The word wellness is every where these days. Just as with many other buzzwords, I find myself inquiring, “what does it really mean?”. This month I’m writing about my exploration into wellness. What is wellness, and how do we get there? The term "wellness" has taken over our cultural lexicon as it relates to health, and yet it seems a key component in regards to becoming well has tragically evaded the mainstream.
There is no shortage of wellness quick fixes being sold. A new diet, a new trend, a new ideology; some way to be different than we already are. What if the path to wellness wasn't found by following a vegan, paleo, whole30, keto, or intermittent juice fasting diet plan? What if the latest exercise method couldn’t quite get you there either? Are yoga, HIIT classes, or crossfit the road to wellness? The revelation for me over the past few years as I explored all the modalities I could get my hands on, was that wellness is not just about food and exercise, it is also about getting to know what is going on inside.
Looking externally to address what is going on inside seems to be what the current mainstream paradigm is offering, which leaves an important part of the terrain left unexplored. When we seek wellness it is health we are aiming for. Health, healing, wholeness. These words all have the same basic conceptual goal: integrity, completeness, liberation, sanity.
The missing link between external and internal seeking is our relationship to our authentic selves, our own inner worlds. We are missing our connection to our emotions; the ability to feel, express and receive. It is by going inside ourselves that the real holistic wellness can begin to take form.
Our world is one of fast-paced doing, schedules, obligations, competition, and judgment. This is all the territory of the mind, and we are largely of the belief that the mind and logical, scientific thinking is supreme. When we live in our heads we are missing the ability to feel the richness of our moment to moment experience. We can also easily fall into the trap of judging the past or trying to overanalyze the future, finding ourselves lost or absent in the moment, creating a lack of presence. Fortunately, we are humans who have the capacity to not only think but to feel. Feelings bring us back.
Feelings can be scary. They can come riddled with memories of the past that we would rather not go into. Feeling emotions requires us to be vulnerable, raw and most importantly, honest. For me the risk always seemed too big and I felt scared that by going into my feelings I might become stuck in and/or be overwhelmed by what I found. Simply stuffing them down for hours, days, months or even years felt much safer in the moment. Over time I learned that this bypassing creates numbness; an inability to flow through my inner terrain out of fear that I might hit an emotional landmine. Numbness often leads to a sort of deadness, and an absence of hope. When we cannot feel from within, we shoot up into the feelingless refuge of our heads where the mind reigns supreme.
In the thinking space, all seems well. Unbeknownst to us down in the body our emotional river is becoming clogged. This backlog weakens our flow, drains our energy and can even manifest disease. Often a crisis will call us back to the body to survey the scene and restore movement, and ultimately, feeling. This invitation back to the body marks the beginning of a journey inward, one that requires courage, patience, and love. Once we begin to dismantle the dam of past traumas and bypassed emotions we allow for more richness in our lives, more meaningful relationships and a genuine experience of self. We heal by becoming whole again.
Exercise and nutritious foods are essential components to becoming healthy and well. Often it is the case, however, that we cannot sustain these healthy habits, and sometimes they even act as the numbing agents that help us avoid our feelings. I had this happen to me over a year ago when I was being very strict with my exercise and food choices, and at the same time I was neglecting the child in me that wanted to play, enjoy my free time, and eat food that brought me pleasure. When I was given the opportunity to let loose and have fun at a friends wedding, I went too far and literally fell flat on my face. In retrospect it was a cheap remainder to, yes be disciplined, but also not be so rigid that parts of me become starved. When things like this happen we are invited to look a little deeper. We must ask ourselves, “How am I feeling”, “How did I lose myself today”, “What part of me needs to be seen, heard and felt”? By illuminating these parts of us and discovering what they need we can become more whole, regain hope and can more easily move forward.
I hope this proved helpful in some way; in my next post I’ll talk about a couple of steps to actually begin the process of including feeling into our wellness toolbox.