The Four Pillars
In a world where so many people are afflicted with illness and unhappiness a reasonable question may arise: what is wellness? The dictionary defines wellness as either the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort or an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases. But, what does that mean for you? How do you approach or reach a sense of wellness in your life? After years of coaching and counseling clients on how to be well, I have another take on what that state of health and well-being should encompass. I believe in the practice and application of holistic principles when defining and designing one’s personal wellness plan. By that I mean looking at the whole being, each aspect of one’s life, when choosing the right road to a life full of health and wellness. I believe the four pillars that lay a foundation for discovering and maintaining personal wellness are already widely known throughout our culture, but aren’t always clearly addressed or fully integrated into our complicated modern way of living.
These four crucial aspects have also often been dismissed as New Age jargon and glossed over by quick-fix, results-oriented fitness programs and the malaise of mass-media motivational programming. I’ve mentioned them before (and will again) and you already know them, but they bear endless repeating: Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit. There, see, I knew you were already familiar. But how do we integrate these pillars into our lives, on our journey to wellness? How do we best utilize these aspects as tools to find the health and wholeness we’re all looking for?
I completely believe that every part of our lives can be improved by making better choices. As adults we make all kinds of decisions without even thinking about their repercussions. We eat a certain meal, watch a TV show or chat with a friend without any real intentions, other than to satisfy our current needs. We want to fulfill our hunger, our need for entertainment or a desire for companionship. We attend to so much each day that some things simply take priority and others get left to the wayside. We wind up ignoring certain things like dirty laundry or dishes, full email inboxes, unopened bills or other aspects of life that may make us feel uncomfortable. We pick and choose where we put our attention and eventually fulfill our needs and responsibilities, gleefully or begrudgingly. We choose how we deal with stress and how we avoid it. We decide how to feel and who to be with every little choice.
When we want to feel and be well I believe we have to look closely at our choices and how they affect the four pillars that lay the basis for wellness. That examination always leads to a deeper understanding of one’s motivations, challenges and what changes need to be made to realize the desired result. Defining and designing your own plan for wellness is the aim. We are all individuals so what I define as my sense of wellness may not be what you see fit for yourself. I think customizing what works for you will have the best, most comprehensive, long lasting and holistically sound results. So, let’s take it apart so we can put it back together…
What are we REALLY talking about when we say we want to be well? Are we just referring to our health, the wellness of our physical bodies? I think it goes A LOT deeper and it’s all connected! I believe fulfillment is what we want, deep down. We want to feel healthful, look beautiful and live lives that are joyful, hopeful, plentiful, meaningful and purposeful. In order to have such fulfillment and satisfaction, I’ve come to realize a fact that should come as no surprise to you. We must first be fully present in our lives; we must be completely mindful. Isn’t it interesting that some of the most important words in the English language end in “-ful?” As free thinking, free willed adults, don’t we owe it to ourselves to become fully satisfied? Think of the benefit to the world if we each fulfilled our potential for good! Finding your fulfillment takes action and action requires a good plan. But there are some things we can’t plan for and that’s when we want our sense of wellness to be even more robust. The we can adapt to change and overcome obstacles.
When we choose to become mindful of our whole selves we come closer to our holistic truth, the sense of Zen I often refer to. Recently I was forced to pause and take stock of my life and see how I can make my life more whole. I was reminded to be mindful of the impact my choices make and how even this blog can make big ripples in the world. Last weekend a hacker infiltrated my Webmaster’s server and almost caused me to lose this forum for sharing my best wellness advice. Luckily she’s a genius and was able to save my work and move it to a secure server. I felt grateful but at nearly the same time I lost a dear, old friend in an untimely fashion. He was only thirty-seven and died of complications due to a suicidal prescription drug overdose. It was a curve ball that challenged my own sense of awareness, responsibility and my concept of wellness.
