Issue # 3: Fall 1997 © 1997 Neil F. Neimark, M.D.
In Issue #2, we revealed how our emotional and spiritual choices affect us on a physical level, by activating our internal healing system. We learned that while a physical cure is not always possible, healing is always available to us. In any moment, we can activate our healing system by making choices which help us transcend isolation (from self and others), affirm life and move towards a greater sense of acceptance (of self and others), wholeness and inner peace.
In this issue, I will share with you the master key which allows us to unlock the powers of our internal healing system. By applying this master key to our lives, we can activate our healing system and begin our journey towards greater physical health, emotional and spiritual well-being.THE MASTER KEY
We all crave a greater sense of physical health and vitality in our lives. We all yearn for a deeper sense of inner peace and serenity. The master key helps us to unlock the powers of our healing system, allowing us to generate the most possible in terms of our physical health and guiding us to awaken within us a greater sense of inner peace and acceptance.
So what is the master key for accessing our healing system? It is: "Participate in getting well by developing a passionate involvement with life."PASSIONATE INVOLVEMENT
To understand what we mean by a passionate involvement with life, we need to look at the meaning of these words. Do you know the meaning of the Latin root for the word "passion"? It means "to suffer". So we see that a part of being passionate means that as we pursue our dreams in life, we may "suffer" by experiencing failure, rejection, loss or pain. Yet in true passion, we realize the pursuit of our dreams is more powerful than our fears, and we can find meaning beyond the suffering. Victor Frankl, M.D., psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and author of Man's Search for Meaning says: "To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering."
What does involvement mean? It means to roll in, to envelop, to bring into oneself. Involvement with life means we must actively reach out for life and bring life into ourselves. So what do we mean by "passionate involvement with life"? To actively reach out for our dreams, reach out beyond our comfort zone and bring life into ourselves, even if it means there may be pain and suffering. It is to awaken to our passion for life and living, knowing that it is from our very passion that we may transcend life's suffering and pain.
To be passionately involved with life means that we must also face the ultimate suffering, the ultimate fear ... that we could die. In confronting our own mortality and our own fears of suffering, we allow ourselves to be fully alive. We come to realize the meaning of Cardinal Newman's words: "I do not fear that I will die. I fear that I may never have begun to live."
We need to begin to live life passionately, to live life as it's unfolding, to live life on life's terms. Not to shyly approach life, but to move into it. Living passionately does not mean living loudly or boisterously. It may be a quiet, peaceful way of being. But it is YOUR unique way of being, one that honors the fear and the suffering, but does not allow that fear or pain to immobilize us.
The Zen poet David Whyte speaks of passion beautifully, rendering images of fire, when he says: "We want the fire that warms, but we refuse the fire that burns." We want a full and filling life (the fire that warms), but we refuse to expose ourselves to the risk and the suffering involved (the fire that burns) in etching out that life.MAKE EVERY DAY PRECIOUS
We begin to see that developing a passionate involvement with life means we strive to make every day precious. We do things because they honor who we are and what we value, not only because we fear the consequences of not doing them. Bernie Siegel, M.D. says, "Don't do things to NOT die. Do them because it makes every day precious." He tells the wonderful story of the two vegetarians. "There's a big difference between being a vegetarian because it makes every day precious and being a vegetarian because it will prevent you from dying. In heaven, one's happy and the other's furious, because they died anyway and look at everything they didn't get to eat!"PARTICIPATION
In striving to make every day precious, we must actively participate in life. We can not live life from the sidelines. We must engage life, taking steps towards creating the life we choose and the legacy we will leave.
There have been engaging studies done on the healing power of participation. Dr. Charlene Kavanaugh, from the University of Wisconsin Medical School, compared a group of severely burned children who received standard nursing care with another group who were taught to change their own dressings. Those who had an active role in their care required less medication and had fewer complications.
Another study on participation was done in Palo Alto, where a group of asthmatic children were taught about their disease and the drugs used to control it. These children were encouraged to decide for themselves when they needed their medication. The results were amazing. These children missed far fewer days from school and their average rate of emergency room visits dropped from one per month to approximately one visit every six months.
The simple act of "participating in getting well" activates our healing system and begins our movement towards greater physical health. But this is not easy, is it? It means that we must get off our "if's, and's or but's" and actually be involved. Most of us don't want to do the work it takes to get well. We'd rather slack off, and then when we're sick or ill, go to the doctor and get a bag of pills, the quick fix, the magic bullet.
Norman Cousins, the great writer, says: "We regard the doctor as the miracle man who can wave his prescription pad over us like a magic wand and provide us a presto remedy. We expect the surgeon's knife or the prescription pad to replace the personal discipline required to maintain good health."A BIG COMMITMENT
There is a dismaying joke about a girl who gets engaged and says to her girlfriend: "I've been wanting to get married for so long, but you know what, now that I'm engaged, I'm really a little scared." "You should be," said the girlfriend. "getting married is a big commitment. Seven or eight years can be a very long time!"
Dedication to getting well is a big commitment. There is no quick fix. True healing (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) requires a life long commitment to the process of getting well. True healing requires dedication, discipline and hard work. So participate in getting well by developing a passionate involvement with life. Make every day precious and let the fire warm you, even though it may burn you at times.
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