In our world there are some pretty complicated ways to “get healthy.” Dramatic changes to our sleep and exercise habits often cause more harm then good, and there are so many different disclaimers and labels surrounding our food options that making the “simple” eating choice becomes increasingly challenging.
In viewing wellness as an overall union of physical, mental, and cognitive health, sometimes you just can’t beat out advice from the ancients.
There is an old Zen story about an aged master who lived atop a mountain. When the young student climbed the summit and asked him, “What is enlightenment?” the master only had this simple reply – “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.”
Sometimes (depending who’s telling the story) a third element is added, which is, “when restless, walk.” But no matter how you hear it, or in what order the Zen master supposedly offered his advice, the concept remains the same:
Listen to the body: meaning we’ve got to slow down often, take a deep breath, and really try to hear what the physical self is telling us.
Rest the mind: in addition to physical rest, we need to remember that the human mind isn’t meant to be alert 24 hours a day, and using our brains without periods of sleep is counterproductive to our health.
Be a free spirit: there is more to our makeup than muscles and synapses – which could explain why yoga practice has its roots in spiritual traditions, or why chakra philosophy exhorts union between the body and the spirit together. Running on a treadmill is great – following the heart and exploring paths unknown is even better.
Wellness is not easily simplified – more than philosophizing it requires thought and action together. And we can complicate wellness greatly in our cleverness to find shortcuts, quick fixes, and other time-saving conveniences – which ultimately damage our peace of mind, if not our actual bodies.
If you ever feel overwhelmed by all the options in front of you, try the Zen way – and get back to your basics.