I felt guilty that I couldn’t see the warning signs and mourned over a brilliant life tragically cut short. I know, however, that as adults we are each only responsible for our own actions and have to leave other adults to make their own choices and find their path. Sometimes that path leads us astray and the “learning curve” isn’t always fair. Over the past ten years I’ve seen several friends and my own sister pass away well before their time. In each case I believe they just needed a hand to hold, a compassionate guide, someone to lean on so they could find their way again. I have to wonder, why are people so ashamed to ask for help yet have so little shame when it comes to exposing intimate details on social media? It’s a mixed up world, but we’re all here to support each others growth and healing. My friend was a lot like me, passionate, caring and sensitive, but he couldn’t reach for the support or guidance he needed to come clean and ask for help when he needed it. It’s strange how death, tragedy and trauma are often the wake-up calls we need to see our lives more clearly. We realize then how precious life is and how we take each breath and each other for granted. For better or worse, in times of trouble we come to know that our choices define our happiness, health and overall sense of wellness.
So that we don’t have to hit rock bottom or witness others suffering to put our lives on track, I recommend a preventative shot in the arm. Start on your road to wellness now or take an even higher road than the one you’ve been on. Begin developing your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness today. Find the recovery, redemption or revolution you need to make your life work. Seek out success, make a strategy to realize your dreams and find suitable ways to fulfill your four pillars of wellness before discomfort, dysfunction or disease set in.
If its purely a matter of your physical health and body wellness, why not take up a Zumba or yoga class, get help from a nutritionist or weight loss counselor, consult a personal trainer or find other ways to beat stress, eat right and exercise? There is no shame in asking for help and its never too late unless you’re six feet under. There are also great motivational books, MP3’s and videos available, even on Youtube, which can help you with exercise and diet tips. Both Eastern and Western medicine can help you to feel your best. An MD or specialist can guide you to better health or an acupuncturist may have some helpful pointers for you. Or see a life/wellness coach, hypnotherapist, massage therapist or homeopathic practitioner to get help eating, sleeping and moving better. Find a support group to stop the smoking, drinking or drugging that’s shortchanging your optimal health. Research different supplements to your diet to give you the energy, focus or assistance you need to be well. Maybe you need a good detox or healthy fast to wipe away the effects of stress. Check out my “ACV Detox” post for helpful hints. Take care of your business and vocational needs, your financial well-being, too. That’s a part of caring for your health, the security and sanctity of your body has much to do with how you handle your affairs. Work hard, work smart and work out what you need to make your body healthy and well. Pamper yourself, buy some new beauty products, take up a new activity or just get out and walk around your neighborhood more often. Simply shaking up your routine can lead you down a rosier path. Learn how to breathe deeply and relax more. Unplug, let of distractions, turn off negative news and get the rest your body needs each day. It’s your choice how you let your body feel, what state you keep it in and what you put it through. Be mindful of its care and it will repay you with radiant health and wellness. After all, what do you really have if not your health?
Are your thoughts disordered or self-destructive? Maybe your mind needs a wellness overhaul. Your mental state, outlook and attitude are things you can control. Without a healthy state of mind everything else goes awry. I’m a big supporter of psychotherapy and counseling advice to set your mind at ease and work through mental issues, which often have an emotional component. The power of your mind is virtually limitless – you can always find a way to make your life more peaceful, productive or empowered. Being a practice of journaling, self-hypnosis or meditation to clear and reprogram your mind. Self-reflection is key to understanding and managing how you mind works and what motivates you. Take a wide-view of how your life has progressed to this point. Do you see any patterns? Are they productive or destructive? How can you change that pattern or make it work for you? “An unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. Dare to look inward and you’ll find solutions abound. Stimulate your intellect with brain games, puzzles and thought-provoking pursuits. Find out what makes you tick and get motivated. Sometimes it’s an underlying fear or subconscious self-defeating belief that keeps you down. Facing those fears and rooting out those negative thoughts will eventually allow you the peace of mind your looking for. Repeating a mantra or set of affirmations can change your focus when you feel uptight, too. Ultimately dealing with stress, anxiety or depression in a more positive way will reset your mind’s autopilot. I find regular exercise to be the best stress buster. Soothing music, a good book or a creative outlet can help, too. But you need to discover what helps you beat stress and acquire the tools to make your mind work its best. A clear and focused mind creates a clear and focused life.
