These days it’s hard to find the time to look after our health the way we would like to, but what can you do about it? After all the rent/mortgage has to be paid, school fees have to be paid, there are a litany of household expenses and of course all the responsibilities which go along with modern life.
We remember all too clearly how fit and strong we were, those short few years ago, when we were in our teens or twenties and yet now we lack energy, we feel fatigued and mentally stressed out. Not only are we not firing on all cylinders, but sometimes we don’t feel like we have energy at all. Life has become so busy and with each day there are so many things to do. We feel, at times, as if we are on some kind of freaky fairground ride, but unlike a fairground ride it doesn’t last for five minutes, rather it lasts for decades!
So we ride the great ride, which we call life and we hope we don’t fall off in the process. It’s an awful full out race to destination nowhere and we can’t get there fast enough. Monday trots by, Wednesday whirls by and Sunday is all over and done with, before we can say happy weekend to ourselves!
And yet amongst all of this craziness, somewhere along the way we have to look after our health. I think if we are honest, most of us would report that we are healthy enough, that apart for some niggling aches and pains and minor health problems we are getting by, as if we were a small dingy with patched up holes in the bottom of the boat.
But we are not a dingy and getting by is simply not good enough.
After all it’s our health, which we have to think about. Yes you might be getting by now, but how will you be in another five or ten years, or fifteen years?
I remember my father’s health started to take a turn for the worst in his late fifties. First he developed diabetes, and then aged sixty two, he came in to wake me up one morning, and he let out a sudden shriek and the collapsed on my bed, I thought he had a heart attack! Well luckily enough he hadn’t had a heart attack but he did have a severe back condition, which would result in him taking early retirement, not long after. Subsequently over the next few years, he had a mild heart attack and then Parkinson’s started to catch up with him. His life became seriously challenged and would worsen every day, until he died aged seventy four.
What disturbs me, when I think about my father, isn’t that he died aged seventy four, but rather that his health was bad for the last sixteen years of his life, and in particular it was really bad for the last twelve years. He had to undergo a lot of suffering and along the way, a dream he had was never realised.
My father worked for forty seven years, in the one job and his aim was to retire and do some travelling and all the other nice things with my mother. He worked hard and has saved up a nice nest egg. However, it was not to be!
Ill-health would plague his retirement years and needless to say the stress of looking after him, took a tale on my mother’s health as well. One thing which I did take out of this was the realization that health is a gift from God and that nobody can take their health for granted!
I don’t know if my father could have avoided his ill-health, maybe, maybe not, I just don’t know. But one thing, which I have noticed over my years of treating patients, is that most people take their health for granted!
Now nobody can guarantee anything. The most hard drinking rebel rouser, who eats all of the wrong foods and who never exercises, a day in their life, ends up living to 100, whilst another person, a healthy living teetolater is dead at 32!
It’s not fair, I know it’s not fair but we have to do the best that we can, given the circumstances which we find ourselves living in!
However, we can at the very least help ourselves in the process.
Limited Resources – Finite Timescale
Back in the early 2000’s, when I was studying Chinese medicine, I learnt a lot of really cool concepts, which related back to Chinese medical philosophy (for more of an overview on Chinese medical Philosophy take a look here). Anyway, it was fascinating to me to learn this Asian paradigm, whereby medicine was approached as an organic expression of life force rather than as a bunch of biochemical readings.
Chinese medicine is closer to Star Wars than it is to Star Trek, if you think about it. Star Trek is always cutting edge technology, somehow technology will defeat disease. Whereas Chinese medicine is all about an unseen force, which will mysteriously intuitively fix everything!
Anyway, if you like science fiction, then you will probably like both Star Wars and Star Trek, and I feel the same way about allopathic medicine and Chinese medicine, in that they both have their uses. With medical science giving us the big picture and cool cutting edge technology and Chinese medicine giving us a subtle and organic approach to our health.
One of the central themes, of Chinese medicine, is limited resources and finite timescale, what this means is that we have only so much energy given to us at birth. There are various popular explanations of this, which include one theory which suggests a limited number of heart beats, in any one life time, and other theories which suggest a limited amount of energy.
