Return to Health: The Vision and the Decision
by Todd Mangum, M.D.
Becoming clear and committing to that vision is Step One on the road to health.
Health and wellness are about both the quality and quantity of our lives. A long life lived in poor health doesn’t fit the definition of wellness. Longevity is about the richness and fullness of our lives. It’s about aging gracefully. Many people would equate the term anti-aging with longevity but there are very important differences. Anti-aging is a fear-based term. Its focus is on what we don’t want, not on what we do. So many of us are spending our precious energy moving away from what we don’t want. This will not bring us to our desired destination and goals. First, it can’t if desires are not defined. Without direction, our attention will only be focused on contracting and pulling away, moving us from one undesirable situation to another. We must decide on what we want and commit to it.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it . Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
Health and wellness are about both the quality and quantity of our lives. A long life lived in poor health doesn’t fit the definition of wellness. Longevity is about the richness and fullness of our lives. It’s about aging gracefully.
Many people would equate the term anti-aging with longevity but there are very important differences. Anti-aging is a fear-based term. Its focus is on what we don’t want, not on what we do. So many of us are spending our precious energy moving away from what we don’t want. This will not bring us to our desired destination and goals.
First, it can’t if desires are not defined. Without direction, our attention will only be focused on contracting and pulling away, moving us from one undesirable situation to another. We must decide on what we want and commit to it.
Over the coming year in a series of articles we will cover a cornucopia of health and wellness ideas and techniques. The purpose of these articles is to help you create a foundation for developing your own, personalized, real healthcare system. We’ll examine these topics:
• Reducing toxic habits and behaviors
• Meditation and relaxation
• Detoxification and liver health
• Eliminating parasites and pathogenic bacteria and yeast
• Non-toxic products for our bodies and our homes
• Diet and the importance of organic foods
• Vitamins, minerals, specialty nutrients
• Finally, using the chakras as a map, we will explore the human energy, endocrine and organ system anatomy. We’ll use this template to explore ways to evaluate disorders and reestablish harmony and health.
You will be able to apply many of these concepts and strategies yourself. For others, you may invite the help of a qualified health practitioner. How intensive your program will be will depend on your existing level of health and the desired level of wellness you’re willing to achieve.
To be of use, this information requires one important ingredient: commitment. With commitment, we can establish new routines, even those that require more effort. With commitment, we can carry through on our decision that, for instance, it is worth the effort to choose alternatives to toxic pesticides, preservatives, drugs and synthetic hormones wherever possible.
What gets in the way of committing? Why do so many programs intended to improve quality of life fail for so many? Half the problem – and the solution – lies deep within ourselves.
“I believe that addiction and its consequences are the most serious health problems now facing our society,” writes Deepak Chopra, M.D. in his book Overcoming Addictions. He is talking about addictions not only to chemical substances such as tobacco, cocaine and alcohol but to the process of addiction itself. This can apply to almost anything including work, shopping, sex and even exercise. It is addictions that continually pull at us and thwart the best of our intentions. With their magnetic promises of swift and easily obtainable rewards, we readily abandon our desire for longer lasting and deeper changes.
An addiction is, by definition, any substance or process which is compulsively repeated and which begins to interfere with the quality of one’s life—health, finances, relationships and emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Addictions are usually progressive and consume more and more of one’s time, energy and resources to the detriment of oneself and others. There will usually have been one or more failed attempts to stop or alter the destructive behavior.
On the addiction fast track, such as with illegal or misused drugs and alcohol, the behavior will continue in spite of even the most serious well-known consequences – death or incarceration.
More commonly, our seemingly benign addictions adhere to a longer timeline. Over time, we are bombarded with messages that we need more—that we are not enough. To distract attention from how widespread this feeling of inadequacy is, we as a society at large have packaged our own shame and guilt, denied it, stuffed it in our collective shadow and projected it all on to one small segment of the population: those who use illegal drugs.
Our prisons are so full of people arrested for possession alone that, to make space, violent offenders are released early or serve no time at all. In spite of all the studies that show what a failure our current approach has been, we continue to spend billions on the “war on drugs.” The shadow side of our culture is behind bars and we think we are safe.
Chopra sees the addict in a different light: as a seeker aspiring to a higher level of experience, misguided though he may be. “The addict is a person in quest of pleasure, perhaps even a kind of transcendent experience,” he writes, “hoping to experience something wonderful, something that transcends an unsatisfactory or even intolerable everyday reality…And although that aspiration cannot ultimately be fulfilled by chemicals or by compulsive behaviors, the very attempt suggests the presence of a genuinely spiritual nature.”
So before we examine the more physical aspects of creating health, we will firstfocus on various ways we can nurture our spirit, including meditation and Shamanism. This critical first step ensures that all the others will be inherently meaningful, even when they feel mechanical or laborious.
I dedicate this series to Chief Seattle and to the timeless wisdom of the world’s indigenous healing traditions, may they survive to help us; and to the wonders of modern medicine, may we survive them.
Recap of last month’s introduction to this series:
Our failure to provide adequate health care for every citizen is, not because of insufficient funds, but is because the foundations of our medical system are fundamentally insufficient. We will never solve our nation’s “health care crisis” until we realize the problem is we don’t have a health care system. Western allopathic medicine is a disease care system whose focus is the suppression of symptoms, not the restoration of health. Until we change the model, no amount of money will solve the problem.
Todd Mangum, M.D., is a physician in family practice at the Web of Life Wellness Center in Salt Lake City. http://WebofLifeWC.com