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March 21, 2011

Why Do We Get Sick?

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We take it for granted that people just get sick.  We assume that it’s normal that every once in awhile we’ll get a cold, or indigestion, or need some type of surgery at some point in our lives.  But, do we ever question whether this situation really is normal?  Do we ever wonder why we get sick?  According to one of the earliest Chinese Medical texts, the Huang Di Nei Jing, dated to the first century BCE, “The antique people lived amongst the animals and used movement to ward of cold, and recluse shelter to ward off heat; internally they did not have any attachments and envies; externally they did not have need for bureaucratic composure, these were tranquil, satisfying times, and as such, evils were unable to penetrate deeply...But the world is different now, with misery present in the interior, and suffering damaging the exterior; along with the loss of the ability to follow the four seasons...hence minor diseases manifest with severity, while major diseases imperatively cause death.”  It appears people have been getting sick for a long time!  No wonder it seems normal now.

But the Huang Di states there was a time when people didn’t get sick, and more importantly, there are reasons why we now do.  Put simply, there are factors which affect our external world and factors which affect our internal.

Those factors which affect our external world are, namely, not being in touch with our environment.  The inability to follow the seasons is the inability to simply be cold when it’s cold, and hot when it’s hot.  It is the inability to accept, and flow with, nature.  Therefore, we find ourselves cranking the heat up to 75 degrees in the winter, and cranking the AC down to 65 degrees in the summer.  We go from hot to cold, and cold to hot.  We work in offices with recirculated air, where you can’t open the windows.  We eat food that’s no longer recognizable as food, or if it is, is from a completely different season and environment.  Is it any wonder we get sick?  Of course the cold and flu season is worse than it ever was, because we can’t adjust to the rapidly changing temperatures.  Of course we are fatigued and have terrible digestion, because we’re no longer eating real food.

Those factors which affect our internal world are all of the confines of our society that cause us to restrict and censor the emotional expression of what we think, feel, and and who we truly are.  As the Huang Di called it, “bureaucratic composure”.  It is the resentment and frustration that arises from not being able to speak your mind, that in part leads to migraines, irritability, high blood pressure, and waking up vivid dreams and over-thinking in the middle of the night.  It is the worry of not having enough, and not having the means and wherewithal to meet one’s needs, that leads in part to indigestion, diarrhea, fatigue.  This is especially true in a consumer culture heavily influenced by advertising, where the goal is to create consumer need and to create the feeling of loss and inadequacy if that need is unfulfilled.  Is it any wonder, then, that we are constantly stressed, and that our feelings tend to come out “sideways”?  Living in this type of world, how could one’s heart be at peace?  How could one possibly stay healthy?

Therefore, if we truly want to be healthy and free from illness on every level, we need to make a personal, cultural shift.  We need to re-experience what it means to live in accordance with nature and natural patterns, to feel supported by the earth, instead of fighting and manipulating it.  We also need to live free of our ideas of could, would and should.  Instead, we need to recognize the will and desire of our hearts, and act in accordance with our own personal truth.  This can all be as simple as turning the air off and opening the windows, (from now until november), buying your food at the local Farmer’s Market, spending time with the people you really want to spend time with, and being able to tell them what you really think and feel.  While these are all small steps, they will make a big difference over time, and not only will you start to feel more at ease in your life, but you’ll feel healthy and stronger, as well.