There is a grain of truth in all of these theories, but essentially what matters is the notion that each human being has a certain amount of energy, given to them at birth, and that it is constantly reducing. We are capable of recharging our energy levels, on a daily basis, but meanwhile our overall charge is drooping little by little over time.
This daily rechargeable energy is called Qi energy, which can be compared with the Indian notion of pranic energy or life force energy. Qi or pranic energy can always be recharged or even increased, however, the other life living energy is called essence, and the amount of essence which we possess is very definitely limited and is nearly impossible to recharge.
Another metaphor for this might be that of rechargeable batteries. If you have ever purchased and used rechargeable batteries, then you will know that these batteries can be recharged every day. However, there is a basic charge which is reducing overtime and eventually the daily charge lasts a shorter send shorter time and we have to recharge more frequently, until one fine day comes when they stop working althogher. So this is just like us, our essence is slowly dropping down, even though we get little recharges every day!
Now obviously this limited energy leads into finite time frame. Like it or not we are only here for a very short period of time. Over the years I have met many people who want to live to be 100 or 120 or even 150 years of age. All of this is rather silly thinking. Think about it, people start dying rather quickly from 70 years onwards; there are a handful of people (in the entire world at any one time) who are still alive at 110 year plus, and as far as I am aware nobody has officially lived beyond 122 years (that person been Jeanne Calment, at the time of writing) . So living until 150 is a pipe dream, at least for now. With progress taking place in genetics, this yard post of 70-85 as an average lifespan and a lucky few getting past 100 years, might shift forward, but not until some amazing genetic break through takes place. In the meantime we have to accept finite lifespans.
Even more than that we have to live a finite lifespan with limited resources!
So what does this mean?
Well it means that you are not going to live forever. It also means that your lifespan is largely controlled by your genetics and your lifestyle. Put it this way, it is not possible to live beyond your genetic benchmark, whether that be 20 years, 50 years, 70 years or say 100 years. But one thing is for sure if you live the wrong way, you will probably live a shorter time than this.
I know you’re probably thinking of the popular saying “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse!”, but let’s get serious here, nobody wants to die young!
I remember hearing the story before where someone asked the rhetorical question, ‘who wants to live to be 80 years of age”, to which an audience member retorts “all the 79 year olds!” So we can take it for granted that if our life if going reasonably well, we want to live a long and healthy life!
While life seems infinitely long, when we are kids, soon enough once we get a few years under our belt we notice how quickly time passes, and how it doesn’t matter whether we are 27, 47 or 67 years of age, our childhood and teenage life always feel as if they were just a few years ago. So we don’t age on the Inside, but we do age on the outside.
So living our full allotment of life is ideal or at least ideal for most of us.
Secondly, even if say we live to be 100, what use is it if we spend the last 40 years of this life in ill-health?
We all presume relatively good health, but can this be taken for granted?
Well I don’t think so, but we can do a few sensible things to put the indicators for health, in our favour.
Strategy for a Long and Healthy Life
Some of this is pretty obvious. First of all eating healthy, exercising daily, making sure that you are not obese, getting regular health check-ups and having a positive mental mind-set, are all parts of the strategy for a healthy life.
Either you have been doing all of these things already or if you haven’t then start doing them now. There’s not much which we can do about all the wrong eating, lack of exercise and life stress, which we have had up until now, but we can do something creative from now on moving forward, with our life!
But here’s what you probably do not know:
You and I and everyone on the planet have only a limited supply of essence energy. We can recharge our energy everyday of our life’s, but if we draw too heavily, on our essence energy, then there won’t be any left to go around when we are older. Lacking essence energy, might make us die prematurely in some cases, but more often than not it will simply lead to ill health.
I am sure we have all seen pictures and video footage of 70 year old hatha yogis’ and 80 year old kung Fu masters, performing remarkably physical feats, while we struggle to get out of our coach, so as to make ourselves a cup of coffee. Well this is what I am taking about here. These old yogi’s and kung Fu masters still possess some essence energy!
