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The Holistic Approach to Personal Wellbeing

Holistic

By Peter Shepherd

Mind, Body & Spirit

The mind, body and spirit interact and I think it's important to understand how this works, in order to adopt a comprehensive and effective means of personal development.

There is a fundamental connection between the mind and the body's health, which is the stress connection. There is emotional stress when circumstances are considered to be threatening. A person may make an interpretation of circumstances as threatening - based on their conditioning and past experiences - even though another person might not find them threatening, indeed they may find the same circumstances interesting or exciting.

Emotional stress has a hormonal effects, such as increasing cortisol emissions, damaging health of the body, especially through deterioration of the immune system. Someone who is highly stressed is more likely to catch a cold, or worse. There may be stresses buried much more deeply in a person, that are repressed and outside consciousness, such as those due to childhood trauma, even past-life trauma that has been brought into this life. Plus we're connected to the past through our genes, genealogical characteristics passed down the family.

Even as a male or female we have predispositions, strengths and weaknesses, what we are vulnerable to - height, weight and lifestyle effecting life expectancy - and so on. It's in the genes; men and women's bodies are different, it goes without saying. It's also in lifestyle, because what men do and women do is different, although less so these days.

Then there is the cultural conditioning of society which teaches a person things that may or may not be true... when you are taught things that are not true that causes conflict with reality and as a result, more stress.

Also there is the effect of other people's expectations on an individual - if you feel that's important, that you're not fulfilling expectations upon you, that's stress. And your own expectations of yourself.

Of course there are the inevitable stresses caused by realistic challenges and threats, caused by competition, opponents and enemies - or the bad behavior of others, short tempers, disagreements and conflicts. Plus the everyday matters of maintaining standards and finishing work on time. And there are physical stresses caused by pollutants in the atmosphere and in food, existing health conditions, inherited weaknesses.

So there's many and various ways that you can be stressed. When you try to break out of safe boundaries and do something different, maybe something creative or unconventional, that may provoke challenges in many ways, due to social and life skills that may be insufficiently developed. Things can go wrong, you can have bad luck, and you may have insufficient self-esteem and confidence to meet these needs and challenges.

Fight or Flight?

Fight Flight Freeze

Mental stress is caused by your thoughts, and that transfers into a "fight - flight - or freeze" emotional response to any given stimulus, if it's considered to be threatening. You'll either be aggressive and fight, or you run away, or you're paralyzed. Or you think, "This is OK, I can deal with this, it's not that stressful. This person screaming at me - I can handle that, he's an idiot or at least, misguided. Alright, no emotional stress on me whatsoever." That will annoy the person who's angry but that doesn't matter either!

Or you run away, you think, "God, I can't work in this place a moment longer - awful bosses that pick on me. I'm leaving!" So you leave but it also leaves you with a history of fears of certain things. Your memory causes stresses upon you... things you regret doing, things others did that you resent, things you can't forgive, things you're still angry about, things you feel guilty about. It's all stresses. Often these become forgotten in the conscious mind but remain in place below the surface, raising your inbuilt overall stress level.

And then the future prospects may be stressful, with things that you don't want to have happen again. What might go wrong. Likewise the present can be a stress because of dangerous circumstances - things are happening now that could have bad results for me. So it's past, present and future... but they all affect you mentally and emotionally through the stress response, which then affects the way the body works.

Stress affects your posture, and that may result in a problem with your back or your knees. Stress may be caused by what you eat, because it is unbalanced, or has pollutants, insufficient nutrition or nutrients you can't digest properly. The body needs quality nutrition to be healthy. Physical stress adds to the residual stress level and therefore to the overall body-mind health. And health problems in themselves cause anxiety.

If you are weaker because of physical causes, like you injured your elbow, or you're overweight and it's causing stress on the joints and high blood pressure, or because you've been running every day for many years that made you fit but caused stress on your joints. The physical stresses add to the conglomeration of emotional stresses caused by past/present/future threats, and this reservoir of stress can - just with one small addition - overflow, moving by the path of least resistance to affect the weakest vulnerability in the body's system. So stress for one person will affect, say, their liver, for another person their skin, for another an aspect of their body-mind such as anxiety, and so on - because that's their weakest point.

Most people don't know what their weakest point is, so when they have an illness or pain it may be caused by this emotional, stress-based factor that has no apparent connection with the physiological weakness. Medication therefore doesn't deal with the actual cause.

Most people have a flowing river of stress, which can overflow it's banks at any time. It's the reason why meditation, mindfulness training and relaxation methods can be so beneficial - by taming that river into a stream that is easily contained.

Past, Present & Future

If you have physical symptoms of a stress response, they can be affected by circumstances happening right now, or circumstances that have affected you in the past. These past circumstances, the feelings you had and the decisions you made as a result, may be outside your consciousness, repressed because they are painful or you've simply become habituated to them. You don't know about them any more but actually they're still there, affecting you - both the feelings and the thoughts that went with them. Since when you have a traumatic experience, besides the memory of that threat coloring your view from then on, what really causes the harm from that experience is decisions that you made as a result of that experience, that stay with you and become part of your mental being. "I never want to go back there, I never want to do that again, men are dangerous," and so on; or milder things like, "Towns are too busy, countryside is boring," or whatever. They may be consciously in your mind, in those circumstances, or below the surface, but still having effect. Not necessarily at all relevant any more, but still causing stress and prejudice. Funny considerations that you have that make up who are are, really, at least at this body-mind level.

