An Opinion Piece by John Toomey
I often find myself feeling a little dismayed when I read about Wellness, or have a discussion with someone about Wellness, or even as I overhear other people talking. I struggle with the apparent reality that Wellness is primarily about the body, and that if we make the body really healthy, all should be ok.
But my mind goes to the number of super fit people I have known who are dead, either from a hidden disease or suicide. And then I contemplate the men I met when running Sports Programs in Prison, men who had physiques I could only ever wish for, men who are full of anger, regret and who live in a cage.
Of course, I am like most others, I guess. I like my body to look and feel good. And sometimes that can be a challenge because I like food just a little too much.
However, if we look around us, the data tells us how dismally we are failing. We keep talking about the dollar value of the Wellness Industry, but we are failing. Obesity rates are out of control in Western Societies. Governments are going bankrupt mostly due to Health Care and Defence budgets, poverty, violence, civil conflicts, drug abuse and mental illness are seemingly beyond our control. Something is not right.
Of course, we can sit back and wait for more research to come in so that we are not confronted by someone who wants to oppose our viewpoint, but we don’t have time. We have enough knowledge. We need to own our wisdom! The world is crying out for leaders who feel an empowering direction and have the courage to follow it.
We need boldness right now.
Over the past 10 years we have learned so much. Technology has enabled researchers to take their investigations to extraordinary places. We have uncovered the things that were sitting right in front of us.
In their wonderful book, Super Genes, Dr Deepak Chopra and Professor Rudolph Tanzi outlined a brilliant new way of looking at human health. This new paradigm has three levels.
The Genome: All of the human cells that make up all of the body’s components including organs, structural tissue, muscle, neural tissue, and the various components that connect it all and the variety of ‘systems’ within.
The Microbiome: The layer of bacteria that seems to exist in various concentrations on all ‘external’ surfaces of the body, including the gut, thoracic cavity and vagina.
The Epigenome: The seemingly sensory component that interprets how we experience life and provides feedback to the genetics to facilitate ongoing gene expression and modification.
We have spent years in Wellness focusing just about all our attention on the Genome. And that is not wrong as we didn’t really have any sort of reasonable grasp on the other two, although the followers of Bernard Jensen’s teachings would probably beg to differ.
But now we learn that without attention on the other two, genuine wellness is almost impossible.
Less than five years ago, you could not purchase Kombucha or Kefir drinks in Australian Supermarkets. Now they are commonplace. Antibiotic use has slowed as GP’s begin to understand the power and the sensitivity of the microbiome, and the topic of fermentation has become part of everyday discussions. So, things are changing as we pay attention to the health of the Microbiome.
Progress! That is cool.
But what about this Epigenome, or the science of Epigenetics. When I study it, I am both fascinated and a little mortified. The Yogis and the Qi Gong Masters have been telling us for years, and we have not been hearing them.
In Wellness we commonly talk about Mind. Body and Spirit. But what does this actually mean? We throw around phrases like “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body”. Does that take us any closer, as we yell at the guy who cut us off in traffic?
If we look at Wellness as a “Pie Chart”, how large do you feel each of the segments is? I guess there have been times in my life when I thought the chart was probably about 70% Body, 20% Mind and 10% Spirit.
Then in 2005, I did an Avatar® Course, which is a 9 day experiential program in which you explore the workings of your own consciousness, and by learning to perceive directly without translation through the mind, you get to delve deeply into the depths of your being, gently remove all the old baggage that continues to influence your life, and completely raise your beingness from its slumber. You awaken as an omnipotent source being, with a quiet mind, a new level of curiosity and all the courage you need to create the life you want to create.
None of that makes you some kind of guru. You have simply become an awakened or enlightened being. Then it’s time to get on with your life.
When I walked away from that course, I realised my version of the Pie Chart had changed considerably to about 60% Spirit, 25% Body and 15% Mind.
I then stepped back for the next couple of years and just observed. I knew I had a lot to learn and began talking, reading and listening. And I kept getting drawn to the fact that people all around seem to be bored, dissatisfied, living in a routine dominated rut, unhappy and addicted to things that might give them pleasure or make them feel better.
Then along come bushfires, floods and all manner of natural disasters and I see those same people come to life as their hearts are touched by the suffering of others. They want to help. And in those moments, I can see who they really are.
In a wealthy society where everyone feels secure and all needs are easily met, we don’t get a lot of reminders to remain connected to our humanity and to stay connected to our concern for the welfare of others.
I also have a sense that things changed a lot when religions lost their way and people stopped receiving input to their moral conscience. Whilst much of this involved indoctrination of beliefs, there was also many helpful lessons about kindness, compassion, empathy, selfless service and care. Most people never hear those lectures (sermons) anymore.
Given all this though, it seems to me that humanity is evolving. We only need look at our technology to realise that. Evolvement is essential. We cannot escape the need for it, but I am guessing that many of us has stopped evolving spiritually and have been sabotaged by our intellect – our mind.
