What is health? Ask this question of a football player and you’ll get a very different answer than if you ask a vegetarian. We generally base our opinion upon whatever belief system we’ve been indoctrinated into. If you go to your doctor, receive a complete physical exam including extensive blood tests, and everything comes back normal, your doctor will say you’re healthy. You may feel terrible, but that wouldn’t matter. In your doctor’s opinion, you are still healthy. Someone using a different system (for example, Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine) may find an imbalance even if a Western doctor finds none. But surely, true health involves more than whatever system you happen to be following throughout your life. This is true, not only of your physical health, but also of your psychological and spiritual health.
An underlying blueprint lies at the basis of your physiology which includes your physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects. That blueprint determines your true nature. Physiologists may think of it as the source of your homeostasis—that which maintains balance and integrated function of the physiology. Some may think of it as your essence. Others call it the true Self or your soul. Whatever you call it, it is the inner intelligence giving birth to and sustaining harmony and health.
The process of awakening different aspects of your physiology to that underlying intelligence is called the self-referral process. To truly be healthy, that self-referral process must be intact. Natural healing is, in its truest sense, the art and science of awakening that self-referral process. Attainment of true health then is, so to speak, an in/out process. It starts with what dwells within the depth of your own being and wells up through all levels of your existence.
Unfortunately, alternative as well as conventional approaches to health often do not consider and sometimes even undermine the self-referral process. They start at the surface and try to impose preconceived beliefs upon you, attempting to get your physiology, energy system, or psychology to conform. Psychologists, for example, may tell you how to think and feel. Exercise coaches may try to get your body to look and function a certain way. Spiritual teachers may impose beliefs upon you. In fact the entire process of modern education is generally the imposition of ideas and approaches. Of course, all of that has a value. The successes of modern medicine and scientific perspectives are self-evident. Many of us have benefited from an exercise program, seen how psychotherapy has helped ourselves or others, and gained from our education about health. However, though they may support true health, they are best viewed as available tools instead of rigid rules. All of these perspectives are limited because they do not and cannot fully address the self-referral process. Perspectives, by their very nature, are limited. For example, it’s generally understood that if the benefits of exercise could be put into a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed drug in the world. However, care must be taken to avoid devoutly following the perspective of one exercise guru or another. The form of exercise that is appropriate for you is highly individual.
The art of cultivating the self-referral process is fundamentally different. It starts with that place within where you are already healthy and awakens the rest of you to that level. It imposes nothing. It only removes the resistances. It is a process of self-discovery, not only for your mind and heart, but also cellularly, chemically, and in fact, on every level of your being. The first, if not the most difficult step in the process, is to explore your relationship with perspectives in general, particularly your own perspectives. You may start to recognize how challenging it can be, not only to move beyond perspectives, but even to simply look beyond them.
Instead of being enslaved by imposed perspectives, imagine living a life where what you do and how you do it is consistent with your true nature. Imagine being born into a home, a society, and a world that supports that. Discovery of your life’s work and your life’s purpose would all be a part of that self-referral process which would bring you to a state of true health. A truly healthy society would bring that about in every individual and, in turn, each individual would breathe health back into the society. Education and the maturation process would bring you into alignment with your true nature as opposed to potentially hiding it from you. There’s an ancient Sanskrit term for a life lived consistent with your true nature. It is “dharma”. To live your dharma is to be truly healthy. Certainly there are different degrees and levels of living your dharma. But taken to the greatest degree, it includes knowing what foods are right uniquely for you as well as your appropriate lifestyle, profession, and spiritual practice. Dharma is not a cookie cutter prescription that defines, confines, or entwines you. It is a process that frees you to rest into your own true nature.
Sometimes it is said that you cannot take heaven by storm. Nor can you attain true health by assaulting it as a regime of prescribed hoops to jump through or rules to follow. This is something that, by and large, humanity has yet to learn. Generally, we love Step 1, Step 2 cookbooks for anything and everything, including our health. In the attainment of true health, there is no such cookbook. Admittedly this approach to health places the responsibility squarely upon you. That’s usually not what people want to hear. They would like to find someone to tell them exactly what they should think and do. The best thing you can do for yourself is to move beyond that type of mentality and realize that you must take charge of your own health, exploring and evaluating all available perspectives to determine for yourself what is best for you. No one can do that for you. The best anyone can do is assist you with your discovery. When you find such a person, you’ve found a qualified and invaluable helper.
The art of cultivating true health requires a profound level of understanding and humility. It is not just a new set of thoughts; it is a whole new way of thinking, one that is cultivated over time. In the fast-paced world of today, that very notion is often received with contempt: “Why can’t you just tell me? Just say it.” The idea that something cannot be conveyed in a word or a few sentences is often received as insulting: “Who do you think you are? I’ve had courses in psychology. I’ve been reading spiritual books for 20 years. Just give me the bottom line so I can go about my business.” The honest truth is it’s just not that simple. The very foundation of such approaches to health must change. Though the knowledge you’ve gained will still be of value, the new context will transform it. Take, for example, the notion of natural healing. A synthetic antibiotic is clearly unnatural. But at the right moment, it could be just the thing that best supports your natural healing. Without it, you might die. With it, the body is given an opportunity to regain natural balance and heal through the self-referral process. In that instance, something very unnatural is the best thing available to assist the natural healing process.
Physical, psychological, and spiritual indoctrinations do not go away overnight. Old habits die hard. Over time, you can develop the wisdom necessary to discern the best approach to attain health in a given situation. In the process, leave no stone unturned; use your common sense; listen to advice, but listen carefully; and take care not to get caught in the loop of simply abandoning one perspective for another. Instead, find the place within yourself that can intelligently weigh the potential value contained within any and all perspectives. Attaining true health is a process of self-referral, the highest form of self-discovery.
© Michael Mamas, 3/05