As a Naturopathic Doctor, I take a holistic approach to health—no conventional drugs, no surgeries, no injections, nada.
Over the course of my career, I have gradually abandoned all types of alternative therapies, from herbal medicine to homeopathy to acupuncture. This may seem counter-intuitive, like a surgeon operating without any tools. Yet this approach has led me to discover some extraordinary things about how human beings heal that I’d like to share with you.
By skillfully performing the ordinary activities of our daily lives, we can experience healing that is worthy of the term miraculous. By “ordinary activities” I mean the four activities that all human beings can and must perform for themselves: eating, moving, thinking and relating. These four actions are the most powerful, reliable and rapid forms of healing available to us.
Let’s take eating, for example. If we choose to impulsively indulge in a pint of ice cream every night after dinner, we are not acting with true kindness and intelligence. Sugar and dairy destabilizes our endocrine system, which can lead to a night of tossing and turning, bloating, headaches, and dehydration. Sugar causes inflammation in the body, which causes many of our common diseases and ailments. The pint of ice cream is only one aspect of eating, but it’s easy to see how simply changing one activity in our daily routine can have a dramatic effect on our emotional, mental and physical health.
To consider what re-calibrating all four areas of our lives would be like, imagine if you could purchase the following medicines:
A medicine that gives you the power to eat impeccably, exactly in accord with the wisdom of your mind and body. When taken, you will develop a beautiful, youthful body free from almost every illness.
A medicine that gives you the motivation and skill to perform a daily 90-minute workout, dramatically increasing your strength, flexibility and endurance.
A medicine that enables you to direct your internal dialogue as an unbroken stream of positive, life-affirming, self-esteeming thoughts. This medicine frees you from collapsing into negative emotions and infuses your mental/emotional body with unshakable faith, hope and love.
The medicine of loving kindness and compassion, which would heal your relationships of arguments, misunderstandings, conflicts and violence.
What would you do or pay in order to get your hands on these medicines? Thankfully, you can forget whatever scheme first came to mind, because we don’t need those medicines—they already exist. Unfortunately, we haven’t realized this because most of us eat, move, think and relate in a way that is incongruous with the four ordinary human activities. Instead, many of our actions are untrained, unskilled, and produce suffering in our physical, mental and emotional bodies.
We cannot abstain from eating, moving, thinking and relating. But we can choose whether our actions will be expressions of our wisdom and love, or expressions of our ignorance and indifference. Choosing love and wisdom is as rock solid and practical as it gets, because healing occurs consistently when we accept responsibility for our behavior, thoughts, words and deeds—when we develop self-control, when we master our appetites and passions, desires and fears. This is the path of the wise.
By mastering our behavior, we honor the foundational principle that all world religions uphold—virtue, or, right action in thought, word and deed. Our mind’s job is to protect our body. The most destructive enemy our body faces is none other than ourselves. Habitually performing actions that harm the body makes our mind anxious. This anxiety is healthy and necessary—when we are addicted to what injures us, no medicine can assuage our anxiety.
Through right action we cease harming ourselves (and others). As we become less dangerous and harmful to ourselves, our mind becomes markedly less anxious. We can then relax and concentrate our attention in prayer and meditation, enabling us to further discover and express in our mundane activities the divinity that we are. This is why I consider the healing of our behavior to be true healing.
We all long for the blessings of health and happiness; without them our lives seem filled with suffering. We seek them through medicine, religion or politics. Yet, look! They are right here for the taking. Nearer than our breath and thoughts; they are inescapably available right now. Our lives are whispering, shouting: “Love me! Give me your all. Now!” Our bodies, minds and relationships faithfully reflect back to us the caring and thoughtfulness behind our actions. Our every act obeys the one universal law: “As you give so shall you receive.” If we want quality from our bodies, minds or spouses we must give it. There is no other way.
The art of living is the art of healing. All of our actions are sacred. All of our mundane activities: breathing, walking, eating, thinking, reading, talking and working are all sacred healing rituals and therapies. Through our actions we make kindness and wisdom manifest in our human body. This is my medicine. And this is yours.
A Simple Three-Step Healing Exercise:
Pick out one self-destructive activity that you want to overcome and one wholesome activity that you want to instill. For example, you want to reduce your sweets, coffee or alcohol; on the other hand, maybe you want to eat two large servings of vegetables daily, exercise three times this week or listen empathetically to your spouse or child’s concerns (especially if it’s you). To make your good intention real, commit to one action, no matter how tiny, that you can and will do.
List at least three benefits of doing this, and three consequences of not doing this. Example: what will be the results in your energy, mood, self-esteem, confidence, income, relationships, health, tension, anxiety and mental clarity?
Tell at least one person the change that you are committed to making and why you have decided to do this. Ask them to check in each day for a week about how you are doing with your commitment. Accountability ensures results—it’s easier to not reach for the pint of ice cream if a friend is there to remind us to pull our hand back.
The kicker? Only thinking about doing this exercise while not actually doing it will bring you about as much benefit as thinking about taking a vacation and not actually going.
Take that vacation and do this exercise to get back to a reality where this epithet rings true:
You heal your body by healing your actions.
You heal your actions with the medicine of kindness.
In health and happiness,
Charley Cropley, N.D.
Image: courtesy of the author, flickr/Karsten Bitter