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Waking up to Choice
Michael D. Thomas, D.C.

‘Well! What are you?’ said the Pigeon. ‘I can see you’re trying to
invent something!’
‘I-I’m a little girl,’ said Alice, rather doubtfully, as she
remembered the number of changes she had gone through, that day.
‘A likely story indeed!’ said the Pigeon in a tone of deepest
contempt.
from Alice in Wonderland by Louis Carroll

There is an old Chinese curse (some say blessing!) , ‘May you live in
interesting times.’

We live in the most interesting times in history. And it is a curse or a
blessing, depending on one’s point of view. What makes things so
interesting is that we live at a bifurcation point (crossroads) of
tremendous consequences. We have slain so many of the dragons which
historically reduced our impact on our world in times past. We can now
understand and act at levels of magnitude ranging from the subatomic
substrate to alteration of the atmosphere and the electromagnetic field
of our planet. We are currently changing the temperature and composition
of our oceans. Great power must be tempered by equal awareness of the
real, long-term consequences of acting powerfully. It is this awareness
that we seem to lack. Loss of balance, or disequilibrium, is dis-ease.
The sickness so evident in our world is the same sickness inside each one
of us.
This is no idle metaphor, it is the literal truth. Health comes from the
same roots as wholeness. Definitions of health that ignore the air we
breathe, the food we eat, the electromagnetic fields we are enwrapped in,
and the sickness of our dis-connected society, are bound to be woefully
incomplete.

There is a heaviness in these words that often translates into
hopelessness and apathy. After all, what can one person do against this
juggernaut of immense forces? Many of us feel like we have lost hold of
the rudder of our own lives, let alone being able to make a meaningful
impact on the world at large. Indeed, what can we do?

This is the crux of the crisis. We have confused the urgency of doing
for the urgency of awareness, of being. To be self aware is to be aware
of the impact of the actions that result from who we think we are. Our
society tells us that what is of value can be measured. The more stuff
we can identify as ours, the more valuable we are. Dollars have become
the bottom line as they form the measuring stick by which we judge our
worth. Soulfulness, intuition, and love are considered quaint and
naive ‘concepts’ from a prior, more primitive time.

Health-care, which is actually double-speak for disease-care, is now seen
as something that you buy, mediated by financial, industrial, and
administrative institutions which stand in front of, with and behind the
medical doctor who is the direct source of the “health-care” which you
pay for. The care itself is viewed as much too complex for even the
physician to fully understand, so our bodies have been separated into
areas of specialty. Each physician works only within his or her own area.
The ‘consumer’ cannot possibly comprehend the immense complexity of this
system and is therefore (ideally) the passive recipient of this care.
Symptoms (internal feelings and sensations) are important only if the
Doctor says so. Unimportant symptoms may fall into many categories:
‘minor side effects’, ‘the price you pay’, irrelevant sensations,
‘effects of aging’, ‘something you’ll just have to live with, or the
ultimate dismissal, ‘it’s all in your head’.

It’s been reported that by the time a child reaches the first grade that
he or she has watched 30,000 commercials on television. Adults have
hundreds of thousands of these high impact auditory and visual stimuli
commercials swimming throughout their consciousness. We are taught that
our worth comes from our ability to consume. We are encouraged to buy
more and bigger and fancier things in a never ending spiral of chasing
our elusive self worth. If our bodies interrupt this pursuit of
accumulation we are carefully and comprehensively taught to stifle
noxious symptoms with culturally acceptable drugs (those produced by the
international pharmaceutical industry) so we can continue to work at our
jobs and buy “goods” to consume.

People who do not follow this ‘acceptable’ lifestyle may be considered
marginal, suspect, radical and often ‘mentally unbalanced’. It is also
certain that they are disempowered and isolated. Few of us wish to lose
whatever ability we have been able to establish in society to unfold our
lives as we wish. Studies have shown that our health and our wealth are
related. Wealthy people are statistically healthier than poor people.
Those who cannot pay for their health, pay with their lives.

Abdication of individual responsibility occurs when the perception of
powerlessness becomes primary in a person’s life. Apathy is the result
of repeated inability to make a difference. People rarely take control
of their own health, perhaps because they don’t realize the real control
is internal. It isn’t something you buy, its something you are. The
truth is that the most powerful indicators of long term health is not
access to drugs and surgery or even diet or exercise. Studies have
clearly shown that the most powerful indicator for long term health is,
by far, each person’s own sense of their own health.

