Wellness is a spectrum, not a finite state. At one end is what we call optimal health – a dynamic point at which each of us is functioning at 100 percent of our current potential. At the opposite end is death. Literally everything in between is in a constant state of flux–“wellness” evolving in response to the choices we make and the attitude with which we approach our lives.
Although wellness involves many domains — physical, social, emotional, spiritual financial — it is, first and most importantly, a physical state. Whether or not you believe that a part of each of us lives on in another dimension after our bodies stop functioning, the truth is that without a body, you cease to exist in this life. The Body, in all of its infinite and poorly understood complexity, is the vessel that sustains the rest.
But that doesn’t mean that you must maintain some absolute, arbitrarily defined level of physical health to be a fully functioning human being. Nor does it mean that you cannot live a full and meaningful life if your body is infirm or unwell.
What is does mean — and this is so important to anyone who is struggling with illness or infirmity — is that each of us can choose to move towards wellness if we accept where we are today and own the reality that now is all we have. Far too often, our Western view of life causes us to view every challenge — every illness, every setback — as an enemy, an attitude that pits us against ourselves, especially when we are unwell. Acceptance, however, allows us to move forward with grace and ease — to see each breath as both a miracle and an opportunity — a chance to celebrate our aliveness while still moving forward in some way.
“You have to remember — one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the inbreath or outbreath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity. — Stephen Levine
Spend some time today exploring your beliefs about the concept of wellness and your own health. If you need some help approaching the topic, try answering these questions as a place to start —
- What does wellness mean to me? How do I view my health?
- Are my physical, emotional and spiritual wellness dependent on each other, or are they independent aspects of my total health?
- Is aging, by definition, an infirmity, or can an aging person be as healthy or more healthy than someone who is young?
- How do my mind and the body intersect?
- In his book “A Year to Live” Stephen Levine says, “When you live your life as though you’re already dead, life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime, a universe unto itself.” What do you think about this statement? How does it make you feel?
- Are you afraid of death? Why?