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Deeply Holistic: A Guide to Intuitive Self-Care

The inspiration for writing Deeply Holistic came out of a wonderful stay I had in an authentic Ayurveda healing village near to Coimbature in South India two winters ago. Three weeks of special massage, herbal medicine, detoxification and rest and I looked and felt fifteen years younger. The doctors there thoughtfully provided an hour a day lecture on aspects of Ayurveda, the sophisticated traditional healing system of South India with its roots in ancient times, to entertain the patients. Although the strict traditional way of Ayurveda is that when undergoing any of its deep detoxification treatments a person needs to rest completely, refraining from any activity including reading (and emails!), these compassionate and intelligent people understand that in our modern world this kind of complete rest soon drives people crazy, so they offered these talks. On one of them, a patient asked the doc to explain the meaning of ‘healthy’ according to Ayurveda. The world for healthy is swasta, a Sanskrit word which he translated as ‘to be established in yourself.’ I loved this, and it triggered a whole host of thoughts and ideas in me.

The other snippet from these talks which inspired the basis of Deeply Holistic came from the way Ayurveda understands how swasta is maintained

“Ayurvedic medicine describes a hierarchy of levels of treatment for any par­ticular problem and suggests that it is wise to always try to solve a problem with the simplest of interventions first, before moving up the ladder to more com­plex—and ultimately to more dangerous—treatments. The first rung—the foun­dation for health—is self-care. In Ayurveda this includes good basic principles of living: diet, exercise, spiritual practice, and so on, as well as the home use of herbs to treat simple ailments.”[1]

After this foundation of self-care, if we still have a health problem, then comes going to the doctor for more detailed help with individually prescribed professional herbal medicine; if this doesn’t work the next step is the intensive detoxification programme such as I had a taste of (commonly known as panchakarma); only if this fails would Ayurvedic doctors resort to the most powerful tools of medicine which are surgery and chemotherapy (that is, medication with strong substances which whilst they may remove a disease, always have a longer-term weakening effect on the body – there is a price to pay for their efficacy). The same is true of surgery – which was already quite sophisticated in the ancient Vedic culture.

 

Interesting eh? The mainstay of our own culture’s modern medicine is now drugs and surgery, which many medics reach straight for without proper consideration of how the foundation for health is being laid.

It is of course is obvious from a perspective of common sense that looking after yourself well is a good idea in order to maintain health – yet somehow modern world with its money-driven culture has developed in such a way that many of us are living in ways which is totally counter to this.

As a herbalist and healer for many years[2] I had seen this phenomenon in action many times; a natural health practitioner’s job in this world is often concerned with basic health education as much as complex prescribing. Yet there is also something I had seen almost across the board in my decades of practice – and indeed experienced in myself, and this is a deep disconnect on what I will call the emotional and spiritual levels. It is this which drove me on to continue my search for deep healing modalities, leading to my practice of spiritual healing and a twenty four year quest for emotional understanding and healing from various forms of personal development and therapy. I had learned well over the decades how very far this disconnect goes in our modern societies. It has its roots in a loss of closeness to our Mother Earth, to our families and communities, and therefore to ourselves – and has been going on for so many centuries that most of us truly have no idea what it is that we have lost.

Deeply Holistic is an offering that seeks to help with the process of reconnecting – with ourselves, our fellow humans, and with nature. We can relearn our natural ability to be swasta – centered within ourselves, and therefore be able to feel and know what is good and healthful for us and what is not.

 

“Many of us have a habit of ignoring ourselves—our feelings, our needs, our bodies. Yet without conscious awareness of what is going on within us, we can’t tell how our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health is, and what may need attention. So a first and very important step in self-care is to develop our self-awareness.”[3]

I am sure that Ayurveda had everything needed for health for many centuries. Like other traditional healing paradigms (including Chinese Medicine, Unani Tibb, traditional African and Native American healing methods for instance), it is a very sophisticated system with great understanding of human needs and differences and causes of disease. However I have had a question in my mind for many years now. I have seen in three continents evidence that excellent indigenous  traditional healers really have no idea what it is like for our people in modern Western societies. They literally have no way of understanding the depth of the disconnect and brokenness that exists in our cultures, and therefore within us. As an experienced practitioner, I know that correct diagnosis is vital to effect treatment, so I wondered if their methods are enough to treat our modern wounds. To my mind these wounds are of the body, mind, spirit and the wider community/outside environment.

They include trauma to the body from our poor diet and unhealthful lifestyles;

A Sane Approach to Healthy Eating

The best advice about how to eat for your health I have come across is that of writer Michael Pollan, who says “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This sums it up very succinctly. To stay healthy, avoid processed food like the poison it is. If it comes in a packet and has lots of unpronounceable ingredients in it—don’t eat it, or at least eat it extremely sparingly (no more than once a month).

