When I speak about health, I speak about connection. I speak about love.
There is a now famous story told by Dr. Dean Ornish, the integrative medicine pioneer, in which he asked an Indian spiritual master what the difference was between illness and wellness. The sage wrote both words up on a blackboard, circled the “I” in illness and the “we” in wellness, and answered, “This is the difference.”
The root of the word health is “whole.” Yet how often in the course of our daily lives do we feel separate from one another and from ourselves? How often do we search for something outside of us to complete us, to make us happy, to fill that subtle sense that there is something missing, that we need more?
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “What is that thing within me that needs more? What does it want? Does it ever get any more than momentary satisfaction before it wants something else? What is it looking for?” When we look carefully, this feeling of “not-enough-ness” points to a deeper truth. Something within us recognizes that there is indeed something missing.
What is missing is our awareness that we are already connected to and supported by all of Life. Look into the eyes of an infant, and you see that they know this. It is only the chatter in our minds – that voice in our heads that compares and judges and criticizes – that obscures this reality. When we discipline our minds through meditation and yoga, we free ourselves from the prison of the tiny individual worlds our thoughts have created.
Feelings of isolation are epidemic in our culture now, and they have physiological effects: increased stress hormone levels, decreased immunity, increased addictive behavior, and slow healing, among many others. However, the primary reason that isolation feels so bad is because it is not true, and deep down we know this.
The truth is that we are unfathomably interconnected. Imagine the vast universe of interdependence that is allowing you to read these words right now: the light that has been provided for you from the sun or electricity; the education that taught you to read; all that has gone into your health such that you have eyes that can see and a brain that can understand; the circumstances that brought you to pick up this magazine – an infinite number of people and conditions have come to together simply so that you can read this sentence.
The good news is that we are never actually in separate worlds of our own except within our minds. When the mind begins to quiet down through the practice of meditation and yoga, a cascade of physiological effects follows: decreases in blood pressure, stress, and heart rate; increases in immune function, mood, and vitality. Why? Because when the mind is quiet, we feel connected. And when we feel connected, we feel loved and loving. This love and connection is true health.
Laura Elizabeth Dorsett