Read more from the Being Truly Human December 2009 Newsletter
By Phiroz Mehta
It is generally agreed that physical health is necessary to us, and at least, helpful to living a spiritual life. For our present purpose let us accept the statement — however, let us not, at this stage, probe into the meaning of the terms “physical health” and “spiritual life”. Instead, let us watch their meaning emerge in the course of our considerations.
Most of us regard man as body and mind, or body and spirit, or body, soul and spirit. The outlook is essentially dualistic. The word “health” is usually associated with the bodily life, and “spiritual” with the life of the soul. These schools of thought — philosophical, mystical or religious — which regarded the body as evil or sinful, or as of no consequence, or an hindrance to “spiritual growth”, generally disregarded bodily health altogether. All others have vaguely had the idea of a sound mind in a sound body as a background either to their spiritual life, or their everyday life in the world of affairs.
It is our habit to identify ourselves with whatever makes us happy, significant, or successful — as for instance our identification with the hero or heroine of a story or historical event. We like to believe the best about us, and hence our proneness to enjoy flattery and our inevitable reaction of thinking well of the flatterer. Most of us prefer to enjoy the delusion that we are fit and well. It is not uncommon to hear a confident, hilarious voice barking about his “eighty years of age and never a day’s illness”, or to see someone beam benignly when falsely complimented with a conventional “How well you are looking!” Actually, however, assuming that some of us do not arrive at the point of acute pain which compels us to acknowledge we are ill, there are rarely grounds for saying that we do not need healing. Heredity, environment, upbringing, the various chances of our lives (such as epidemics, wars, accidents,) our incomplete knowledge and incomplete capacity for harmonious living, are all contributory causes for ill-health. Civilization functions at high tension — too high for the majority of us. The strains and stresses, both within and upon the human organism, are more than it can bear with ease, and consequently there is disease. The nice equilibrium characterizing a normal healthy life is thus violently disturbed and so we become sick and ailing.
Indeed the majority of people need healing, both in body and in soul. Let us first deal with the body. Its primary needs are:
Air is the most important of all our needs. We can dispense with all else for days together, but if we are deprived of air for even five minutes we would die. Free access to fresh air should therefore be available at all times to everyone. Correct breathing is thus seen to be the sine qua non of physical existence. There are a few interesting points about breathing which may be useful to note here.
It is good for the skin to have as much contact as possible with air. A regular air-bath, or one in combination with a sun-bath, tones up the skin, making it function more efficiently, opens the pores, and helps greatly in attuning ourselves to hot or cold weather and winds.
Water is essential for cleansing the digestive tract, the tissues, and the blood-stream. Soft cool water is best for drinking, and it should be taken as often as we feel thirsty, between meals, but not at meals. It is a great oxygen (energy) supplier and is a potent factor in maintaining vigorous health. In temperate climates about four to six tumblers of water per day would prove beneficial. It is better to avoid all stimulating or poisonous drinks, and take soft cool water instead. Fruit juices, in moderation, are also health promoters.
Food is probably the most powerful single physical factor in maintaining health, in producing disease, or in curing disease. The science of dietetics should constitute one of the essential elements in any true education. Hunger is amongst the two or three most powerful causes impelling us to activity, and the importance of all that concerns our daily food should not be underestimated. Hard and fast rules are unwise — for one man’s meat may be another’s poison — but certain general principles prove valuable guiding lines.
Continued in part 2 and part 3
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