Part 1 of a 3-part Series
By Charlene Muhammad
2010 marks a new year and a new decade. I love all things new and all reminders of new things because they represent the cycle of life. Endings are indeed the sign of new beginnings if we choose to look at life in this direction.
The challenges of life that present themselves as illness and disease do cause us great suffering. I know in my own life, ailments and pain make me feel guilty, like I haven’t been doing my best to take care of myself. Or like I deserve to be feeling this way because I am lacking a “good” characteristic. So I plot and I plan to make a change. I create “To Do” lists and schedule healthier activities and dietary strategies. I scold myself with impatience and attempt to force myself to change bad habits.
But this doesn’t last very long.
Before you know it, I’m off the wagon again, back to my “bad” habits, feeling not-so-good and suffering from the weight of a guilty conscience.
How does one overcome this behavior? (because that all it is, a way of behaving or engaging life.) The first step is to recognize just that: certain behaviors are habits. And habits are a way of engaging life.
Illness is a physical signal that imbalance is present in the body. The human body is a divinely created machine that is a reflection of the universe. Okay, that may be too big of an inference so let’s say the human body is a reflection of nature. Notice how nature maintains balance. It shifts through four seasons that expresses the life cycle of gestation, birth, maturity and death over and over again. Within our very bodies, this same cycle occurs. Our cells are constantly regenerating themselves from gestation, maturity to death supporting our organ systems in a balance that brings us through the stages of life.
When we suffer from illness, some aspect of this cycle is either sped up or stuck. So we either need to slow down, or to push forward to regain physical balance.
How do we know what action needs to occur? A good way to begin is to observe your habits. What is a habit? It is any behavior, thought or feeling that one does consistently over time. Some habits promote wellness. Others promote illness. I am sure none of us wish to consciously practice habits that lead to disease. However, unconsciously we do just that because we do not understand the consequences of our actions- especially the consequences of repeating certain thoughts, or feeling certain emotions over and over again.
Here’s a first step to understanding the link between thoughts, feelings and illness: notice your physical response to your thoughts. For one day, be mindful of every thought you have. Begin by counting each thought (this should blow your mind just to see how many thoughts you have within five minutes, let alone an entire day!) then, notice how a thought makes you feel. What emotions arise with certain thoughts? How does this emotion present itself in your body? Where does it present itself in your body? What action does this thought promote (for example: eating, drinking, crying, screaming)? Try this activity for a few days each week for a month. Journal your experience. At the end of the month, read over the journal. See a pattern? That’s the habit.
We’ll discuss what to do when you recognize a habit, next issue.