They achieve this by doing the following:
A). Not spending all of their essence energy at an early age
B). Pacing themselves
Not spending their energy can be summarised as good living and making a point of letting go of stress and fear. We all know certain individuals, who were handsome in their youth but who were also hard drinking, hard living types. More often than not these, once beautiful specimens, look all washed out by the time they are 50 years of age. Well this is a good example of bad living. So if you want to maintain your vitality, make a point of good living, as in not eating to excess, not drinking to excess, not indulging in sexual activity to excess, getting to bed early and basically doing all of the right things.
If you have not be doing this then don’t worry about it, better late than never, you will enhance your lifestyle if you start living a good life today!
Secondly, is pacing and this is where most of us are falling down, and I include myself in this one. Apart from overeating I tend to be fairly healthy, in that I exercise, and go to bed early and don’t take excessive alcohol and drugs and so on, but I do rush around too much and I let myself get stressed.
This is a killer, because it’s not just healthy living that matters. When we think about Chinese medical philosophy, they equate all energy with vitality. So even if you are healthy living, but you are stressed, you are still burning off some vitality, in the same way that they burn of a gas flame in the oil fields. Only in the case of oil fields this is essential but in our case we are burning off our physical pension as it where!
And this is my big rest concern. Chances are that if you have made it this far, then either you are a healthy living person or at least you are trying to be healthy living. However, we all tend to succumb to the stress, pressure, fear and fatigue of our super-fast modern lifestyle. We tend to get too little sleep and we tend towards adrenaline fatigue. This modern lifestyle isn’t simply stressing us rather its literately making us age faster; it’s undermining our health and may even result in premature death, in some cases.
Look after Your health and it will look After You!
I know you are probably thinking, “big deal, I know all that already!”
But do you know this already; do I know all of this already?
I don’t think so!
I know we all have a good idea about what to do about looking after our health, but our tendency is towards external activity, such as improving our diet, going to the gym, the swimming pool, the tennis court or just going for a walk.
We make the right gestures, but we miss the subtle picture!
And the subtle picture is that all of us, or at least most of us, are sacrificing some quantum of our health, in order to fulfil the endless, never ending list of things which we feel that we have to do, for one reason or another.
While I know it’s difficult to change, and I’m in the same boat as you on this one, we have to have a go at saving our vital energy, in the first place, and pacing ourselves.
I remember hearing before about the famous actor Larry Hagman, of Dallas fame, who used to have a non-speaking day once a week. While it didn’t prevent his death, I’m sure that it did a lot to enhance his overall vitality, in his later years. It’s this sort of nurturing activity which we have to get into the swing of, if we want to be vital well into our 80’s and 90’s.People who are very active in their old age, either where born with an excessive amount of subtle essence energy, or they have managed to pace themselves, in order to maintain their vitality.
Furthermore, vitality starts today, it’s not just about been vital when we are old, rather it’s about been vital even today, when we are still young or relatively young.
If you are feeling washed up and burnt out, it is possible to become revitalised if you make a concerted effort at living a more balanced lifestyle, over a period of a few months!
Finally, this article is entitled Look after Your Health and It Will Look after You! Now I didn’t entitle this article like this, simply because it sounds kind of cool, (well actually I did, so let’s not take about that right now), but I wanted to get a point across. On a daily basis I am taking with people who are scarifying their health today, in order to make time for some future goal which sounds cool, but which they probably won’t have the health to enjoy whenever they get around to it!
I’ve heard them all:
“I’ll go to the gym once the kids are a little bit older”
“I’ll go on a diet next month, year etc.”
“I’ll do those yoga exercises, when I get a chance!”
And so on and so on. Tomorrow never comes, it’s just all a blur as we blast through our little life’s with the same terminal velocity as a Saturn V rocket, only we aren’t going anywhere!
Our life is one big merry go round, which never arrives at an end destination, and if we are not careful we will run out of energy, well before we get to our flies terminal destination, which is death!
So do yourself a favour and Look after Your Health and It Will Look after You! Because when we have health we can enjoy our lives, we can achieve things and get on with things. Health is a lot like a bank balance. You don’t notice it when it’s there, but you sure as hell miss it when it’s gone!
So try doing your best, I know it’s hard, I find it hard to but we have to try to reduce energy wastage and pace ourselves, so that way we are looking after our health and in return we will have the health required to do the things which we want and love to do!