Updated: Aug 19, 2022
When we become sick - when a physical malady plagues us - we commonly curse the physical body, and we search for a solution in the form of a substance, or perhaps a therapy that is going to “fix” the problem; like a mechanic fixing a broken axle in a car.
The materialism of medicine
This is the “materialism” of medicine; that the human body can be distilled down to its physical components. In other words, human experience can always be explained through physiological processes, chemical messengers, hormones, neurotransmitters, cellular scaffolding, organelles, ions, vitamins and amino acids, absorption, decay, autophagy, etc. This is typically the perspective we have regarding how our body works, and health and medicine fit into this way of thinking very easily.
And it is true that the physical body does operate much like a machine, in many ways.
However, the ways in which the body DOES NOT operate like a machine are the most interesting, and often the most significant. Significant because they are often overlooked or misunderstood as having direct connection to the physical maladies that plague us.
That’s right - there are other things that are connected to the symptoms you experience in your body. Factors that are not physical.
One of the difficulties in understanding these non physical factors arises when we assume that whenever the body is ill, or in pain, that it is the machine that is malfunctioning, and in need of physical repair (that it’s always a physical cause which led to the failure, or symptom).
We’ve assumed throughout the years that the body, our physical body is the measure of our health.
When we think of health we assume it has to do with our physical body. We have all sorts of markers to determine if we are “healthy.” Cardiovascular markers, lipid markers, blood sugar, blood pressure, respiratory rate, lung capacity, heart rate variability, pulse oximetry, iron levels, and hormone levels, just to name a few.
All of these numbers seem very important to us. And if all the numbers check out, then we’re “healthy.”
Except there are many people who’s numbers “check out” who aren’t healthy.
They are in pain, they have horrible digestion, they have daily headaches, or severe depression, anxiety, or insomnia.
These people are suffering, but because their numbers “check out,” they are told they are “fine.” And when a doctor tells you “you’re fine,” that is the same as telling you that you “should be healthy.”
The body as MORE than a machine
It begs the question, “could there be more to health than what is physical?”
There IS more to our health than our physical body.
The physical body is exactly ¼ of the totality of our personal life experience. And in many ways it is merely an antenna for the other three ways in which we experience the world.
The three other ways in which we all experience the world include:
Emotionally - Those pesky feelings we sometimes wish you didn’t have are directly related to your health. In fact, we all have an “emotional body,” that can be balanced, and healthy, as well as sick and dysfunctional.
This emotional body interacts with the physical body as well. When you “feel” unhappy, irritable, angry, depressed, or stressed you might notice a tightening of your shoulders, perhaps your pain will increase or your digestion will become dysfunctional. Likewise, when you are feeling intense pain and discomfort, your emotional body will be impacted and you might feel lethargic, depressed, confused, overwhelmed or scared.
Mentally - You are constantly thinking, you have thoughts and opinions and ideas about what you see, what you hear, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. These thoughts in a very real way shape the way you relate to your world, and other people in it. These thoughts are also a major part of how you relate to yourself.
Just like the emotional body, the mental body interacts and influences the physical body as well. In fact, the thoughts you have about yourself, your mental attitude and your internal voice can drastically affect the state of your physical health.
Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate the relationship between your thoughts and your physical health is by pointing out that it is always your thoughts that dictate your ability to be kind to yourself, and take care of your physical health by eating properly, exercising, doing things to lower your stress levels, and other things that promote health in your life. If you have thoughts that those things are unimportant, undesirable, or impossible for you, it is unlikely you will incorporate these things into your life.
Spiritually - Our existential experience plays a major role in how we relate to the world, relate to ourselves, and relate to our health. This is not a question of religion. Your spiritual body is where you find your purpose, your inspiration for life, your connection with a world that is bigger than you, and the potential that you have to create beauty, happiness and joy for yourself in your life.
Feelings of guilt, shame and judgement are common symptoms of a spiritual body that is out of balance; as well as simply feeling “disconnected.” Generally, the spiritual body’s major role is to connect you to your true purpose, keep you honest to your own Self, and keep you enriched through a connection to the Great Mystery of Life.
Things that nourish the spiritual body are laughter, service to others, and surrendering control over things which cannot be controlled.
These other three elements (bodies) of our health interact in an incredibly intimate and dynamic way with other aspects of our lives which both inform and change our experiences in major ways. They interact with things like our family dynamics, our communities, our cultural experiences, and our business atmosphere. Our past traumas, and major life mistakes also impact all of this as well.
All of these experiences, along with the interactions they have with our thoughts, emotions and spiritual connectedness, all influence our physical sense of self, and influence things in our body like our pain, our digestion, or hormones, our energy.