In Slow Medicine, we optimize the seven spokes of the Slow Medicine Wheel of Health: the physical body, mental-emotional state, connection to nature, involvement in community, relationships with people and planet, relationship to the Divine, and life’s purpose — the latter of which drives all the other spokes, by giving us the reason and motivation to be healthy.
Truly, everything and everyone is interconnected. So while singing in a band, playing with one’s grandchildren, attending religious services, or participating in a social movement may seem like abstract, even irrelevant, ways of responding to chronic health issues, those steps, along with medical care, may in fact be the lynchpin for bringing us back into balance and making us well, through the ripple effect they cause in our lives. The objective, then, is figuring out what makes us feel the most vibrantly alive and healthy, and pursuing those things with a passion.
“The bigger idea of healing,” expounded Deepak Chopra, MD, a celebrated integrative medicine doctor, author of 22 best-selling books, and co-author of Super Genes, in a recent phone conversation, “is the return of memory to wholeness. Health, healing, and wholeness are all the same thing. We’ve divided the world into subject and object, into mind and body, into biological organism and the universe. In fact, it’s one unified activity.”
Chopra emphasized that healing individually and healing physically are inextricably intertwined with healing collectively and healing spiritually: “Our planet is diseased at the moment. It’s hardly a peaceful, sustainable, just, healthy, happy collective. The individual being a product of that, it’s feedback that goes both ways: the collective influences the individual, the individual feeds back on the collective. That’s why true healing cannot be just physical; it has to be emotional, and ultimately, it has to be spiritual.”
What do all these insights mean for the average person suffering from chronic illness? While it is helpful to zoom our lens on the area calling for attention — whether through back pain, heart disease, or cancer — we also need to pan our lens to take in the big picture, then use our intelligence and intuition to connect the dots in-between. We need to become aware of each area of our lives and explore how to optimize our wellness not only within each of these areas — through nutrient-dense foods, a loving partner, artistic expression, and so on — but also through their harmonious integration.
We all have the capacity to understand the interconnected web of our health and to channel the domino effect in a positive direction. This individualized process requires experimentation and discovery, which take time but ultimately allow us to cultivate lasting wellness. The best quick fix for our health is not a quick fix, after all; rather, it is a methodical, step-by-step process of asking questions that lead to awareness that turns into action that results in extraordinary health.
As we embark on this journey of discovery, we are bound not only to experience symptom relief but also to find treasures along the way. Perhaps we join a meditation group to reduce stress, then meet our soul mate in that group; maybe we start hiking to manage heart disease, then fall in love with nature and relocate to the mountains; or perhaps we gain a different perspective on our life as it is, and we feel a newfound joy and satisfaction, without changing a thing.
However our own unique path unfolds, the good news is that while chronic illness can be anything from disruptive to devastating, it also can serve as a turning point in our lives, when approached mindfully and creatively. In fact, healing chronic illness just might turn into the adventure of a lifetime. It is this perspective and the evolution of our consciousness that will bring health and healing to us all.