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August 31, 2009

True Health Means Making Every Day Precious
Neil F. Neimark, MD

We all crave a greater sense of health and vitality in our lives. We all yearn for a deeper sense of inner peace and serenity. In order to achieve these noble goals, we must learn how to make every day precious.

How do we do this? By realizing that we are the architects of our own lives. Though it is so natural to want to blame other people or external events for our unhappiness, we are truly responsible for our own happiness.

What is the most powerful way to make every day precious? It is by developing a passionate involvement with life; participating fully in our own personal growth and development.

Vitality, serenity and inner peace do not come from living life on the sidelines, but rather from playing the game of life with all the gusto we have. We must engage life fully by moving towards our dreams and choosing the legacy we wish to leave.

We need to live life passionately, to live life as it's unfolding, to live life on life's terms. Not to shyly approach life, but to move into it. Living passionately does not mean living loudly or boisterously. It may be a quiet, peaceful way of being. But it is your unique way of being, one that honors the fear and the suffering, but does not allow that fear or pain to immobilize us.

The Zen poet David Whyte speaks of passion beautifully, rendering images of fire, when he says: "We want the fire that warms, but we refuse the fire that burns." We want a full and filling life (the fire that warms), but we refuse to expose ourselves to the risk and the suffering involved (the fire that burns) in etching out that life.

There have been engaging studies done on the healing power of participation. Dr. Charlene Kavanaugh, from the University of Wisconsin Medical School, compared a group of severely burned children who received standard nursing care with another group who were taught to change their own dressings. Those who had an active role in their care required less medication and had fewer complications.

Another study on participation was done in Palo Alto, where a group of asthmatic children were taught about their disease and the drugs used to control it. These children were encouraged to decide for themselves when they needed their medication. The results were amazing. These children missed far fewer days from school and their average rate of emergency room visits dropped from one per month to approximately one visit every six months.

The simple act of participating in getting well activates our healing system and begins our movement towards greater physical health. But this is not easy, is it? It means that we must get off our if's, and's or but's and actually be involved. Most of us don't want to do the work it takes to get well. We'd rather slack off, and then when we're sick or ill, go to the doctor and get a bag of pills, a quick fix, or a magic bullet.

Norman Cousins, the great writer, says: "We regard the doctor as the miracle man who can wave his prescription pad over us like a magic wand and provide us a presto remedy. We expect the surgeon's knife or the prescription pad to replace the personal discipline required to maintain good health."

Dedication to getting well is a big commitment. This reminds me of a humorous joke about a girl who gets engaged and says to her girlfriend: "I've been wanting to get married for so long, but you know what, now that I'm engaged, I'm really a little scared." "You should be," said the girlfriend. "Getting married is a big commitment. Seven or eight years can be a very long time!"

There is no quick fix. True healing (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) requires a life long commitment to the process of getting well. True healing requires dedication, discipline and hard work. So participate in getting well by developing a passionate involvement with life. Make every day precious and let the fire warm you, even though it may burn you at times.

Practical Application:
Every day, for the next week, write down one special thing that you can do to make every day precious.

Be well. In body and soul,
Neil F. Neimark, MD

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