Life in Balance: Part 1

Part 1. What is health?

by Elena Greco

LIFE IN BALANCE is a multi-part series exploring health–what it is, how to get it and how to maintain it, easily and naturally.

Typical reading time: 3 minutes

Part 1. What is health?

I want to start by asking a question: What is health? Sometimes asking the right question is the key to getting the right answer.

First, a disclaimer: I’m not a licensed health professional, such as medical doctor or a naturopath. So in case you’re wondering why I’m in a position to speak about health—or how I happened to become an integrative holistic coach and counselor with a life-long fascination in the human body-mind—I’ll begin at the beginning.

Many people in mother’s family were in medicine. In grade school, I spent summers with my maternal grandparents. Sometimes my grandmother, who was a nurse who sometimes worked for my cousin, a doctor, would take me to work with her, which was a great treat for me. I got to sit in his office while they worked. He had a big, wooden chair that swirled round and round (kids love to spin), and lots of medical books filled with pictures. I loved to read from an early age, and his books were fascinating to me. My grandmother had medical books at home, too. Granted, I couldn’t understand everything I read, but I grasped enough to be intrigued.

So I developed an interest in the human body early on. I took both Biology and Human Biology in both junior high and high school because I loved biology. In high school I became passionately interested in psychology, and in college I developed an interest in nutrition and supplements; herbology was a natural transition from there. In the eighties I explored consciousness and spirituality and how those things related to the mind and body, and began studying several healing traditions other than the typical Western allopathic one, including naturopathic, homeopathic and Ayurvedic traditions. I studied with a former colleague of Timothy Leary and Stanislov Grof and became certified in several healing techniques. (See more here.)

I’ve been an integrative holistic coach and counselor since the 1980s, and I recently expanded my practice to full time once again. I now specialize in creativity coaching, which focuses on all aspects of the lives of creative people.  (Learn more about creativity coaching here.)

What is health? To get back to the original question, as I said, I explored a lot of areas and studied several major schools of healing. The conclusion I came to is this: Health relies on balance. In essence, health IS balance.

To remain in balance, we need to be able to adjust to the many fluctuations of life. As an example, if you’re out in the hot summer sun for too long, your body will experience symptoms such as sweating and thirst. The sweating cools the body, and the thirst prompts us to drink water to counteract what the body loses in sweating. Notice how these symptoms help the body maintain balance, as well as to give us a warning that we’re out of balance. Suppressing or ignoring the symptoms would ultimately result in a shut-down of physical functions and we would die.

Health is not the absence of symptoms, because symptoms are often the body’s or the mind’s way of letting us know that things aren’t in balance so that we can address that before it becomes dangerous. Symptoms are helpful in maintaining health.

An awful lot of what we call “healthcare” in our country is not about caring for our health, but about suppressing symptoms, the symptoms that warn us that we’re out of balance. In short, we sabotage nature’s primary healing mechanism.

Also, health doesn’t mean you never get sick; it means you and your body are able to return to balance quickly. For example, maybe you get the flu. You’re pretty sick for a couple of days. Then you gradually start feeling better, and within a week you’re up and around again. You’re healthy, since your body was able to adapt to the virus and regain its equilibrium (another word for balance). On the other hand, say you get the flu, and you’re pretty sick for a couple of days. You continue to get sicker and sicker, and ten days later you end up in the hospital with a secondary infection. You’re not healthy, since your body was unable to regain its equilibrium.

In the next segment we’ll start to look at ways to return to balance or to maintain balance and to have true health in our lives.  I have an easy method—one that can accommodate all kinds of lifestyles, diets and preferences—that you can use to keep yourself in balance—that is, healthy. It might take a little while to get to the punch line, and I hope you’ll be patient and come along, as I’m sure you’ll find the end result beneficial.

In the mean time, think about what health means to you, and whether you think you’re healthy.  That’s your assignment!

See Elena’s bios for more information about the author.

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