Methods like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Releasing can bring this stuff to the surface, so you can look at it in the present and decide whether that is a valuable and a valid consideration - or whether you'd do better to just let that go, which normally you can do. And let the feelings that accompany those thoughts go as well, because they're not appropriate, you don't need to hang on to them. And that can have a really significant effect on physical health, since the overall stress held in the body is reduced with corresponding benefits to the nervous and immune systems.

“We need our past experience for the learning it offers; we don’t need it to cling on to regrets or blame - that changes nothing.
“We need our future to make plans; we don’t need it to worry about what might happen - that changes nothing.
“Like an artist creating a painting, we put our life together in the present moment.” ~ Peter Shepherd

In quite the other direction, emotions of wellbeing, based on positive thoughts and interpretations - things like love and gratitude - have a positive effect on the body's overall stress level and therefore healthy functioning. If we focus on the present, mindful of our thoughts and feelings as they pass through, so we can respond consciously rather than react, then we can put our life together like an artist creating a painting, benefitting from our past experience and future plans as a context for our actions in the present moment.

shadow light

Shadow & Light

Emotional stress affects your physical health through the mind-body connection, in particular through the immune system and hormones. And as well as stress based on fear there is the effect of positive emotions based on love, which have a positive effect on health. This is a fundamental dichotomy in our life experience - fear and love, shadow and light, the human animal and the human being. It's within each of us: both the physical body and its nervous system, plus the etheric body including its chakras, the openings by which life energy flows into and out of the aura.

The whole world of subtle energies is strange to Western culture, but in Eastern medicine it is understood well and manipulated routinely through acupuncture, shiatsu, yoga, acupressure and so on. And it is equally involved in the mind-body stress response, a stress effect through the mind-body-spirit interface, in ways that Western medicine doesn't understand.

The energetic flows in your body, instead of being an acidic kind of stress that can overflow at times of stress and cause damage, may instead be of positive energy that is beneficial. An uplifting liquid that brings healing and pleasure to the body-mind. The person can lift themselves up from the level of the human animal to the level of the human being - the crucial addition being the awakened spirit.

Turning Things Around

So we can turn these things around. If you have actually done harm to your body's physique, like your leg is broken, no amount of emotional releasing or such like is going to repair that break. It needs an operation, or at least, strapping up and resting. Or some kind of supplement that helps the cartilage grow again. Or of you have a nutritional deficiency no amount of mental or emotional work will repair that deficiency. However, it will likely make you better able to cope with the injury, have a stronger immune response, and be less vulnerable to the deficiency. Since your stress level goes down you have more resources available. Healing is certainly enhanced by emotional clearing, but really you need an holistic approach that helps at physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels - in order of urgency, the most directly relevant coming first.

There's a lot that's valid in terms of spiritual work, mental work, emotional work and physical work. They work best in tandem and they are all things we can do pro-actively to make our lives better, and they are part of personal development. This is why the Trans4mind resources are so holistic, attempting to cover as many bases as possible. Extensive because it has to cover many areas - mind, body, emotions and spirit.

Very often people who work in one of those areas like to think that their area is the one that matters - they makes themselves right and others less important by making the others wrong, or at least superfluous to requirements. It's just misguided; it's human but it's misguided. All these things that work... they work, because they are based on sound principles! But that doesn't mean there aren't other things that work, and one approach may not be the whole answer and may not work for everything. The different levels of approach interact.

oneness

Oneness

In truth, we do best to work as holistically as is feasible - all the aspects of our being affect each other. We are whole and we are miraculous. We are individuals, humanity, nature, the universe, and at one and the same time all of these combined. We are One.

It can be confusing because we live separate lives, we have our own names and bodies, we have our own job, we may play football against another team - you're not very helpful in a football team if you score goals for the other side! For purposes of playing the game of life, whether light or serious, we need to be separate. We have a purpose to achieve, we have limits within which we operate and we have opposition... if all was so easy and there was no challenge, what would be the game in it? The fight for survival and all of that is kind of a game.

So that's one level of life, and yet that's only part of the picture. Other levels of our life exist concurrently. The truth from the view at a higher level is that there is no difference between you and me, me and an animal, you and a tree, my wife and myself, our family members, our community, one place and another, our nation, the human family - the separation is an illusion. There are physic differences but not in this higher sense. We're different but at the same time, we're not. That's metaphysics for you - it's hard to see the logic because it's not logic, it's being. It's truth you experience, that you feel. It's a vibration.

Beyond the competitive ego, as human beings we care about people all over the world, because we recognize we share something with them, we share our humanity, we share our caring. What is that? That's the part of us that's universal. That aspect of us that is God. That concept derives from the inner knowing we have that there's a spark within us that is universal - therefore we feel sharing and connection and compassion that's universal. That's God within us. Like Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." It's not religion. No spiritual master would disagree with that because they wouldn't be a spiritual master otherwise. So there you go.

oneness

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Peter Shepherd
Peter Shepherd
Peter Shepherd is the founder and producer of this website. A transformational psychologist by background, he is author of 'Transforming the Mind' and 'Daring to be Yourself.' He publishes the Inspiring Quotes of the Week every week. Learn more about Peter's views and activities here.

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