The Emerging Spirit of Wholism

I was at a “health conference” this past week to learn more about how our Autonomic Nervous System (sympathetic/parasympathetic, fight-or-flight/rest-digest functions) affects us. As you may know from my work, Slow Medicine, an underlying theme of my collected experience, learning and beliefs is that there is a common denominator to what ails us — the imbalance and disequilibrium produced by our response to the fast, hyper-stimulating, polluted and chaotic world in which we live. The conference’s leaders focused as well on this connection and presented a great deal of evidence to support the growing awareness of the body-mind interaction, giving further credence to the developing understanding that what goes on in the mind has direct and powerful affects on our body. Logic then dictates that to fully address what ails our body, we must direct enough attention to, and learn to actually moderate, our mind’s activity. And, this now is becoming mainstream, which is wonderful in and of itself. But, there is another critical piece, that without, will limit how far one can go with this improved understanding — the role of the Spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the progress that has been made, and have renewed hope that one day soon we will get past the limited paradigms that limit our potential, as individuals, and as a collective. But, I am not willing to rest at this place, especially when I recognize how much more healing is possible. Indeed, I’d be more patient if there wasn’t still so much suffering. So, bear with me as I push the envelope some more.

Before I do, let me paint a picture. Better yet, look at the photo above.

What do you notice in this image of the Three Sisters? From the concrete perspective of the Native American Garden, the relationship of Corn, Beans and Squash is a practical one. But, nothing in the lives of the profoundly wise culture that “figured this out” suggest that it stops (or starts) there. Sure, there is important nourishment to be found in the produce that is literal food for the body, but there is more.

As in all aspects of the Native American traditions, there is a lesson about interconnected life and the relationship between what is created and the creator, on every level of existence. Here we see the tall structured stalk of corn, surrounded at it’s base by ground covering and expansive squash that contains moisture and limits the growth of predatory insects. Can you relate the corn to your skeleton, to the literal bones that provide the scaffolding for the rest of you to grow? Can you see how the expansive free flowing squash with all of its color and variety, and its ability to limit what comes in or goes out, mirrors the mind? And what about the bean in the middle? It grows quickly up the corn’s body at a rate that might be considered soaring in comparison to the its more ground-based companions. Importantly, however, there is one more critical function it provides that is not seen…the ability the bean plant has to fix nitrogen, plucking it out of thin air (in spiritus) and feeding this essential nutrient to corn and squash, to body and mind. This is the spirit, without which, this simple ecosystem cannot reach its fullest potential.

Similarly, as (w)holism has evolved, we have learned to treat the body, and address the significant influence of the mind. And as I mentioned at the top, it’s now becoming apparent and widely accepted that healing is quite limited without adding the second component. And, yes, there is even many a hall where you here the phrase “mind, body and spirit.” But, I don’t think we’re there yet with this last piece. What I see, despite some progress, is the prevailing attitude that the spirit is still a separate matter; best dealt with once the body and mind are quiet, or in a different building all-together. This is not how your garden grows.

No, what is needed NOW is the complete integration of this trio of life forces. It’s therefore compelling to consider how we might reframe and rework our plan to make sure we address the whole, at every step, at every moment. Indeed, it is the third and most vital piece, aka the spiritual–our meta-physical relationship with creative inspiration–that is required to link our physical, ephemeral and pain-prone life to something beyond.

….And, one more thought; one which I will pick up on and write more about in the future: the decaying and the diseased are also food for growth. What do you think feeds these plants and produces the beautifully fragrant flowers and the sweet flesh of its fruit? Embracing it all is the best way I know to move away from the sympathetic fear-based anxiety ridden state of inflammation and pain to the more gratifying state of reverence our ancestors lived by. In so doing, our mind is put at ease, our body experiences less tension, and our spirit soars.

For now, though, let’s keep it simple. Infuse the consciousness of spirit into everything you do. Breathe in more of the air, fill yourself with more of the heretofore neglected “inert” element of Nitrogen, and reap more bounty from your life.

Mitakuye Oyasin,
Michael

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