Stay away from refined carbohydrates—white flour, white sugar, and especially all the modern manufactured sugars like corn syrup.

Eat organic food whenever possible—and work to make it more pos­sible. Completely avoid any animal products not produced organically.”[4]

 

Emotional issues in all, or at least almost all, of us – not just the more obvious ones, but problems that come from our training to suppress and deny our feelings from the beginning of our lives. This area is one in which denial of its existence as problem is endemic in our societies;

“Humans are deeply emotional beings. Emotions are one of the key ways we interact with the world. If we are in balance, our emotions are appropriate to whatever is happening for us and flow naturally from one to another. If we are unable to express our emotions, this creates imbalance in us.

Just as humans come equipped with wonderful—even miraculous—built-in healing mechanisms for the body, we also have these for the mind. These are the various ways of releasing emotional tension and therefore moving our emotions on and out rather than storing them inside (where they create serious problems, not only for the mind but also for the body).

We are able to fully recover from even devastating hurts if we have complete access to as much of this emotional discharge for as long as we need it to pro­cess any particular hurt.”[5]

The spiritual disharmony and lack which has very deep roots, in the thousands of years old loss of our original ancestral traditions and the severance of our connection to and living experience of the divine expression which is the natural world;

“Modern Western culture is brilliant technologically—we know a lot about material reality and how to manipulate it. But we are sadly ignorant about non­ordinary reality, being conditioned to believe that it doesn’t exist and that only the physical world is real. This leaves us vulnerable to energetic or spiritual dis­turbance or imbalance, a key cause of health problems of body, mind, and spirit.

“The shamanic paradigm, common to all indigenous cultures through­out the world, sees the universe as being a whole, completely interwoven entity. Everything is alive and has energy or a ‘spirit,’ and all things are connected. We live in constant relationship with everything; our family, tribe, community, society, the animals and birds, insects, all creatures, also the spirits of nature, the land, fire, air, and water. The idea is to be in harmony with all, and disease—dis-ease—comes about when the energy or relationship between a person and themselves, their community, or their environment is not right.”  HOLISTIC ANATOMY”

 

Then there is the world we live in, itself so out of balance that it throws us again and again.

“For us to be truly healthy we need to change the world, and for this to come from a balanced, holistic perspective—and therefore be truly helpful—we need to move from a heart-centered place of deep knowing, rather than the fear-driven place of the mind. Yet how can we listen to the heart when we are not in touch with ourselves?”[6]

I like to write in as straightforward way as possible when explaining how we work and what we can try to help ourselves. Deeply Holistic is full of simply-explained suggestions for self-care for all the body’s systems as well as for the mind and the energy body and spirit. For example, most of us are aware nowadays of how much stress there is in our world, and that we need to be thoughtful about our lifestyles and ways to reduce our exposure to stressful events, and our reaction to them when unavoidable;

 

“Ways to Turn on the Parasympathetic Nervous System

  • Slow, deep breathing (pages 32, 50, 83, 131, 135, and 270)
  • Breathing in and out against a slight resistance
  • Humming, which stimulates the vagus nerve (Ommmmmmmm)
  • Growling—also stimulates the vagus nerve and helps to dispel fear
  • Paying attention to the sensations of your body; try noticing your tongue in your mouth, the movement of saliva, your feet on the floor, the breath in your nose
  • Washing your face in cold water
  • Practicing muscle relaxation techniques (page 60)
  • Heart-centered breathing (page 83)
  • Being in nature
  • Stroking a pet
  • Regular yoga nidra (page 206)
  • Meditation practice
  • Feeling goodwill toward yourself and others (loving-kindness meditation page 111, shared
  • listening page 301)
  • Improving the gut flora ”[7]

 

[1] From the introduction to Deeply Holistic.

[2] I began my practice in 1987 with holistic massage and 1989 as a herbalist, then incorporated a spiritual direction when I studied first Reiki and shamanic healing from 1994, then the rather wonderful Plant Spirit Medicine which I began to practice in 2005.

[3] From Deeply Holistic Chapter One – Saying Hello to Ourselves.

[4] From Deeply Holistic.

[5] From Appendix B of Deeply Holistic

[6] From the introduction to Deeply Holistic.

[7] From Deeply Holistic Chapter 12: The Nervous System—A Supercomputer.

The above article was submitted to Healthynewage.com by the author Pip Waller. The book is available from WHSmith.

About Tess Bryan

Tess Bryan is an influential Health & Travel blogger helping businesses worldwide to connect with their ideal audience and sharing great citizen journalism. Connect with her via Linkedin to share your story.

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