We build our health moment by moment. Day by day, year by year, our
thoughts and feelings create messenger molecules that communicate with
virtually every cell in our bodies and subtly, surely, and inexorably,
shift our metabolism and our health. Carolyn Myss has said that our
biography creates our biology. Candace Pert has meticulously begun to
specifically clarify these connections in the language of receptor-site
chemistry. Becoming conscious of the ongoing messages from our bodies is
the most direct route to really caring for our health, our wholeness.
There is nothing to buy. Books and articles can help us to become aware,
but nothing is a substitute for present time awareness of self.

Our nervous systems can be divided into two parts, the sympathetic and
the parasympathetic. The sympathetic part activates us for emergencies.
It increases our strength and quickens our reflexes. It slows digestion,
and rebuilding and repair of cells and tissues. It’s survival mode. The
parasympathetic part is the recovery side. It stimulates digestion of
food, tissue repair and sleep. It is important to maintain a balance
between these two parts but in today’s world many of us stay to the
sympathetic side. This increases adrenalin and cortisol (stress
hormones) in our systems. It interferes with digestion and maintenance
of the tissues that make up our body. It ages us more quickly and
predisposes us to illness.

The simple act of stopping for a moment or two and checking in on our
feelings and the sensations in our bodies can give us information vital
to maintaining balance. What do I mean? Well, stop now and assess your
general sense of self. Are you feeling calm and happy? Joyful and
euphoric? Stressed and worried? Sick and tired? By checking in
periodically during the day, even in a general way, you can begin to
develop a map of your well being. Are your muscles relaxed or spasmed
and jumpy? Are your shoulders up around your ears? Do you find yourself
holding your breath a lot? Over time you will find the general trends you
have developed in your life.

Negative feelings, fatigue and pain don’t mean everything is wrong. It
may mean its time to take a couple of minutes for yourself. It may mean
taking a long weekend to decompress. It may mean finding time each day
for yourself, even if its just a few minutes here and there. The
strategies that got us to this point in life have been pretty successful
or we wouldn’t be here. It may just be time for a course correction.
Put your hand on the rudder of your own life and make a one or two
degrees course correction. Getting healthy doesn’t necessarily mean
changing your whole life. People who have lived for several decades
obviously have a fairly successful strategy or they wouldn’t still be
alive. It may be as simple as realizing you can soften the muscles of
your neck and shoulders and chest and breathe with your belly the way a
baby does. Breath is primary to life and is possibly the most
powerful method of insight and health there is. Diaphragmatic breathing
is familiar to people who sing. If you don’t know how, ask a choir
director, singing coach or just watch a little baby. It is our natural
respiratory pattern. Meditation on the breath is a powerful way to stay
in the present moment and let the worry and anxiety (and dis-ease) of the
past and future dissipate into simple awareness of the only reality that
really exists-the present moment. This awareness is made of constantly
letting go of the past and not attempting to grasp onto the future-the
eternal now.

Real health isn’t expensive or difficult. It is our birthright. Long
before serious illness raises it’s head, messages are being given,
sometimes quiet whispers sometimes loud shouts. If you pay attention to
yourself and don’t spend the day, every day, covering up your feelings
with thoughts of self denial, you will find that you will eat when you
are hungry. You will get the sleep you need because you are aware of how
you feel when you don’t. Get outside everyday and notice the sky and the
plants. Put your feet on the earth everyday. We are connected to our
world and the disconnectedness people feel is part of the sickness of our
times.

We must re-educate ourselves, our children, our parents, our friends to
pay attention to these messages of our lives. Becoming disassociated
from our bodies and our feelings makes separation from our world and our
brothers and sisters who live here with us so much easier. People who
have different colored skin, or are old, or young, or are far away and
speak different languages can somehow be ignored. The rivers and air and
earth can be diminished in importance and dismissed. When we don’t
respect ourselves, we can’t respect anything else.

Life is, at it’s core, a mystery. A life of self awareness does not
guarantee healthy physical function. Great saints have suffered terrible
physical infirmity. Self reflection does insure that the life given us
is truly lived. So many seem to find they missed their life while in
pursuit of endless goals or in chronic reaction to the past. Self
awareness can create the one or two degree course correction that is
necessary to restore health.

We can only make the choices we are aware of. We must rediscover the
innate intelligence inside each one of us. It is time to remember that
the real healer is within. It is only by being present in our own lives,
moment by moment that we can make the choices and do the actions that can
save our collective life on the earth. Real change is individual.