There is a strong association in our modern world to equate a tight, strong, trim physique with optimal health, strength, balance, and goodness. Although this may be part of the picture, it can miss the mark on so many aspects of truly balanced well-being that includes not only our bodies but our minds, our hearts, and our souls as well. Working out and paying attention to our physical health and fitness can absolutely have a positive affect on our mental and emotional health. It can also be taken too far, so that our focus gets skewed and we end up feeling stressed out, overtired, or avoiding other areas that need our attention.
You may have heard the phrase, "Your body is a temple", meaning that the body is sacred, to be treated well and with respect. We could spend a long time delving into all that this could refer to. The original context is from a chapter in the Bible in Corinthians, and there is much written about the meaning of the phrase and how to live in it's meaning. In Christianity and other religious contexts, it is part of the belief that the Holy Spirit lives in our bodies and therefore must be treated with the same honor and reverence afforded to God. Other spiritual and energetic philosophies recognize the spirit inside as well as all around the physical body. For the purposes of this post, it is merely a context to bring together the connection of the body to something broader than just a physical entity.
Our physical bodies are surely quite complex and ancient traditions and modern science have shown us so many possibilities about what is happening within them. For example, much has been discovered and proven in recent years about the gut microbiome and how it's care and optimum health can affect our physical functioning in other parts of our bodies, not just the gut, as well as our state of mind. In many ways, science is catching up with and "proving" this information that has been around for thousand of years in ancient traditions like Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and the natural herbal remedies found in Native cultures around the world. These ancient traditions have a view of health and healing that is built on the foundation of relationship and the interconnectedness of life. They are connected to the earth, to the natural world and their elements, the seasons and their ever changing cycles. Balance and well-being are achieved through this understanding of interconnectedness of something larger than ourselves.
Connecting with a larger Universal energy is beneficial to inform not only care of our physical being, but our minds, hearts, and souls as well. Even attempting to write about the subject without separating each piece is challenging, as the interconnectedness is so key, yet still difficult in Western language, even with the introduction in the last 100 years or so of mind/body traditions like yoga and meditation to Western cultures. Reiki originated in Japan and is a form of energy healing connected to the Universal energy of the natural world. Yoga is connected to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda which originated in India. This is also the part of the world from which chakras originated. Chakras connect us to our subtle/energetic bodies and although they are depicted in relationship to our physical bodies, they are not physical, like muscles and bones, etc. They are just one of many traditions that recognize this subtle energy. In Chinese medicine it is called "qi" or "ch'i", in Japanese it is "ki". In Sankskrit it is "prana" and we first connect to it through our breath as a practice of focus and reducing external stimuli.
So we have this physical body, an energetic and subtle body, and within it all are many functions that yet again may seem separate but that are really quite connected to each other, including our emotions. In those ancient traditions, certain organs and their health are related to certain emotions, like the liver and anger, or the kidneys and fear, or the stomach and sadness. Our emotions can get "stuck" in our physical bodies, making the functions of them less than optimal. For example, chronic lower back pain has been linked to anxiety, fear-avoidance and depression and the incorporation of emotional release and processing can be a strong factor in finding relief and healing. We have many functions of our physical bodies that are there to assist us in the experience of life and the well living of it. People have "died of a broken heart", and although we may think of this as just a saying, it can actually be literal, having the energy of deep sadness and heartbreak stuck in their system and not being able to process it and let it go.
When we are able to remember our interconnectedness, we can often stay more grounded as we find our way through life's challenges. What are some ways that you stay connected to the whole in mind, body, heart and soul? What are some ways that you sometimes get stuck? We are connected to the larger Universe and also to each other and often just hearing someone else's perspective can go a long way to reconnecting to our whole and full selves. Take some time this week to close your eyes, breath, and feel into your heart and mind, as well as the subtle energetic "body" that is a part of you and see how you find your own unique way to the Universal connection.