Health is individual and we humans are all so different. One born with a congenital disease or other genetic disorder, an impaired or disadvantaged physical or mental body may consider themselves quite happy and healthy; while another with no outward physical or mental impairments or social disadvantages are engaged in constant struggle with states of high anxiety, depression and hypochondriac fears with resultant misery. Factors beyond the given inherent individual physical and mental states may also have an affect on health. Individual health is influenced by others with whom we co-exist. Others will often increase or decrease our levels of stress directly influencing our capacities to live in the world. While health and well-being typically go hand in glove, health and well-being are both directly and profoundly affected by the immediate culture and health of the world around us. No living entity freely exists in and of itself but is always a result of what has gone before. Therefore, the concept of wholeness in health is dependent not only upon developing good habits, attentive life-style and pursuing healthy models of self-care, but must include how perspectives may be responsive to change; in effect, to develop resilience and flexibility to adapt.
Neuro-psychology and the cognitive sciences concern how well we tend the environment inside of us. They are grounded in the fact that emotions and thought are both physical, not just mental; and that there is no greater freedom than the wholeness which comes from developing a skillful way of seeing. These are truths which are often overlooked in policies, practices, regulations and standards can add clarity to guidelines and frame our moral actions. They give meaning to living in the immediacy of the world and remind us that we are simply another species on earth like any other, all connected in the web of life.
Many health decisions have a direct impact which are considered the cultural norm and affect us in the long-term — whether children are vaccinated or not, whether antibiotics are over or under prescribed, whether a tonsillectomy or other elective surgeries are considered preventative or cosmetic, whether local religious customs are perceived to increase risk factors of illness or have an impact on birth control, even whether or not government rule of law or policy should govern childbirth. These are acculturations which affect the health of individuals and the health of communities as a whole. While it is quite biologically natural for us to create behaviours, ideas, laws, and trends that are perceived to benefit society; a majority of cultural factors are not biologically-based adaptations.
It is one thing to talk of the many oppressive acculturations which groups historically have used to justify suppressing others, from the totalitarian and the political to the individual abuses applied by a prevailing cultural ideology. Yet it is quite another to self impose abuse due to self-held cultural perspectives. Many internalized cultural views are simply detrimental to health, especially when they are pitted against appearances and well-being. From college alcohol poisoning and social media perpetrated suicides to anorexia nervosa and bulimia, these are culture-based problems which wreck havoc on health, especially in youth. Nowadays, it is easy somehow to culturally to view our biological body as separate from who we are and how we think. If you think you are separate or superior to the natural world, it is but a mere short step to also lose the value and importance of being aware of the psycho-spiritual role of the physical body.
As a species, we create cultural perspectives to help us adapt and adjust, position and parlay our social order. But the difference that set us apart from other species is that we homo sapiens create artificial systems and beliefs which have no biological benefit. They are culturally-created artifices which are bereft of any connection to living in the natural world; in a word, they are acculturations that have no inherent soul.
Breast augmentation, liposuction, skin lightening and western eye-rounding is more often more a result of a society with an excess of options fueled by a gluttonous economy than it is to liberate the physical in some way. As vanity, they are perspectives essentially created disconnected from the immediacy of the world, illusions which serve to alienate us not only from our biological nature, but from change itself.
Expanding on our knowledge through education of how we create acculturations will tend to open, widen and deepen our perspectives on what is essential. So how may that be accomplished? Easy, through developing a skillful way of seeing connection in the world. And there is no better way to do just that than through physically embodying experience.
Samana ~ namaste