Handwritten notes taken during Swami Medhasananda's | Manila

Discourse on Total Health | Posted : May 8, 2005

Nowadays people are more and more conscious of health, on account of media and other aspects of modern civilization. The health concept commonly referred to is focused on the physical body. According to the Oxford Dictionary, health can be defined as a state of being well, free from illness. However, we notice that we can be physically well but mentally we feel depressed. So the "state of being well" depends on all aspects of health, the physical and the mental. Even though we tend to give more importance to the physical aspect than to the mental, both are related. If the mind is sick, the body tends to be sick too. We must take care of both, in fact, the mind plays a very important role in our suffering of a particular disease. Normally it is said that sickness belongs to the body, but more and more the psychosomatic aspects of a disease are being evaluated and we realize how close is the relation between body and mind.

Modern western medicine is defined as "allopathic" as it tries to treat the disease. The "homeopathic" method tries to heal both the disease and the patient, which is more scientific. According to the "Ayurvedic" method followed in India since several thousands of years a lack or an imbalance in vital energy (prana) causes sicknesses. Ayurveda is more complete as it identifies the root of our existence in our soul, then there are the mental and physical aspects. Ayurveda takes into consideration all these three aspects. It is a remarkable fact that among gravely ill patients those who believe and pray to God have better chances of recovery. The same thing applies to those doctors who believe in themselves and in God.

The mind is stronger than the body. When one possesses strength of mind, it is the mind that dictates to the body what to do and not the other way around. Even if the body is weak, the mind will exert force upon it. But if the mind is weak, even if the body is strong, not much can be achieved. We must take care of both; we need a sound body but at the same time also a healthy mind. If the mind is sick, strained or upset we cannot experience joy.

Modern civilization privileges body over mind. However, people may have to visit the psychiatrist in spite of their material welfare. Even if we take good care of the body, feeding it well, following diets, practicing yoga, doing exercises, etc., we cannot resist old age, we cannot avoid diseases and ultimately death. We must know and understand the limitations of the body and learn how to face the challenges related to it. We can do this by strengthening our mind. We can maintain peace and equilibrium in spite of all physical challenges by taking care of both body and mind.

How to take care of the body:

• We should consume good food and apply our own judgment in choosing it without following blindly the advice of some trendy health magazine. We should choose food according to our own system, the time and the circumstances. A child needs milk, but once adult, he may develop intolerance for it.

• We should exercise regularly so as to properly "lubricate the machinery".

• We should work with a free mind, without excessive stress and preoccupations.

• We should avoid lifestyles that are not wholesome and live a controlled and balance life as much as possible. Enjoyments should also be balanced in the light of discrimination, staying away from those enjoyments that cause sadness and/or remorse while we have them or after. Enjoyments that trouble our conscience should be avoided. In other words we should be a guide to ourselves and become our own best friends

• Have good and regular physical rest.

By practicing all the above one can enjoy good physical health. How to attain a strong and healthy mind (symptoms and qualities of a healthy mind):

• We should be morally strong and stay away from the six weaknesses of the mind, such as
 Lust (attraction for physical enjoyment);
 Anger (the feeling derived from the frustration of our wishes and desires). This can cause high blood pressure, upset stomach with consequent poisoning of our entire body;
 Greed;
 Delusion (a state of confusion or ignorance where we take one thing for another, where we take the unreal, or impermanent, as the real, or permanent);  Jealousy;

• We should use discrimination and analyze all the harm that the above weaknesses can cause on the mind;

• We should love others as the more we do so the less anger and jealousy we will have. We will see the same God in our neighbor. We should practice the preaching of Jesus ("Love thy neighbor…") and see God in other people.

• We should strive to be emotionally balanced by:

 Developing the power of reason;
 Controlling the emotions through logic;
 Equally developing our rational and our emotional aspects;
 Not being upset by other people criticism (which, if correct, should push us to improve ourselves, and, if not correct, should be set aside and ignored);
 Trying to be like steel, strong but flexible and not like iron, strong but inflexible and rigid. In matters of principle we should be inflexible and maintain our position, while at the same time trying to adjust ourselves to the situation, the time and the people we are in touch with.

• We should free ourselves from stress and strain, by:

 Deeply thinking about the problems tha
t make us stressed, about how to solve them, thus finding the pertinent solutions;
 Trying to find alternative options;
 Praying to God and being satisfied with whatever God dictates and provides for us. Our prayers should not be orders to God, instead we should learn how to pray, as God knows what we need, such as "God, if you think that my prayer is good for me, please fulfil it, if not, please do not fulfil it".

• We should free ourselves from fear;

• We should know how to face the challenge of death by having deep faith in God. He is our eternal companion. Our relationship with Him is real and eternal. Keeping this in mind, our faith becomes strong.

• We should be free from brooding and planning, which are conditions our mind normally dwells into. Negative and meaningless thoughts as well as unnecessary planning should be avoided, as they are the causes of the weakening of our minds, not the performance of work per se. This should be done by practicing how to live in the "now". We should focus on what we are doing at the moment and concentrate 100% on now, not on what is coming, nor on what we did before. The more we practice this, the more our mind will be strong and able to concentrate. We should focus only on the present not on the past, nor on the future, as, if we take care of "now" the future will take care of itself.

• If we believe in God, the repetition of the name of God is very helpful, such as, in the case of the Catholic religion, "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,…", "Jesus have mercy on me, Jesus have mercy on me,…". Believers of other religion may repeat the name of their chosen Divinity. The repetition of the name of God will generate positive thoughts and keep the bad ones in check. The chanting of God's name will also purify the mind, as God is purity. Besides, love for God will increase our devotion and ultimately strengthen our mind.

• We should mentally offer all our foods and drinks to God, before we take them, as in doing so, they will be purified.

• In addition to prayer we also need contemplation (meditation) regularly at least once a day. Meditation is spiritual food. This should be practiced actively, as it is not enough to talk about it, read about it or hear about it. If we want milk, it is not enough to say, "milk, milk", we will have to buy it and drink it.

Without spiritual basis and a spiritual life, it is very difficult to lead a wholesome and healthy life. Without spiritual foundation, the basis of our health may be very shaky. Total health is achieved when we take care and harmonize our physical, mental and spiritual lives.

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