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imply Well

Create a Bigger Picture of Health

© John W Travis MD, MPH

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by John W Travis MD, MPH. View all columns in series

The "participation" that Erhard talks about is participation in relationships and participation in work that serves a vision or a context larger than your own personal survival. Your health and wellness are by-products of a life that is focused and ripe with meaning, full of generous engagement with others in the creation of a world that works for everybody.

This insight is not new. Wise women and men throughout the ages have demonstrated an elegant unconcern for their own problems (physical or circumstantial) combined with a diligent commitment to the wellbeing of others. Such an orientation results in an observable radiance, a tangible strength of character and profound wisdom, as well as a remarkable ability for compassion even in the direst situations. Think of Mother Teresa. Think of the current Dalai Lama. Think of someone whom you admire.

Health is a function of participation.

- Werner Erhard

People in Western industrialized nations have a great luxury of time and money to devote to personal health. But it may be beneficial to ask whether these populations are truly healthier and happier than other cultures as a result. Are we really well in body, mind, and spirit?

Obsession with health can be every bit as wasteful of your human potential as ignorance and carelessness can be. Focusing primarily on self-health may be endlessly fascinating, but it can also be tremendously isolating, exorbitantly expensive, and outrageously time consuming. Ultimately, overconcern for personal health keeps people imprisoned in a tiny cell, limiting the vast possibilities of creative expression and loving relationships that await them. The equation is really basic: in serving others, we serve ourselves. Or put another way: Creating a bigger vision and living in support of it, we put our personal concerns in perspective, and we are subsumed and fulfilled by a greater need, a greater possibility, a greater love.

Reaching Out
"People helping people" is a tried and true strategy for moving out of and beyond personal pain and suffering. You are not alone with whatever diseased condition you may be struggling with, even though it may often feel that way. People are typically ashamed of their weaknesses and vulnerability and fearful of more pain, all of which feeds their loneliness and isolation. Yet when someone opens a door by showing friendship or offering a hand of assistance, especially if they have walked the same path of pain or disease, that help can be tremendously beneficial, drawing you out of your closed world and inviting you into the larger world with others who share a common vulnerability.

Service to others in need can be a powerful remedy for your own pain or sense of alienation. There is relief in putting your own drama aside, for however long, in order to touch, with understanding, the life of another.

Few people can fail to generate a self-healing process when they become genuinely involved in healing others. . . . Selflessness is the greatest weapon in integrating and aiding the self.

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About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of Wellness Associates, a consulting and publishing group whose mission is to transform the culture from its current focus on authoritarianism/domination into......more
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