My dad always says, “If you don’t have your health, then you don’t have nothin’.”
I have always tended to agree with him, especially since I consider myself to be a “health practitioner” and in the “health industry”. I have seen how an ‘unhealthy’ diagnosis can fuel depression, extreme frustration and can eventually destroy a patient’s life. So, I started to really think that if you don’t have your health, you really don’t have anything.
I repeated my father’s quote to a client of mine the other day, and his response was something like, “Well, What about Stephen Hawking?”
Yes! What about Hawking. Stephen Hawking, the genius mind of theoretical physics, has led an amazingly balanced and abundant life after a diagnosis for a rapidly progressing disease at the age of 21. Hawking has ALS, which essentially inhibits his brain from communicating with his muscles. He is nearly completely paralyzed, is unable to speak and only communicates through a special computer device. He continues to hold lectures and rarely thinks about the limitations of his disease (which he feels are not many). Stephen Hawking\’s Diagnosis eventually propelled him into his research, his engagement to his wife and encouraged him to enjoy the present moment.
His disease has progressed much slower than most with ALS, and this may be because of his extremely healthy mind.
I started to realize that I work with people like this every week. People who have been given a severe diagnosis and would be considered “unhealthy”, but their minds are like Hawking’s mind. Their minds are filled with optimism and determination. They are grateful for what they have and do not focus on their limitations. Their minds are strong, flexible and healthy, and therefore they are able to dive into the work we do deeply. Their healthy minds allow them to better their less than healthy physical bodies.
I think that many of us think that health pertains to how our bodies look and function, what we put inside of our bodies and how we feel in our bodies. We sweat out our toxins in the gym or in a yoga class, lift weights and diet, run the Santa Monica stairs until our hearts are pounding and our lungs are pumping. We stretch until our noses kiss our knees and twist until we look like pretzels. Do we exercise and tend to our minds with the same vigor? My hamstrings are flexible, but is my mind? And is my mind as strong as my Triceps are? Do we push ourselves to meditate, focus on the good and enjoy what we do all day the same way that we push ourselves physically?
I often choose activities that create balance in both. In yoga, I use the breath to connect my mind to my body and practice sitting with a quiet mind. In Pilates, I focus on small subtle movements and stimulate my mind with new knowledge and awareness. In the ocean surfing, I enjoy intense physical moments coupled with long lulls of stillness and contemplation.
I do still agree that working towards a healthy body enables us to attain a healthy mind, but maybe my definition of HEALTH has now shifted. I don’t think that the definition of HEALTH is defined by freedom from disease or ailment, but freedom of the mind from limitations of disease or ailment, coupled with holistic care to thrive best within the boundaries of the ailment. HEALTH is the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor according to each individual’s situation.
the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor: good health; poor health.
soundness of body or mind; freedom from disease or ailment: to have one’s health; to lose one’s health.
So, Pop… I do still agree with your quote, but would tweak it a bit…
“Without a healthy mind and spirit, then you don’t have nothin’.”