We humans can be undeniably hard on ourselves, but do we ever think to ask why? In America, we are supposed to look a certain way, act a certain way, drive a certain car and live in a certain house. These are all unconscious agreements we have made, otherwise, why would we care? Why would we feel compelled to strive for anything that has nothing to do with who we really are at our core? We have been trained to fear social ostracism from a very early age. Good girls don’t act that way. Boys don’t cry. Don’t be mad. Toughen up. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Just do it.
We consume these thoughts when we are hungry for attention and acceptance just as we would inhale any food placed before us after being starved for days. We digest the words and images, take them into our brain matter and cell structures. Children are naturally open and impressionable. As these incoming thought programs began to conflict with our true nature, that energy was compressed to make room for the antagonizing new information. Why do we do this? To please our parents. To pacify our partners. To get love. This is what psychoanalyst and biophysics researcher Wilhelm Reich referred to as the body armor theory. The idea is that we create a muscular armor to inhibit our vital life force energy.
Armoring is the condition that results when energy is bound by muscular contraction and does not flow through the body...the sum total of typical character attitudes, which an individual develops as a blocking against their emotional excitations, resulting in rigidity in the body, and lack of emotional contact. ~Reich (1939)
When we do not live up to the rules of our parents and society, we run the risk of being the odd wo/man out. The black sheep. The outcast. As little kids, we did not consider any of this. We didn’t question who we were or needed to be, we unknowingly lived in our truth day in day out. We did not look at age, race, weight or social status as a means to judge people or to make ourselves feel more significant. This was learned. Constructed. Our parents meant well, but they were just carrying on the tradition of cultural brainwashing that was put upon them. To begin to remove the mental weight we have gained from the years of consuming junk thoughts, we have to begin a conscious inquiry asking; What programs are we really running our lives on? It takes some serious mental detox to override this, but it can be done. It starts the day we decide to take the good and leave the rest.
Social rules and judgments can be born out of many cultural forces. What they all have in common is that they prey on fear as a means to control, to get us to behave in a certain way. Fashion advertisers want us to feel insecure so we will buy their clothing brands to feel better and have faux status. Economic and governmental systems tell us we have to accept the present day laws and theories because that is how it's always been done. With anything, we can begin to ask ourselves; Is this the language of fear or the language of love? You will know this by tuning into your body. When you ask yourself the question, does your body become tight, rigid, tense, closed up? Or, does it feel open, warm and relaxed? This helps separate out the noise and access the truth within.
When sussing out whether a thought is based on love or fear, ask yourself (while paying attention to your body): Does this thought resonate with my heart or does it feel off? Is this thought kind or cruel? Is this thought transparent or murky? Could there be other truths to this thought besides one? Is this thought open or rigid? Is this thought generous or stingy? Is this thought emotionally honest or a reactionary facade? Is this thought balanced or unfair? Is this thought courageous or cowardly? Is this thought truly mine, or does it come from somewhere else? Does this thought encourage love or fear?
So, what do we do now? The core tenet of functional medicine is to find and treat the root cause of disease. Similarly, we must remove the emotional triggers of fear. If we start feeling tense or afraid every time the TV news is on, stop watching it. If we feel bad about ourselves every time we hang out with that one friend, don't spend time with that person any more, or at the very least, limit it. You feed on what you expose yourself to whether you consciously choose to or not. Gradually detoxifying your outer world will also cleanse your inner world. You will start to feel lighter, clearer and mentally and physically free.
Toxic thoughts about food have also been programmed into us. Corporate food companies spend billions of dollars every year to serve us up enticing messages about processed food and beverages that are 100% nutritionally worthless. On the other side, there is a growing movement to discredit the junk food mafia, but these messages can also be overwhelming. We are then confronted with chicken or the egg conundrum: What is more harmful? Eating junk food, or stressing out constantly about eating junk food?
A sizable body of research exists regarding the stress response and its intimate relationship with disease. Equally disturbing, large amounts of scientific literature also points the finger at trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other processed food ingredients as the catalysts for the many ill health effects of modern society. If you engage with both of these behaviors on a regular basis, according to science, you have earned your double punch ticket to ride the chronic disease train. Here’s my take: We are homeostatic beings, and our natural body/mind intelligence is always seeking balance. We need to stop viewing our minds, bodies and consciousness as separate entities. Everything inside of us and outside of us is all connected.
Take for example a farmer who is out every day in the sun, being physically active, and immersed in the dirt and nature. If junk food is such a smoking gun, how could this man eat a sugar sandwich every day and still avoid major disease? Well, he did. This was one of my ancestors. Is it also possible for a vegetarian health nut that exercises every day to suddenly die of a heart attack in her 50’s? Yes, we have all heard of a similar story. It’s not just about the food. Clearly. Not only are we beginning to understand the inherent medicinal effects of simply being in nature; the microbial superstars that are gifted to us from dirt, trees and natural air, as well as the immune-enhancing benefits of sun exposure and physical exertion; but, we are also learning that how we interact with our environment on an energetic-emotional level can either promote or inhibit disease.
