Health, Balance and Harmony
May 29, 1984
Reprinted from Rudra, Summer 1984, published by Nityananda Institute
Question: Health is a hard term to define. It means different things to different people. For example, if you have a cold, you haven't necessarily lost your health; likewise, if you are handicapped, you haven't necessarily lost your health. Yet there are people who look perfectly healthy, but they experience sickness - lack of health. How do you define health?
Swami Chetanananda: Health is a state of equilibrium between, within, and among the three principal levels of manifestation of human life. It is a balanced interchange, an equilibrium of forces within the body, the mind and emotions, and the spirit of a human being.
The basic understanding of the ancient spiritual teachers, which has been constant and is with us still today, is that one essential power in the whole universe underlies all experience. It is dynamic conscious energy. This dynamic conscious energy manifests itself as the energy of the body and the mind, and in India is called the Atman, or the Self.
People tend to think that the body is the cause of consciousness. They wonder what will happen to their consciousness when they die. But it is the other way around that is the truth: Consciousness condenses or coalesces to form the processes that congeal as the human body and the power of the mind and senses. Health is the equilibrium within and among the various levels of this ultimate creative life process.
Health is not the same for any two individuals. And it does not have the same meaning for any one individual at different points in time. Because health is a dynamic equilibrium, it continuously changes; there is a shifting balance among the various levels of existence. That balance is health.
Question: Is health an attitude?
Swami Chetanananda: Attitude is not the right word to use. Health is an awareness. If this one dynamic consciousness manifests itself in and as the three levels of expression, then attitude refers to something in the mind. Awareness is different. This awareness is a natural awareness. It permeates the human experience. This awareness is called health. We can say we have a healthy attitude or an unhealthy attitude, but this attitude is really a reflection of the balance that exists within a particular level.
A balanced mind and balanced emotions can be called healthy (the imbalance can be called unhealthy). A balanced mental state allows a person to deal with any problem and keep it in its proper perspective. An imbalanced mental state means that a person reacts to small things in a very big way and blows everything out of proportion.
Question: The founder of cranial osteopathy, Dr. Stills, discovered a very powerful technique for healing people. He called the power he connected to Dad. Dr. Becker, the late pre-eminent cranial osteopath, called that power the Boss. What made Dr. Becker able to treat people successfully?
Swami Chetanananda: Dr. Becker tuned into that simple, essential conscious power inside himself and became the vehicle through which the absolute healing instrument within a person manifests and expresses itself. Then the ultimate healing resource within a person expressed itself and brought a new state of dynamic balance to the body, the mind and emotions, and the spirit. Dr. Becker's method was a technique or an understanding that was from spirit to spirit. Rather than dealing with various expressions of imbalance, or what doctors call symptoms, he went right to the source-where the ultimate healing took place.
Dr. Becker's whole life and the lives of his teachers were dedicated to thinking deeply and researching the power of life: What is the power of the senses and movement within a human being, and what is the human spirit? What is the spirit's relationship to the mind and the physiology of a human being? Through their deep insights they developed the capacity to understand and utilize the resources of the individual to maximize that state of balance or health within the people they treated.
The best physician in the world is inside your own body. The ultimate physician is within. We continuously sustain and heal ourselves over and over and over again-our whole lives. A doctor doesn't heal us. As a matter of fact, few doctors have any understanding of the human spirit and its relationship to the mind, emotions, and human physiology.
Question: There is a growing concept that belief in the doctor is critical in the process of overcoming illness. How important is belief in the doctor?
Swami Chetanananda: In a way belief has nothing to do with healing. We don't care who believes what. Healing concerns what we might call openness or receptivity on the part of the individual. If we cooperate with what Dr. Becker calls the Boss, and with what his teacher called Dad, if we cooperate with the inner physician, if there is that attunement between the inner physician, the mind and the emotions, and the physical body, healing takes place. When there is a lack of cooperation, healing does not take place.
Dr. Herbert Benson calls this cooperation belief. People believe in their car (that it will drive), or believe in their house (that it will keep the rain off and the warmth in) because they have experienced it. Because I've experienced the power of the absolute healing capacity of the inner physician, I believe.
Question: Must cooperation always be on the conscious level?
Swami Chetanananda: It doesn't have to be a conscious cooperation.
Question: When Dr. Becker treated people, many times they weren't even aware of what was happening.
Swami Chetanananda: A person's presence in that room, on that table, expressed at least a superficial level of cooperation and a tacit acceptance, an implicit expression of a willingness to cooperate. That is all it takes. A person just has to be there.
Question: Why are so many great spiritual teachers attributed with healing the sick?