For years, Western Society has placed great value in the intellect. But without equal attention on the awakening of the spirit, the intellect can take over. Just ask people if they have a busy mind and their eyes roll and they sigh. It is normal. Thank heavens I escaped that one back in 2005. My mind was a burning minefield of worry and stress.
Then along come great authors like Eckhardt Tolle and we read their books. As we read, our Minds learn the language and become fascinated in what it means to be spiritual. If we read enough of those books, we soon have a pretty good understanding of it, and we can teach it. I know I used to (brief moment of embarrassment). But we still live our lives trapped in our reactive, over thinking mind.
Awakening is a deeply personal experience. For it to happen, it must be experienced. It cannot be learned.
Harry Palmer, the author of The Avatar Materials, put it beautifully when he wrote, “Sadly, some will only deal in the realizations of others, written neatly in books of doctrine. It is easier than risking the humiliation of being singled out. Stay with the herd. Follow the examples. Sacrifice your own discoveries for the praise of being able to parrot someone else’s thoughts. This is the path to self-solidification, not self-evolvement.”
Now I am not going to try to tell you The Avatar Course is the only path. I am sure it is not. Many have made their way to an awakened state through years of disciplined meditation practice. The Avatar Course just gets you there very quickly. And as you read this, you may well know of other paths.
Nor am I going to say that those wonderful books have no use; of course they do. They are a valuable stepping-stone intended to help people move forward. But rarely do they take people all the way to an awakened state.
Many read the books, are deeply fascinated, maybe meditate for a few weeks and then give up in discouragement. It is a common theme.
But I reckon this path can also get a little ambushed. For example, Mindfulness Training has become very popular in recent years. As I observe some of these programs, they appear to be little more than an effort to train the mind to watch itself, in an effort to curb impulsive and reactive behaviours. That can be a good thing, but it is light years away from the ultimate goal.
I would love to inspire so many more people to do The Avatar Course. But in the end, that is a personal choice that may take some sacrifice: time, money a willingness to put aside what we know and be vulnerable enough to really explore.
If you have your own path to awakening, please continue. And if you have already experienced an awakening, please help others.
Where to from here?
So back to the Wellness Message. Yes, we must continue to teach people about exercise and good nutrition. That is part of our job. But we also must not forget the potent role of the Epigenome. We need to start helping people with how they are experiencing their life. We need to help them to learn about the ways of their mind and to start remembering who they really are – a vitally important member of the human race.
How people conduct their lives dictates how they feel about themselves. None of us can escape those quiet moments in the dark just before we go to sleep. Are you happy with how you conducted your life today? Do you like who you are becoming?
I have a sense that lying in the answers to those two questions awaits one of the most significant determinants of sleep quality.
One of my favourite questions I like to ask my rooms filled with Construction workers is, “How in hell can you feel good if you don’t feel good about yourself?”
Epigenetics directly influence our longevity and our disease risk. Surely people will be interested in that. I am.
So, I am feeling that our Wellness programs, to be more effective in creating change, need to start with addressing The Epigenome. Instead of getting on our high horses about fitness, nutrition, skincare and relaxation, we might need to put our arms round people and remind them how good it feels to be kind, to care for another and to make efforts that relieve suffering, or to laugh again, enjoy the power of mother nature and the simplicity of child-like wonder.
Isn’t that a great term? Child-like wonder! I learned that from my dear friend and mentor, Neal Hoptman. Neal is a Yogi who travels the world spreading his wonderful “conspiracy of joy”.
If we can help people re-embrace their humanity, then they might begin to like themselves a little more, which may well lead to more interest in self-care, and genuine care for the people and things around them.
I have a sense too that this will help awaken us to a higher level of responsibility for the care of animals and the wellbeing of our environment, and our reverence for mother earth.
So there it is. Perhaps true Wellness may begin with kindness. I invite you to explore this idea and if it feels right, please grab it and run with it. Of, course, you can sit tight and wait for the research, or discover your own evidence as you go.
The world will not be saved by another supplement, But, teaching people to supplement their lives with some kindness, selflessness and care may just do the trick.
And before I close, there are a couple of additional interesting points. First, world renowned and Triple Board Certified Physician Dr Zach Bush openly states that people with cancer need to learn to forgive. That is a powerful statement. I have a sense that when we choose to be kinder, we will create less situations where the outcome will require forgiveness some day. Along with the reductions in mental illness, this could put an incredible dent in government health care budgets.
And as people become more kind and loving, so do Nations. We may even realise that the aggression appearing to come from other countries lives only in our own perception, and we may soon realise we no longer need to spend money on war.
What could we collectively do with all of those available funds?
I wish you exciting adventures, happy outcomes and many, many deeply loving and meaningful connections.
Not everyone will do an Avatar Course. In fact, some of the smartest, most learned people I know have taken a look and walked away from it, some thinking they are already awake, others seeing nothing new to learn and others so in denial that an awakening is possible within 9 days that they won’t even allow themselves to get curious. If you are out there teaching wellness, and you are teaching Meditation and Mindfulness, and helping people with good reading, please keep going. Any effort to help people discover what lies beyond their mind is a very good thing. Your work is important.
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