Simple Steps For Well Being

by Jane Gregorie, M.S., L.Ac, Dipl.Ac., Dipl. CH.

In my practice of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, many of the illnesses I see are directly related to poor diets, unhealthy lifestyles, and self-destructive habits. In fact, most of the serious illnesses that compromise the quality of living for so many Americans could be prevented by living more wisely, moderately, and consciously. Heart disease, hypertension, obesity, musculosketelal problems, diabetes, many cancers- these diseases of excess are some of the most common causes of death in our country. For such a wealthy and prosperous culture, Americans are not in fact living the good life and are certainly not examples of health and vitality among nations. The many modern conveniences we have engineered to make life "easier" have created a sedentary consumer culture that lives on highly processed, adulterated foods, and that is out of touch with the natural vitality that is our birthright.

Most Americans spend the majority of their time and energy focusing on work-- often at the expense of their bodies and minds. Granted, while financial stability is indeed integral to enjoying certain creature comforts and to living without fiscal anxiety, putting work before personal well-being and interpersonal relationships costs us far more than it pays, in the end. It is estimated by the International Labor Organization that Americans work 1,966 hours annually-- 70 hours more than the Japanese and 350 hours (or 9 weeks) more than Europeans. Depression, alienation, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor parenting are all hallmarks of this endemic cultural sickness.

Most of the diseases that plague us stem from over-nutrition, under-activity, and high levels of stress. The obvious culprits are heart disease, obesity, hypertension, stress-related mental illness, and the damaging effects of tobacco, alcohol, and drug (illicit and prescription) abuse. The bottom line is that many of the diseases that plague the modern American could be prevented simply by adopting lifestyle changes that would not only lead to a longer life, but more importantly, to a better, more vital, life. The idea is not necessarily to attain immortality or age imperceptibly, but to live well in order that we may fulfill our personal potential to become clear, compassionate, awake, and intelligent human beings. The lack of wisdom that informs the popular culture in today's world has a profound effect on each of us. As the world speeds up and productivity becomes a higher commodity than human welfare, we see more and more of physical ailments that do not respond to treatment, allopathic or otherwise. And most tragic of all, chronic depression and anxiety seem to have reached epidemic proportions. This is an indication of the psycho-spiritual sickness of our culture as well.

The ancient wisdom that forms the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine can be a reminder of the intrinsic health and balance that humans in harmony with themselves, heaven, and earth can enjoy. Simply by taking steps toward balancing the polarities of work and rest, exertion and relaxation, indulgence and restraint, one can find a way to wellness, naturally. By taking the time to care for ourselves in a manner commensurate with the priceless nature of this one human life, we can not only feel better, physically, but we can also create a better world for the future.

