“We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass…”
That line is some lyrical imagery conjured in the song “Get Together”, covered by a number of artists, particularly as a clarion call throughout the 1960s. It has been coming to my mind as of late, in thinking about humanity’s place in this huge universe, in a humbling sense.
We may say we’re living in tumultuous times – much of which has seemed to crescendo in recent months with an international pandemic. But it may be equally fair, historically speaking, to say no generation is without its turmoils; indeed it seems to be a hallmark of change – the ebb and flow of it, the give and take, the fear and hope, the stagnation and progress – all inevitable factors of the ultimate inevitability of change.
Human biology is not ever wholly separate from the world around us. We are intricately linked in sharing minerals, vitamins, molecules and other elements. In a poetic sense, you could say we reflect the world around us, and are reflected in it. In a holistic approach to thinking about health, we consider and examine the body as a whole, functioning, intricate system, where everything ripples and effects everything else within the system – nothing exists as “separate” or in a functional vacuum. It is only a small leap to then consider the whole of life through a holistic lens – that is to say, that we are each part of the larger functioning “body” of the living world, so to speak. That perhaps, things which happen to our own health, our own bodies, may sometimes be a reflection of things going on in the world around us and our reaction to it, and vice versa.
(e.g. It is certainly interesting to think about how the more polluted our planet has become the more polluted our bodies have become in some instances as well, or that the more someone pollutes their body the more they may then develop a mindset that contributes to polluting of the world.)
One fascinating holistic theory of health is found within the thousands of years old practice of Traditional Oriental/Chinese Medicine (TCM). Here, the major organs of the body are also considered to be linked to emotions. Perhaps this concept was “ahead of its time”, as modern studies into psychosomatic responses (that is mind-body connection, and how thoughts and feelings can impact our physical health) have now begun to confer with what these ancient notions posited.
But it is not linear, it doesn’t go only in one direction. It could be that issues with the organs contribute to imbalances in the mood and mental state, or it could be that a persistent mood and/or mental state begins to wreak havoc on the physical bodily systems. Often its not even so black and white as one or the other, but rather both, simultaneously, like a feedback loop.
This whole essay, admittedly, is just waxing philosophically along a line of exploratory thinking… I present it merely as a thought exercise to encourage the reader to consider how they may, even in a myriad of subtle ways, potentially influence the world around them, and that it too may influence them and their well being. An important point to ponder in times being driven so visibly by sweeping change.
Here are a couple of such tangents that have come to my mind…
In the line of thinking of TCM, the Lungs are sometimes referred to as “The Princess” organ. They are highly sensitive to “exposure”, due to drawing in from the outside world with each breath. They are said to rule the Qi, or the body’s life-force energy. They are more vulnerable than all other internal organs, to invasion from detrimental outside influence.
The emotions associated to the lungs are grief, sadness, depression, and worry in excess. Conditions which are said to be exacerbated by these emotions include asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, COPD, and frequency of colds and flus.
(The lungs are a primary target of the Covid virus – Viral cells go in and damage lung tissue and function.)
Within this, in our current times, facing an epidemic, it makes me think about how people are suffering grief from the loss of normalcy of their daily lives pre-pandemic. Grief from loss of loved ones dying from the virus. Depression from being cut off from friends, family, their jobs etc…
Do we perhaps weaken ourselves, render ourselves more susceptible to negative outside impacts, through the suffering of grief and depression?
Holistic thinking towards health focuses on working to prevent things from getting worse, to strengthen the body’s systems and their functioning so as to stand stronger in the face of any health challenges that may, and do inevitably, arise.
TCM considers the Liver “The General” of the organs. That which is essentially keeping all the other organs and bodily functions “in line”. A good general helps ward off attacks from invaders – similarly, the liver helps protect the body from all sorts of poisons and pathogens, as well as overload from chemicals (including medications), by way of being the primary detoxifying organ of the entire body. The liver has more regenerative ability than any other organ in the body. Like a general, the liver is a strategic planner, by way of excreting various, necessary hormones into the body at different times as needed, and helping the immune system more efficiently get the upper hand in fighting virus and bacteria, by cleaning up and excreting cellular “waste” from the blood which was created by the blood cells fighting the infectious organism.
The emotions associated with the liver are anger, rage, irritability and frustration. Mood fluctuations and severity are often seen as associated symptoms, to varying degrees, in conditions that involve and/or impact the liver, such as PMS, blood sugar imbalances, Hepatitis, alcoholism and more …
Many people are suffering a lot of anger right now. Anger over feeling like time and freedom in their life is being restricted and/or “robbed” from them. Anger from suffering inequity. Anger that no one has THE winning answers to fix the national or global situations we face, or aren’t implementing them.
In battle, a “bad” general, through recklessness, poor planning or bravado, may get their soldiers into terrible situations, causing much suffering and casualties as a result, even among their own troops. Persistent frustrations, turning into anger, turning into rage, can be equally destructive in our lives and to our health.
For anyone suffering any incessant grief, depression, sadness, or frustration and anger in their lives, prior to this pandemic or since, this is not to condemn the natural range of human emotions in some simplistic, arbitrary designation such as “bad” vs. “good”. But rather to call attention to the connection in how, when we may get stuck and spiral down into emotions that become so persistent they become unhealthy, that negative emotional experience can become detrimental to the body’s total health, enjoyment of the experience of life, and adaptability in the face of change.
Arguably, a focus on better mental/emotional health practices and care should be considered a key player in the strength of our health and total body wellness.
Consider how the world around you may be affecting your moods, consider the chance that continual, badgering, negative, unpleasant feelings may be affecting your physical feelings and function. Is there anything within your control that you can do to help better the world around you? Especially if affecting any change for the better could also help you feel better emotionally and/or physically? Is there anything you can do immediately, in your own life, for your self-care, that could positively influence your mood? If so, great, take it on! If not, then try to breathe, relax, learn and practice de-stressing techniques, accept that you cannot control everything.
Now flip that around and also consider how your mood may impact the world around you. Is your being angry, frustrated, depressed, or suffering grief negatively impacting lives around you, hindering any process in the world around you which could otherwise possibly grow and move on and change for the better? This isn’t to make you feel guilty for feeling your genuine feelings, but just to encourage you to try and step outside of your own perspective long enough to see a wider picture in how you’re connected and can influence things around you. That is a lot of potential power you can wield just in you being you.
Humans often cause themselves extra degrees of suffering when unhealthy mental or emotional blockages find them standing, desperately, like a stick in the mud of the river of change. A futile position. The hands of time will not be turned back, neither the tides of change. Remember, “We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass” …Don’t waste your precious life, your energy, your health, on fighting the inevitably of change. Rather look for the ways you can flow within it, finding peace, possibly helping to direct it in a direction you can feel safe and satisfied to go. Your health may just fair the better for it, as you embrace and reflect the new world around you.