Thursday, November 29, 2012

Health and the Holidays

Thanksgiving, my favorite Holiday, has passed, again threatened by consumerism, anxious to get started sooner and earlier in the “spirit of Christmas.” But, the true spirit of Christmas, charity, is best expressed by a thankful heart, a sure sign of strength and understanding of our relationships with our fellowman. Understanding how each of us fits in our society also brings forgetting and forgiveness, or what Christians call repentance. Charity, gratitude, forgiveness will help us endure and mitigate the harshness of illusionary independence; these attributes contribute mightily to spiritual and, hence, physical health.

One of the most striking aspects of my practice is helping patients change the lifestyles that have caused their health problems. But, more important, and difficult, is to help them forgive themselves when they falter and return to those toxic habits. I remind them of Atlas, the weakling wrestler, son of Gaia, Mother Earth. Defeated often, he whined to his mother who promised him he would henceforth get up stronger each time he fell and hit the ground--herself. Sure enough, with each defeat Atlas got stronger and grew into the mighty Atlas we know today.

I also bring up the Parable of the Prodigal Son. After spending his inheritance in riotous living, he returns to his father, who, grateful to have regained his lost son, sacrifices the fatted calf to the chagrin of his eldest who has faithfully remained at his side. Among the obvious lessons is the oft-misunderstood principle that there is more strength in one who stray and returns, than in one who never falters through sheer discipline. The latter may follow the letter of the law only, as evidenced by his lack of rejoicing that his lost brother has returned. The faithful brother may even secretly envy the “pleasures” his lost brother enjoyed while idly spending his inheritance. He may even lack kindness, compassion, and the ability to forgive, central tenants of a true and faithful son and brother.

The prodigal son, upon being forgiven, will he not be more humble? Will he not be more capable of understanding, giving and forgiving himself? By having known failure we are exposed to the key to happiness, or a courageous life: an understanding of letting go and being guided by divinity, accepting whatever comes our way: “thy will be done.” Then, we will no longer wish for anything, but an understanding of life’s Middle Way, suffering willingly and patiently, both good and evil. Then, we will endure and thank all those in our lives who help us learn these lessons.

Merry Christmas to you all.


At November 29, 2012 at 8:43:00 PM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Thank you!


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