According to the classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, total wellness requires attention to daily habits such as diet, exercise, feng shui, meditation, harmony with the seasons, emotional balance, and moderation in all activities. What are some simple steps we can all take towards living a "well" life? I would like to offer 3 simple things anyone can do to reclaim their own health and vitality. These are habits we can all integrate into our schedules, no matter how busy or demanding they may be. In the end, self care and conscious living become their own reward; a harmonious life will be a pleasant life.
  1. Eat fresh, whole, organic (when possible), and carefully prepared foods. Remember the old adages "you are what you eat" and "food is everyone's best medicine." Food represents one of the last direct connections we all have (no matter how urban our lifestyle) with the earth itself. Processed foods are dead foods. Not only do most fast and heavily processed foods contain an excess of preservatives, sugar, salt, and bad fats, but they also do not possess the vital energetic quality that can nourish our souls as well as our bodies. Take the time to eat delicious, beautiful foods that radiate the essence of their origins- rich soil, abundant water, and nourishing sunlight. I once saw an organic farmer speak about his heirloom lettuce crops, and how astoundingly beautiful he found the rows of glistening greens in the morning, shining with dew. He was beaming with joy over those lettuce leaves, as if he had beheld a bed of jewels when he saw the fruits of his labor of love. We should all be so fortunate to witness this miracle of growth and life. But if we cannot, we should seek out quality foods that do come from the earth, not from a processing plant or a fast-food window. Eating locally grown produce also connects us with the foods that are native to our bio-region, and are therefore in balance with our seasonal shifts and local climates. High quality, fresh foods should be not be only the privilege of the elite, but should be a choice available to everyone. Supporting CSA (community-sponsored agriculture), urban gardening projects, and starting your own backyard garden can make this a reality.
  2. Stay active, naturally. Everyone knows that aerobic exercise is essential to cardiovascular health and maintenance of proper body weight. Not only is it good for the body, it is also good for the mind. Exercise moves our Qi, or vital energy, naturally, allowing us to de-stress from the constraining emotions of the fast-paced, high stress world. In my opinion, exercise should involve a sense of kinesthetic delight. It should be about loving your body and delighting in your strength and power. Begin riding your bike or walking to work whenever possible. Throw a frisbee around with a friend. Turn on your favorite music and dance in the privacy of your living room. Take a dance or yoga or martial arts class. Run around with your pets or kids. Take up sea kayaking. It is important to get both aerobic and weight-bearing exercise. And having fun while getting exercise will benefit not only your body, but also your mind, emotions, and spirit.
  3. Make the radical decision to take some time everyday just to be. In many cultures and traditions, the practice of meditation or prayer is a way of life. Sadly, in the West, we have lost these traditions for the most part. Finding an inner sanctuary and point of stillness is essential to developing wisdom and compassion. Without a foundation of mindfulness and awareness, our actions become scattered and dictated by habit or impulse. Finding the vast, deep and imperturbable peace that lies below the discursive thoughts of our busy minds gives us a true sense of rest and rejuvenation. Seeking this inner peace and wisdom will not only help us deal with the suffering and frustration of life in an imperfect world, but will also help us let go at the time of death. Transcending ego is the key to becoming a happier, more generous, caring human being. We all have the ability to work with our hearts and minds to this end and to truly give something back to others by discovering our own intrinsic goodness and allowing clarity and compassion to inform our decisions. Ultimately, a healthy body and mind do depend on the development of our spiritual strength and vigor. Cultivating spirit then becomes not only the greatest gift we can give ourselves, but also the greatest contribution we can make to all beings in this life.

    Health and vitality are within everyone's reach. Even those with chronic or terminal illness can integrate them in order to improve their quality of life, despite the presence of disease. Taking such simple steps as these can help us rediscover the joy of being alive. The chance we have to evolve, discover and grow is possible because of the unique qualities inherent in being human. We should take this wonderful opportunity to live well, happy, and rich lives. Certainly, that is what we all deserve.

    Jane Gregorie, M.S., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., Dipl.C.H., received her Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She completed her undergraduate studies at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where she majored in Religious Studies. She also studied Japanese at Middlebury College in Vermont and Kansai Gaidai in Osaka, Japan. In addition to her formal education, she has spent time in Nepal, India, and Tibet, and has had been deeply influenced by her extended travel experiences. As part of her education at Southwest Acupuncture College, she completed a year-long clinical internship at a local nursing home and a semester of clinical treatment in a chemotherapy clinic. Jane practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine from 2001-2003 at the Saleeby Longevity Institute, an integrative medical clinic in Savannah, Georgia. There she built a thriving practice where she treated a wide variety of cases and specialized in women's health. She also pioneered an acupuncture program that served a rural HIV health system in Southeast Georgia. In addition, she offered free treatments at a health center for the homeless and acudetox treatments at an affiliated drug treatment program. Jane is passionate about making acupuncture and Oriental medicine available to those who cannot afford fee-for-service alternative medical care. She is licensed in New Mexico, Georgia, and Colorado in addition to being a certified Acudetox specialist (NADA) and a Diplomate of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology (NCCAOM). She is also a member of the Acupuncture Association of Colorado, The Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance, and the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Her personal philosophy is reflected in her treatment style in that she seeks to treat the whole person and takes time to address all aspects of her clients' lives such as diet, lifestyle, meditation/spirituality, and emotional well-being. She likes to think of herself as not only an acupuncturist, but also a wellness coach who helps her clients create a lifestyle that will support comprehensive health, self-empowerment, and happiness. Jane works with the WholeApproach product line in her practice.