Ancient lessons that support modern times
This weekend I did a meditation retreat, the subject of which was the Medicine Buddha (or Bhaisajyaguru). Working in the healthcare sector I've been attracted to the Medicine Buddha for quite a while so when the opportunity came up to learn a bit more I jumped at the chance.
From a personal, spiritual perspective it was amazing! If you've never done a short meditation retreat, then I would really recommend trying one.... though perhaps not the Medicine Buddha as your first time.
But what struck me most, was how the ancient wisdom on health is so relevant today. In fact it's so relevant that if you look at the most progressive views on health care they are rediscovering this ancient wisdom as a new way to approach medicine.
So what did the Buddha say about health?
1. Mind and Body are interconnected
How many times have you heard the phrase 'healthy mind, healthy body'?
How often have you felt stressed out and come down with a cold or bad stomach?
When you are sick, how long does it take before you are feeling fed up and glum because you are tired of being sick?
We know this intuitively. We know that are mental and physical health are linked. We can see it when we are sick. But how often do we think about it when we are well?
According to the Buddha, when our body and mind are synchronised, when they are in harmony with one another, then we are healthy.
And synchronising body and mind is actually quite simple (though not necessarily easy to do). It requires us to be completely present. Rather than being wrapped up in our heads and our thoughts, we can experience our body, our senses.
So take time to check in with your body and your mind today. For just a few moments, see if you can experience what you taste or smell, the feeling of touch, what you can hear and what you can see. Then how are you feeling emotionally? Doing this short practice on a regular basis can help us to synchronise our body and mind so help improve our wellness.
2. Balance is key
Our health is dependant on many conditions - our genetics / DNA, our environment, our habits to name just a few.
But when we think looking after our health, we tend to consider just a few of these conditions..... and they tend to be physical too.
Given that our body and mind are interdependent, looking after our health requires us to consider the balance between body and mind.
Are you a gym bunny whose body is a temple and who focuses on ensuring you eat well and get plenty of exercise? At the expense of relaxing your mind?
Or are you an intellectual bookworm who thrives on knowledge and hasn't done any exercise in years?
While these may be two extremes, I am sure that each of us has a preference and falls somewhere on a scale between the two.
How well balanced is your self care? Do you prefer caring for your physical health or mental wellbeing? Which do you have a tendency to neglect? And what tiny step can you take today in order to bring a bit more balance into your self care?
3. We need to relax
Seems pretty straightforward doesn't it.
According to Buddhist teachings relaxation gives the mind strength and confidence. And it affects the health of our body.
When we relax - I mean deeply relax - we feel a sense of coming home. We naturally feel that interconnectedness of our body and mind. We don't need to do anything.
These days when we think of relaxing it tends to be binge-watching the latest TV series or sharing a bottle of wine with some friends (even if it is over Zoom). And while this kind of relaxation has its place, the kind of relaxation I am talking about is kind where you deeply relax the mind and the body.
So how can we do this?
There are many ways, the most obvious being a meditation practice but yoga, tai chi and even running (without listening to something) are great ways to bring about a sense of relaxation.
I invite you to consider how you relax your mind and how you can bring more relaxation into your life at the moment.
But that's not all....
OK, I hear you say, I would expect the Buddha to focus on meditation and mindfulness. But that's not all he said.
According to the Buddhist teachings there are Three Essentials to Good Health.
- Sleep - even two and half thousand years ago it was recognised that sleep is important for good health. It allows our body to employ its natural healing processes as well as encouraging a well functioning mind.
- Nutrition and Medicine - we need good food, a balanced diet. We need to the right mix of nutrients that comes from eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and a small amount of animal protein. Whilst diet will support our health, the chances are at some point we will get sick so we also need medicine at the right time. Remember, we are talking about balance and whilst our body is very good at healing itself, sometime it needs a little help. It's important to recognise when we need to nourish ourselves with the right food and medicine.
- Meditation - of course! We're back to balance and relaxation. We need to care for our mind as well as our body.
Of course, this kind of approach to our health may seem very simple but in reality, it takes a lot of effort. We need to consistently pay attention to our habits - are they taking us towards good health or away from it? And if even when we think we have it all sussed, something habits and before we know it we're eating cheesecake and drinking wine every day (it's not just me right?).
So what can you do about it?
Well I highly recommend getting some accountability for your approach to good health and where better than the Be Healthy Club. Each month we work on a different theme but the aim the same - to support each other in developing habits that take us towards good health. So why not check it out here.
Image by Karissa Mohler on Pixabay