Taking care of our inner health
by Bart Walton, M.Ac., L.Ac.
This article was originally published in November 2003
(November 2003) — When we have physical problems, we naturally look for something that will help us to feel better again. But in the confusing maze of therapies, herbs and supplements, all of which emphasize our physical needs, we often forget to look inside to our emotional and spiritual needs.
In so many cases, our physical pain is a reflection of deeper conflicts that want to be resolved. I know this has been true in my own life and I have seen it with many of my patients. In the west in particular, the very nature of modern life makes inner conflict almost unavoidable.
Inner conflict or spiritual disharmony … what does this mean? It simply means that we are not in harmony with ourselves. Our bodies and minds are going in one direction, but on a deeper level, we really want to go a different way. As a result, our Life energy is flowing against itself and in the process, we are burning up precious energy that could be used to heal our bodies and to move our lives forward in a positive direction.
There are many types of inner or spiritual conflicts — certainly more than can be covered in this article. But if this notion rings a bell, here are some basic questions that are always worth asking:
- Are my relationships healthy? Do the people I spend time with bring out the best in me? Do I like who I am when I’m with them?
- Are my emotions healthy? Anger, resentment, envy, guilt and fear can poison us more deeply and more profoundly that toxic food or drink.
- Is my behavior healthy? Our speech and actions have an even more profound effect on us than our emotions. If we speak or act out of impulse or negative emotions, we not only suffer with regret, but also later, we suffer when the result of that negative behavior comes back to us.
Inner conflicts like these profoundly affect our physiology. First, they drain our vital energy. It takes energy to go against ourselves. Second, negative emotions create a lot of tension in the body, which blocks the natural flow of Life energy. When our energy is blocked, we feel discomfort or pain, and over time, this blockage will actually damage our organs. Third, negative emotions change the chemistry in our bodies, create toxins and actually accelerate the aging process.
The damaging effects of psychological stress on the physiology has been observed and recorded in numerous scientific studies over the last 40 years. It is an established fact that reducing stress and negative emotions will produce very tangible health benefits over the long term.
Often, just seeing that we are harming ourselves is enough to let go of the conflict and stop the cycle. It can be that simple and that quick. But if we find that we are unable to resolve the conflict or stop the damaging behavior, then we need to seek help from family, friends, a therapist or from the divine — through worship or spiritual practice. Also, bodywork like acupuncture or shiatsu can be very supportive in helping to clear negative emotions and break destructive behavior patterns.
Another very powerful way to address our inner health is through the breath. The ancient yogis of India developed breathing techniques for this purpose more than 3,000 years ago. Nothing is more effective than deep breathing in order to increase the body’s energy and release blocked emotions. It’s something everyone can do, anywhere, anytime and it’s free!
Try to be more aware of your breathing all during the day and take extra deep breaths as often as possible. There are specific deep breathing exercises or practices taught in yoga or Qi Gong. These are highly recommended in order to restore a balanced flow of energy in the body. If you want to learn more about the benefits of deep breathing, contact your local meditation or Qi Gong center to get information on available classes.
In every moment, our behavior, our speech and our emotions offer an opportunity to nourish us or to generate toxins within us. Whenever we have a physical problem and the cause is not something obvious, we all need to survey our inner landscape and make whatever changes are needed to bring us back into harmony with our selves and our destiny.
Bart Walton, M.Ac., has a master of acupuncture degree from Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and has traveled extensively in Asia, studying the use of herbs, diet and lifestyle in traditional medicine. Bart may be contacted at 206-527-9672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.