As a student of nutrition and medical herbalism, I have always been fascinated by the concept of synergy. Recently, one of my professors gave the example of pyrethrin, a natural insect repellent, which is a chemical isolated from the chrysanthemum plant used to produce commercial insecticide. She explained that the singular chemical works for a time until the insects adapt. The ironic twist here is that there are phytochemical components in other species of plants, often used in companion planting for biodynamic farming practices, that naturally synergize with pyrethrin to enhance its effect. Rotenone, found in various plant life, such as the jicama vine, interferes with an insect’s ability to breakdown pyrethrin. Meaning, the plant community works as a team to actualize the insecticidal effect. This is but one example of the highly organized synergy found in the relationships of plant life, and all life for that matter. A person, like a plant, is much more than the sum of its parts.
Further, unlike conventional insecticides which are based on a single active ingredient, plant derived insecticides comprise botanical blends of chemical compounds which act concertedly on both behavourial and physiological processes. Thus there is very little chance of pests developing resistance to such substances.(Ghosh)
Eventually the insecticide chemists figured this out and created the powerful synthetic adjuvant piperonil butoxide, which did mimic the effect, but is at the same time, is highly toxic to living matter with implications in cancer and neurological impairment. It is also the practice of biomedical science to isolate chemicals to produce pharmaceuticals for effect. Modern science is driven by an isolate model with the goal to pinpoint, target and kill. Herbalism is founded on the principle of biochemical synergy. Sure, many modern drugs “work” for a time, but at what cost? I could offer the example of antibiotics and the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Much like the pyrethrin example, the bugs are smarter than our myopic one-track brains.
Shall we bring this full circle, and recognize the patterns overlying synergy in nature and our thought models that drive society? A model of synergy accepts the whole, works together, cooperates, harmonizes, binds and unbinds effortlessly, flows in and out, finds balance. Would you agree that this sounds like love? Synergy speaks the language of love. What about the latter? An isolation model controls, antagonizes, shuts down, turns off, kills. Perhaps the language of fear? This is why I study functional medicine. I believe there is a more optimal way. A whole systems theory way. While I do think that some synthetic drugs become useful tools once disease states have reached a critical point, my goal is to help people to never get to that point. So should be the goal of every physician who took the Hippocratic oath. First, do no harm. Do you also see how an isolation model translates to other cultural expressions of fear? Lots of connections.
The following is a quote from Wilhelm Reich expanding on his theory of orgonomic functionalism and culture, which resonates well with the principles of herbalism and the other nature-led concepts discussed here:
Since within the intellectual framework of mechanistic-mystical character structure, life itself has been misunderstood, abused, feared and often persecuted, it is evident that orgonomic functionalism is outside the social realm of mechanistic civilization. Wherever it finds itself inside this realm, it must step out of it in order to function. And “functioning,” means nothing but investigating, understanding and protecting life as a force of nature. At its inception, orgone biophysics possessed the insight that the functioning of living matter is simple, that the essence of life is the vital functioning itself. And that it has no transcendental “purpose” or “meaning”. The search for purposeful meaning of life stems from the armoring of the human organism, which blots out the living function and replaces it with rigid formulas of life. Unarmored life does not look for meaning or purpose in its existence, for the simple reason that it functions spontaneously, meaningfully and purposefully. ~Reich
I think what Reich is getting at is that the search for purpose is actually another way to control life based on fear. If we were to simply let ourselves be, take off the social masks and embody our true nature, unarmored, our vital life force would flow freely. In that sense, how we experience life becomes a paradox. Rather than seeking meaning externally, we naturally shape meaning in our lives by allowing what's already inside to come out, to express itself out into the world and to synergize with other essences.
This past Sunday, my son and I hiked one of the local hills. He was asking the questions that 6-year-old boys ask like, why are pinecones sticky? It evolved into a discussion on the microcosm of life and how it all eventually becomes an expression of matter. I have to hand it to this little man, he was curious and monk present as I rambled off about my obsessions. Things like; how we are made up of the same basic stuff as everything else in the natural world. How we may look different, but if we had the world’s most powerful microscope, we would see that at our smallest bits we are all the same. We are one. Holobiant. And as you zoom out, we would see various intelligent systems working in harmony to produce something that is called a “whole”-what we see as a person or animal is just a bunch of communities of living beings re-creating themselves every day.
How will you create yourself today?
The perfect man lives without any purpose; a perfect man moves, but without any motive. If you ask a perfect man, "What are you doing?", he will say, "I don't know, but this is what is happening." If you ask me why I am talking to you, I will say "Ask the flower why the flower is flowering." This is happening, this is not manipulated...when there is purpose, you will always be in misery. ~Osho
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