Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Health Care System: Heal Thyself!

There is much debate on the national level about the health care system in the United States at this time. Most agree that more Americans need access to health care and that the rising costs of health care need to be reduced. Words like "socialized medicine" get kicked around when talking about a universal health plan, with all kinds of fear mongering from every side of the debate. We recognize that the USA spends more than any other country on health care, we know that our doctors and equipment are the best in the world (every wonder why medical students from other countries come here to study to become doctors?), and, whether we want to admit it or not, we currently rank 37th in the world as far as quality of health for our citizens.

So, Mr. President, and all who care to read this, the problem is not really a lack of health insurance coverage, or even lack of health care, or the result of a profit-driven health system that is out of control. While yes, these things may be true, they are not the problem. The health care system is overbloated and overpriced, but this is merely a symptom of the problem. The problem is: WE ARE NOT HEALTHY! Sure with organic veggies and "no trans fat labels" and every diet craze imaginable, we are trying like hell and many are living healthy lives, but as a collective people, we as a whole are just not healthy. But don't blame the HMO's with their ungodly amounts of paperwork and restrictions, or the aggressive advertising of the pharmaceutical companies, or the stranglehold the insurance industry has on doctors and patients alike. It's not really their fault. Really.

3rd panel from © Alex Grey's triptych, "Journey of the Wounded Healer," used without permission.

There is now, there has always been, and always will be only one primary health care provider for each of us and costs no money at all. This provider is YOU. Only YOU are at the front lines of your own health care "system" or program. Only YOU decide what you put in your mouth (and on your skin since it's just about the same thing) and whether or not you exercise your body. No act of Congress, Presidential directive, or TV reality show will intervene on your behalf. This is something each of us must do and do for ourselves.

And, as health and dis-ease come from not just one source, YOU have to be the gatekeeper for all areas of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. We know that stress can play a huge part in wearing down our immune system, making us more vulnerable to disease and reducing our ability to recover from illness. So in addition to improving our diet and exercise (which should be obvious to all by now), we must keep vigilant guard over what we allow ourselves to see and hear; we need to make sure we are harboring peaceful and healthy thoughts, and not dwell upon misery, lack, disappointment, regret, resentment, guilt and all the rest. And we need to watch our speech, because what we speak over ourselves and others, if negative, can have huge negative consequences. But keep in mind, the toxic feelings and words we spout out at someone else will inevitably come back to us to shoot us in the foot.

Health, after all, is a holistic process. In fact, the word "health" means to be whole. If we are unhealthy, we are fragmented or scattered in some way or another. Health comes when we integrate all parts of our being. Many of us are torn or divided when it comes to our own health. We join the gym but stop going after the first month; we buy the exercise machine and end up using it to hang wet towels to dry; we start the diet, lose the weight, but then put it right back on.

And why is this? Is this because of ignorance, that we just don't know right from wrong? Doubtful. Or is it because we are divided emotionally, torn between being good TO ourselves, or being good FOR ourselves? Do we trade the brief relief of "comfort food" for years of indigestion and discomfort as a result? Is our desire to eat the healthy food eclipsed by our addiction to junk food? Do we feel empty inside, and no matter how much food we stuff ourselves with, we still feel empty?

This is just another example of what the Ancients referred to as "praying to two different gods." It may be that this internal division, or having conflicted emotions, lies at the heart of the problem. We have heard that people in other countries, such as France, eat all the "wrong" foods - rich in fat, sugar, etc., but are actually more healthy than the average US citizen. So it may not even be the food itself, or the food alone, that "causes" the problem of health concerns, rather it is the attitude of acceptance - and not denial or guilt - that maintains a harmonious healthy way of enjoying food. Isn't it common logic that tells us if you eat something you want, and then feel guilty and wish you hadn't, this tension gets your stomach in a knot and actually hinders the process of digesting the "guilty" food, thereby keeping it in your system longer than it needs to be!

In fact, improper digestion may be a huge culprit in poor health. First, the foods themselves, loaded with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, dyes and flavoring, are difficult for the body to assimilate. Actually the body probably doesn't want to assimilate some of this stuff so it stores it elsewhere or puts undo burden on your liver, kidneys, intestine or heart.

Another example of a divided self, when it comes to health and body image, is in the commercials and advertisements we are bombarded with every day. This mixed message of gluttony and vanity causes a sort of schizophrenia where we are told to attend the all-you-can-eat buffet, and in the next ad, we are asked to join a weight loss program. The image of the beautiful 20 year old girl running on the beach in a bikini just adds to the frustration. More on unrealistic body images and the even more unrealistic feeling that we have to look that way in a future post.

To sum this up, care for your health by developing better habits with your body, intellect, emotions and spirit. Move your body in any way you can. Eat as many good things and reduce as many bad things as possible, including prescription medications. Ask your doctor if you can reduce or eliminate at least some of your medications. Work with her to find healthful ways of getting what you need without the chemicals: If, with a healthy lifestyle, you get your cholesterol and pre-diabetic weight under control, there will be no need for the medications, which, by the way, often produce other problems themselves. Train your mind to focus on the good things in life - the positive aspects of your life and not the negative. Free your emotions from the shackles of guilt, expectation, hurt, betrayal and loss. Stuffing your feelings inside is like stuffing food inside, and, like a lake, if there is no outflow or release from the emotions, the water becomes stagnant and vile. Call upon whatever spiritual power or Force (or Darwin, random selection or science) that you have, develop this relationship as you go, and ask for the guidance, strength and will to follow through with the right choices for health. When our problems become too great for us to solve, we need to become greater, and, like a goldfish who only grows according to the size of the bowl, relieve the bondage of self and replace it with the infinite wisdom of the Universe.

Your body - and what you do with it - IS your health care system. You are the first responder, the primary physician, and it is up to you to make this system work. You don't need a gym membership or personal trainer to work out. Walk, if you can, even for 15 minutes a day. Lift weights of any amount a few times a week. If you can't afford a couple of 5 pound dumbells at the thrift store, then fill empty 2 liter soda bottles with water and lift those. And if they're not empty, dump your diet cherry soda in the sink and then put them to better use. Stretch. You don't need to go to yoga classes and contort your body in weird ways, just get on the floor and stretch your body while you're watching TV. Make the choice (or don't). Make it now (or don't). Take the initiative (or don't). It's up to YOU, not your doctor or the Congress or the President. If you don't have health insurance, get the ASSURANCE that you will not need to go the the doctor if you eat, move, and relax the mind and emotions for good health.

We have asked our health care system to do way more than it should be required to do. We have burdened it with every symptom or uncomfortable feeling we have, demanding that doctors and medicine make us feel better with a pill, while we continue with the unhealthy behaviors that got us there in the first place. It is as if we are taking poison, going to the doctors for an antidote, then continuing on with taking more poison and finally getting angry at the medical system for letting us down! And this is exactly what we are doing to our bodies. We are asking the organism to digest and assimilate artificial foods, process toxic thoughts and images and harbor deadly resentments - and then getting mad at it because it's not not "doing it's job," so we go to the doctor, get a pill and start the whole thing over again.

Your health care system is YOU. Mr. President, health care reform begins and ends at home. For what is left over, the injuries and illnesses that we cannot take care of ourselves, will be a much smaller amount and less of a burden on our doctors and hospitals, which could easily handle the remaining load.

Health Care will take care of us, if we take care of our health.

© 2009.10.13