Across time and throughout the world, human beings have swung a pendulum from one end of the spectrum to another in an attempt to find balance. It’s part of our nature. In the modern age, for example, we were so excited about the industrial and technological revolutions that we often made the proverbial mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We replaced nature with skyscrapers, playtime with Play Station, meeting in person with meeting in cyberspace, and healing touch with the surgeon’s blade.
What initially was supposed to serve us and give us more time to enjoy life ended up controlling us and pushing to work harder, longer, and faster? What initially was supposed to connect us left us feeling more isolated than ever. And what initially was supposed to optimize our health ended up interfering with our ability to get and stay well.
Having reached the outer limits of our indulgent and excessive lifestyles, today the pendulum is swinging back toward the ancient ways and their associated wisdom, through the growing international and ‘slow’ movements – slow food, slow money, and slow medicine, to name a few. “Slow living means slowing down and thinking twice before you do something,” said Orly Munzing, Strolling of the Heifers founder. In other words, we are realizing that faster does not always mean better and that over the long run, faster not only can slow us down but also can kill us. As an upshot, we are rethinking how we approach our bodies, lives, and planet.
Fast food, for example, while convenient, robs us of essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. Besides, it eliminates the creativity, love, and community associated with food that is made with fresh ingredients from local farms and that is prepared by people we hold dear. Mass-produced, super-sized burgers, fries, and shakes not only overwhelm our systems with empty and far too many calories, but they also lack the essential ingredients of connection to our neighbours, our land, our loved ones, and ourselves all critical to our body, mind and spirit wellness.
The word ‘Health’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon root word ‘haelen’, which means ‘whole’ in its essence, health truly is a state of wholeness. Just as we cannot separate body, mind, and spirit, so can we not separate ourselves from other beings, the world in general, or the universe beyond it? Health is truly the total of everything; therefore everything is relevant and important to health.
A simple step like gardening as a part of wellness can revolutionize our health, our sense of peace, and even our money system. We return to the earth for our source of nourishment; we till the soil with our own hands; we witness and come into alignment with the slow and gentle pace of nature, and we reap the harvest of the freshest possible produce. In doing so, we benefit on many levels: We get a body, mind and spirit workout; we boost our immune system by touching the dirt; we eat nutrient-dense food that tastes fantastic; and we regain control of our food source, and therefore, our economy.
Certainly, many challenging issues are facing us today in the modern world. We can tackle them in a frenzied, anxious, short-sighted, and disjointed way, employing the very tools and attitudes that contributed to our distress, or we can take a step back, recognize the depth and complexity of our situation, approach the system as a whole, and work together to calm things down.
By connecting to each other and our planet, we can counter-balance the fast rush of chaos with the slow rhythm of our beating hearts. As in the case of the individual body, this shift from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic mode will activate our natural healing mechanisms collectively restoring wholeness, and with it, health.