with fear and self-doubt that has been continually reinforced for nine months.
We are trained to be unsure of ourselves, and therefore to become dependent on outside sources to tell us that we are healthy or unhealthy, good or bad. I see this self-doubt in the gym a great deal, when people are working with personal trainers and nutritionists. It’s helpful to have someone educate you on how to move and what to eat, but there comes a point in your journey where you have to know from within what’s best for your body. Taking orders blindly from an outside source is no way to find health.
How do you find it? By experimenting and paying close attention to how you feel when you move a certain way or eat a certain food. Once you develop a basic competency there’s no third party, be it a personal trainer, doctor, guru, blood test, or book, that is going to be able to tell you what’s good for you better than your own body.
It’s sad when people make positive changes in their lives and are working diligently toward better health and it gets squashed externally. They feel good. They have more energy, they know they are well, and they are realizing the benefits. Then they get a blood test that says they have high cholesterol and it kills all their momentum. “I guess all those changes didn’t work,” they say. Are you really going to let one marker on a piece of paper and a doctor who sees you for 10 minutes trump what you feel deep within your own mind and body? When that fear transitions into trust and confidence, you really are living as an example of the true definition of health.
That transition begins when you start taking care of yourself. You give your body simple organic food and you progressively strengthen, align, and test your body through movement. When you train your mind to focus and direct your body in what you ask of it, that fear melts away. You think of your body as a loyal ally and old friend that you can trust to carry you through life. You begin to feel that you can take a beating without breaking. You don’t have to tiptoe through life. You can use your body to experience all that you want without being afraid.
Something will eventually go wrong. Most commonly this is experienced as pain. Pain is a great teacher, and it’s the most common way that our bodies try to communicate with us. Just as a newborn baby uses crying to signal to its mother that it is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable, your body creates pain. A crying baby makes his mother uncomfortable, and his crying spurs her into action to figure out what he needs. Pain is uncomfortable and a great motivator, too. It spurs you into action to discover what you are doing wrong and what your body needs to heal. Meditation works wonderfully for this. Instead of judging pain as bad, try to mentally observe and explore it. Much can be discovered about your body from pain.
One trend that is emerging in the nutrition and fitness industry that honors this is the idea of simple foods and simple movements. In the past, it was all about the new supplements, shakes, and superfood products that were going to finally bring us health. In the fitness industry it was a new piece of equipment such as the elliptical, Nautilus, Bowflex, or treadclimber, that activated and isolated our muscles more and burned fat faster. Now forward-thinking health professionals are moving toward training people to eliminate all of that as a distraction. Instead the focus shifts to preparing and eating whole, organic food free from anything artificial and exercising with whole-body movements that mimic how our bodies move in nature. Monitor how each movement or diet change affects your body and tailor it to what you need. When most people implement this strategy, health naturally blooms on its own. Chiropractic was specifically founded on this principle—that the body naturally wants to be in a healthy state and interference in one form or another will pull the body into disease.
All of this boils down to that belief. It’s like a college professor telling you on the first day of the semester that everyone in the class starts with an A+ and it’s yours to lose. Most of us are born with the recipe for health and wellness written in our DNA. The recipe isn’t complicated, but it is as individual to you as your fingerprint. When we become unwell, the most likely reason is that we aren’t following the recipe correctly.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #50.
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