Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Images of Health

What attracts me about Christian Science, and why I continue to read Mary Baker Eddy, is not so much the healing, but the attitude toward health. She stresses that where the mind focuses leads the body. Focusing on sickness and death give them power. In regard to the practice of testing everything just in case there’s a sign of future sickness, and making decisions based on numbers so prevalent in today’s medicine, I say, “Why go looking for trouble?”
It’s not denial. That kind of vigilance is a fear based attitude that in itself can be the seed of illness. Tests are symbols of distrust regarding the body’s ability to communicate what it needs. An attitude that feeds on fear of death will create more stress chemicals that in turn take a toll on the immune system.
I’ve been very grateful for the knowledgeable interventions by doctors when serious sickness hits. I appreciate and respect the practice of medicine, but worry about healthy people going to a doctor and coming out with three prescriptions. It’s an obvious conclusion of visual comprehension. Someone goes to a checkup with a spring in his step and comes out sagging and depressed. Something is wrong with this picture, of giving up living to build walls against inevitable death.
A person’s condition is an expression of something about them, age, wear and tear, involvement in life. It has meaning. It is not a problem to be solved but an image to be understood. My childhood experience with our family doctor made a deep positive impression. His diagnosis depended on what he saw. I remember him telling a woman her chronic pain was because her girdle was too tight (you could hear him through the door). That’s probably why when I have a physical pain of some kind the first thing I look at is how I sit when I’m drawing, perhaps with some inner tension, how I may have created that pain. I don’t think of it as external or random. The metaphors of illness speak to me directly. When I’m having stomach trouble I wonder what I can’t digest or haven’t the guts for or where my intestinal fortitude isn’t up to the job. Negative emotions pathologize if they can’t get attention any other way. People get into trouble when they ignore the signals of the body. Unlike the Christian Scientist, I take an aspirin if something hurts because my body is communicating with my conscious mind and cooperative action requires attention to those messages. If I get really sick I’m glad to have my doctor and her expertise.
To focus on health is an active practice. Exercise can help you appreciate having a body. The physical self is our vehicle for experience and every system works hard non-stop. They deserve our positive attention and not just worry and complaint when something’s not right. Music and art can assist the achievement of harmony, were used to that effect in ancient Egypt where the place of healing was called Temple Beautiful. Beauty has a long history as guiding principle. I turn to Beethoven or Gregorian chants when I’m in pain and it helps. How can there be any doubt about the bodymind’s intelligence. It deserves our trust.
Happiness research has shown the importance of having goals, even small short term ones. The focus of mental attention on something to be accomplished is an integrating influence. Having challenges results in good brain chemistry and increased skills, and keeps that most toxic of emotions, frustration, at bay. We need challenge to focus and coordinate body and mind, to feel alive. Like a plant reaching toward the sun, if we’re living we’re not dying. It’s a better image for health.

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