An old French proverb states, “The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.” Indeed the emotions can be confusing and easily misunderstood. Feelings can be overwhelming when left unattended, but instead of allowing them to be your unchecked enemy, they can be made to work for you. Knowing your desires and understanding your emotional needs helps the heart to feel secure and open to love and trust. The heart can be scarred by abuse, neglect and mistreatment. Taking time to laugh and cry as needed washes away the guilt, shame, fear and pain that the heart can inadvertently hold onto over time. I find volunteering or helping others less fortunate is a great way to help quell negative emotions. The nose knows: don’t discount the positive emotional effects of aromatherapy or taking Bach flower essences to feel better.Your radiant heart has so much more to feel than angry, sad or lonely. But we can all get stuck in those low vibrating emotional states from time to time. If sour emotions become chronicI find a key to making your heart feel lighter is gratitude. Feeling grateful for your blessings makes the bad feelings go bye-bye. Socialize and seek out people you can relate to, with common interests and hobbies. Connecting with others helps your heart to grow. Remember that fear is the worst emotion to endure and is the root of all other destructive emotions. Conquering fear may mean facing what scares you, finding incentives or motivations past its barriers or developing better strategies to cope with it. A good therapist or coach can help you on your road to opening the heart, overcoming its challenges and finding the love and peace it deserves. Oh, and keep smiling! It’s the more sincere expression of the heart’s fulfillment.
Have you been neglecting to cherish your spiritual needs? Perhaps some spiritual guidance is in order when trying to make your life whole. Whether you have a religious belief that brings you solace or you lean toward a certain spirituality, investing in your connection to what lies beyond and beneath your regular senses can help you feel happy, whole and well. Maybe you’ve never been exposed to spiritual practice. Maybe its time to delve into what guides your soul. I think our “politically correct” culture has made us far too secular in our belief systems. I’m a huge supporter of scientific truths but having a faith in what is unseen can bring us comfort when we need it most. If your religion makes you feel more trapped than free, perhaps its time to consider renewing your faith elsewhere. Whether you worship a deity or not, you can still feel that special connection to a power that sustains life and reality as we know it. You don’t have to call it “God.” You can call it your “higher self” or the “power and presence” that guides and protects you. Some call their soul’s protector and provider simply “Creator” or “Divine Father” or “Mother Earth.” New Age thought often refers to the spirit that sustains us as the power of “I am.” For what you are is what exists in all things – a benevolent and pervasive truth intrinsic to all that is known. Travel, seek out your spiritual truth, broaden your horizons. Discover what your power is, what your spirit is guiding you to do. Help yourself to the riches within your soul’s purpose and help others find their good, too. Don’t minimize the power of this pillar; it can be the rock you cling to in times of need. It can serve you according to your own needs. I think faith should make you feel a deep sense of love and trust that all is right and all will be well. Coming to know the “God-self” in you will help you connect to your sense of worth, wonder and wellness in life.
We’ve reviewed the four pillars that can make your life whole again when properly integrated and balanced with your life goals. I hope this overview brings you a sense of enlightenment and encouragement to begin your journey of wellness, based on your individual needs and sense of choice. In the second half of this two-part post I’ll be introducing some concepts that relate to your subconscious self and developing the use of your “inner-child’s” wisdom to help you find your Zen – the wellness that comes from acknowledging and incorporating your deeper, more basic human needs and desires. Now I’d like to give you a few more ideas when it comes to defining and designing your road to wellness. It can seem a bit odd, but consider this: is it possible to be glad of all the misery and suffering you’ve endured in your life? Really, can you feel grateful for the pain and trials you’ve gone through? If so, I believe you’re on the right path! Often we have to see that what we’ve dealt with is ultimately what has made us stronger, smarter and better people.
Suffering of any kind builds character, even if it seemed unfair or unjust. It’s a bit of “tough love” but I think seeing your past as a series of lessons to ensure your growth, instead of punishments or misfortunes, makes you more grateful for what you have now and for whom you’ve become, despite it all. Again, counting your blessings can make you feel enriched. Also, please be gentle in the process of becoming fully whole and well. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s a process, not really a path to perfection. There is no such thing as perfect, so allow yourself to be imperfect as you learn and grow. Learning to feel good, be good, give what is good and accept good is the goal here, yes? All good things flow from a healthy state of mind and body, so work on those aspects first. Cherish yourself in this progression; love yourself and trust you’re on the right road. As long as you’re trying, you’re succeeding. Fulfill yourself with the light of truth that is your Zen. Then you may be the light in your own life and spread it and share it for the enlightenment of all.
Be well! ~Namaste.