Studies Show that Gratitude Can Improve Health
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fall season an ideal time of year to release old patterns and issues, and implement healthier habits and health programs. Feeling and expressing gratitude for life and life-circumstances goes hand in hand with the motivation to work toward a healthier, more vibrant state of being, thereby benefiting ourselves and those around us to the highest degree.
Interestingly, several studies have been published which directly link feelings of gratitude with improved physiological well being, including lowered stress hormones. And, of course, a more enjoyable way of life.
Finding Motivation and Gratitude Amidst Challenge
However, if we have cancer or chronic illness, or any serious or life threatening challenge, it can be difficult to find the motivation to benefit ourselves and others, much less feel gratitude for such real hardships. When life is overwhelming, the last thing we have the energy to do is to think about how to benefit others or ourselves. How do we find the motivation to “think positively” and to be grateful for a crisis which we need to struggle against in order to stay afloat? First of all, it’s very important to be honest with ourselves. Frustration over our hardships is real and natural, and it’s important to recognize it without covering it up under a thin layer of positive thinking, just because people tell us to “keep a positive attitude.” Being honest with ourselves is the foundation for having authentic motivation.
The Peeling Process
But, it’s equally as important not to identify ourselves with our crises, and not to internalize our suffering and thus make it more painful. Remember, we are not our illness/condition/circumstance. One way to move through such challenges is to allow our feelings to flow freely without overindulging in them, and begin to experience it as a peeling process. There is very real truth to the philosophy which states that crisis presents opportunity for growth and healing on all levels, physical, mental, emotional and psycho-spiritual. This is the “peeling process”, where layers of obstructions and distractions seem to peel away or vanish during crisis, and our true essence can be revealed. In fact, many people would not experience the same growth, or transformations, without such challenges.
The Energetics of Motivation
What are the motivating forces at work here? Part of giving rise to motivation is the recognition that all beings want the same thing. As a meditation practitioner who teaches basic meditation and healing to patients, health practitioners and the general community, I always emphasize the importance of understanding that all beings are united by our natural fears and desires. We all want to be happy and likewise, we all experience suffering. It’s the truth of our existence. The goal for healing and growth is to liberate ourselves from our hopes and fears, to cut through our attachments and aversions, to give rise to greater love and compassion. This in turn can generate authentic motivation to benefit ourselves and others. Though it may seem contradictory, it is this sense of detachment from our “superficial” circumstances in life, which can bring about a greater sense of presence and awareness of a much deeper, more profound state of being. Then, of course, if we can heal ourselves, it inspires us to share it with others, like a bucket that is filled with water. So that’s part of giving rise to authentic motivation, and this comes from the heart.
The Role of Liver, Heart and Kidneys
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver, heart and kidneys represent some of the key organ systems which are directly related to our motivation to benefit others and ourselves. The liver is the organ which is most easily congested, accumulating toxins (including difficult emotions) and other metabolic byproducts and excesses. When we can open up the liver, through acupuncture, homeopathic injections, herbs, mind-body practices, etc., we can begin to experience freedom from our own afflictive physical, mental and emotional issues. After the liver, we get to the kidneys, which are directly connected to the heart, and which relate to will power, discipline, perseverance and our understanding of time. Kidneys govern ordinary discipline, which is effort that burns out the adrenals. But the kidneys also govern something called “timeless discipline” that arises out of the understanding of the impermanent, ever-changing quality of everything. When we detoxify and strengthen our kidneys with acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, mind-body practices and other modalities, we can begin to experience true timelessness. This experience of timelessness, where anything and everything is possible, is when we can become real healers. With strong kidneys and a strong kidney-heart connection, our aspiration to heal ourselves and others can manifest effortlessly. There is indeed a complete connection between the heart where we give rise to the genuine motivation to benefit ourselves and others, and the kidneys where we generate discipline and the understanding of the timelessness of everything. It’s a very deep place – one where authentic motivation originates from an energetic standpoint. By strengthening these organ connections, we can empower ourselves with stronger motivation, will power and perseverance to achieve our goals of health and wellness for ourselves and those around us.
In my clinic, I am constantly inspired and deeply heartened by the courage, strength and conviction of patients with life threatening conditions to heal and transform from their illnesses. It’s true that the crisis of a frightening diagnosis can be a motivating factor to make changes in life for the better. But there is a deeper motivation which happens when people fighting an illness can find healing even in the absence of a ‘cure.’ They prove that “illness is not a failure.” In other words, their health condition may be worsening, but they have uncovered a deeper meaning to life, a more profound awareness, a deeper love and compassion for themselves and others, and in this way have come to experience a much greater quality of life for themselves and those around them. The motivation to heal with a heart-centered approach, to follow a spiritual path of unconditional love and compassion, is for many patients what gives rise to their innate healing capacities.
In this way, simple meditation practices can offer profound benefits in uncovering the deeper insights, motivation and inherent healing capacities within us. As such, I invite those who are interested to participate in one of my four day Meditation and Healing Retreats, designed to offer instruction on deepening your meditation practice and enhancing the mind-body connections.
By following our healing paths with authentic motivation– regardless of the issue — we have the potential to benefit ourselves and others in the greatest possible way. Because true healing, regardless of the health program, is about uncovering greater love and compassion, thereby allowing our innate healing capacities to arise and flourish. In this way, we overflow our cups with unconditional love, gratitude and compassion for all beings, and effortlessly offer this healing energy to ourselves and everyone around us. And that’s something to be truly grateful for.
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