Some Things I've Learned About Health

 Even before Sybil was diagnosed with cancer, I had more than a passing interest in health. As a child I read Prevention magazine instead of comic books. I used to run a fair bit and tried to maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle.

However, like most people, I would often go for long stretches without taking proper concern about my health. I'm learning though. I'll relay a few things I've picked up. This is definitely a work in progress and I seem to learn something new every day.

After pondering the matter, I'm convinced that a proper attitude (mental serenity) is the most important controllable (non-genetic) aspect of health. I believe that mental turmoil, despair and negativity are the most formidable obstacles to well being. Letting your mind reach a state where it can concentrate on healing is by far your best defense against illness.

I've experimented with meditation, qi gong, and other breathing and mental visualization techniques. Sybil and I have both found these to be useful tools. We need to use them more often. More important, I believe, is your general attitude towards life. A strong desire to live, and feeling a positive, loving connection to other living things seems to result in the most powerful healing.

Another major mental aspect is simply paying attention to your body. I used to pretty much ignore the signals my body was sending to my brain. Now, I take better note. Am I stressed and need to use some relaxation techniques? Am I hungry or thirsty? Do I need to take a break from staring at computer screens and stretch a bit? When I notice something that doesn't feel quite right, I concentrate on improving that condition.

After that, I think that diet, exercise, and the avoidance of toxic substances are equally the next most important health factors. As to diet, Sybil and I are both primarily vegetarians. We do eat some fish and eggs. We're trying to drastically curtail sugar and fat intake. The challenging process of using healthier ingredients has made us both better cooks.

I'm cursed with a sedentary job. Worse, I have a sometimes stressful computer job that mangles my hands, wrist and back with unnatural, repetitive motions. Between work, taking care of Sybil, and spending time with her, I have precious few minutes left for exercise. I do some yoga and sometimes bounce on a small trampoline Sybil picked up at a garage sale. I find this to be easier on my back and legs than running. Even more helpful has been my daily practice of a modified version of the "rites" described in the Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth by Peter Keldar. I add four extra exercises to the ones described in this book: three abdominal exercises from a Scandinavian back study and a headstand. Between that and walking as much as possible, I can usually avoid feeling like a slug. From my qi gong studies I've learned to take note of and to improve my posture and my breathing.

Avoiding toxic substances is also difficult because I live in a big city. To combat this environmental hazard, I drink a lot of non-chlorinated water and fresh juices, eat organic produce, and keep many plants in our home. I also use some herbal tonics, the most notable being milk thistle, kambucha tea (which I make at home), and the Indian herb aswagandha. I also eat a lot of garlic and often drink ginger tea. I regularly ingest ground flaxseeds. Sometimes I take some vitamins, usually C or E. Anything I take -- kambucha, vitamins, herbs, etc -- I take as a tonic, meaning I take them for awhile and then don't take them for awhile.

Finally, I make an effort to keep clean. I seem to feel better after a thorough body scrub and careful brushing/flossing of my teeth. I also scrape my tongue at least weekly and periodically undertake short fasts to clean my system out a bit.

That's about it. If I learn about anything else I'll try to update this. However, as I said, I think that the mental aspects are far and away the most important.

April 17, 2000 update. Since Sybil's cancer has spread to her spine, I've reexamined the health thing a bit. Seeing her conventional treatment options has reduced what little faith I had in the healing practices of American hospitals. I've become very interested in Ayurvedic medicine. I also have an even stronger belief that the connection between mind and body is the cornerstone to healing.