Swami Chetanananda: By definition a great spiritual teacher is someone who is established in the awareness of the Source of all life--the creator and the sustainer of life, the divine artist and physician. And so when you come into the presence of a great spiritual teacher you enter into a field of balance and harmony, a field of energy that is harmoniously manifesting the presence of and the awareness of the Divine. So healing takes place. It is not that the teacher does it, it just happens. When you encounter that divine healer within, the healing power is activated and simply manifests itself in a natural way.
Meditation is like the healing process. The practice of meditation is an explicit and implicit attempt to cooperate. Meditation is touted, practiced and taught in hospitals under all different kinds of names. It is an expression of our interest in cooperating with that ultimate source of our lives, and simply by that practice alone we experience many health benefits-benefits to the mind, to the emotions, and to the body.
Question: Would you describe pain as being out of balance?
Swami Chetanananda: Pain is being out of balance. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. As we've already said, there is a dynamic shifting balance point within and among the body, the mind and emotions, and the spirit. There is a shifting and continuous reaching for a new balance. It is an evolutionary force with a new balance continually being reached for, a new balance within the individual in relationship to himself and to his environment. Because it is a dynamic situation, there are times when pain takes place simply as an expression of our natural tendency toward equilibrium. It is when people become stuck in the pain, when they become attached to it or get in the middle of it, that they impede the natural process of balance and harmony that is trying to establish itself.
Question: When people talk about stress, they sometimes talk about it as a kind of pain...
Swami Chetanananda: Stress is a kind of pain. Stress is a subtle pain, the subtle pain that manifests as a result of this dynamic process of attaining balance and harmony. Stress is not a bad thing until one's whole system is totally out of balance. Then the stress plays an increasing role in the breakdown of the individual's system. Stress in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, stress is positive. Stress is one of the essential sources of information that we have about ourselves and life. It is only when we resist the stress, when in our mind and emotions we are so rigid and stiff that we are unable to be open to or informed by the stresses we experience, that we set ourselves up for so many mental and physical health problems.
Question: People in this country spend many billions of dollars every year in health care. If death is unavoidable, to what degree should we be concerned about health care?
Swami Chetanananda: The health business is big business--maybe bigger than the automobile, steel, or real estate businesses. Business is business. Americans have been conditioned to buy lots of health care products. I think everyone would agree that they spend too much money on health care. We hear a lot about unnecessary surgery, simply for the sake of the cash flow of the surgeons and hospitals. In recent years we've heard of people promoting mega-doses of vitamins, and then even more recently the other side of the coin, that huge amounts of vitamins can be very dangerous. So people spend too much money on health care products and they are too concerned about the superficial manifestations of health. Yet, they have no knowledge or awareness of the deeper and simpler approach to health. People want the easy way out, they don't want to work, they'd rather have surgery or take a pill. They don't want to make too much effort.
It is necessary to pay attention to health. That balance of all the various elements of our being, in harmony, expresses itself as enlightenment. Health is important, but not too important, because the fact of the matter is that this body is going to break down. And the elements of the body, which constitute the various colors and moods and subtle chemistry that form one's personality, are also going to dissolve.
Paying attention to your health is like paying attention to the maintenance of your automobile: you pay attention to the good working order of your car, but the car is not the goal of the trip. It is not the place you are going, it is the vehicle for getting there.
If a person doesn't know where he is going, and if he doesn't have a sense of how to get there, it doesn't matter whether he has a good car or not. The car is not the place to live from. People who live out of their cars are thought to be low-class people. Likewise, people who live only with the awareness of the body are low-class. The high-class person has the awareness of where he is going, has the map to get there, and knows something about why he is going to that place anyway. Similarly, health of the body is important. It is the vehicle that helps us get to a deeper understanding of the nature of life.
Question: What would you suggest to somebody as the best way of having good health or a balanced system?
Swami Chetanananda: The first thing about health is that a person should have a good, reasonable diet. There are different body types, different metabolism rates. A person should have an understanding of what works for him or her. The same thing does not work for everyone, so people should investigate what is the best diet for them - and they should try to maintain that diet. Second, a person should get enough exercise; that is important. And third, people should really explore the awareness and understanding of that balance within and among the three levels of their being and take steps to bring themselves into balance - and to stay there. Balance is not complicated. It is profoundly simple, but there is so little knowledge of it in our culture, it seems difficult to get.
Question: There has been a lot of research on how meditation can reduce stress and hyper-tension, help your immune system, and raise your temperature, etc. There has been a lot of scientific research that shows, for example, that one can bring his body temperature from well below normal to normal within minutes, and one can lower one's blood pressure from the danger level to normal in just a few minutes. But so far there has been no documentation of meditation being able to transcend the body's known limits. How far do you think meditation can go in transcending the body?
Swami Chetanananda: A loooong way. A long way. But you have to understand that when you can go that long way, then what do you care about the body anyway? The people who can do it don't care about it. Eventually so many will practice meditation and develop so remarkably that there will naturally be the documentation. But for the last few thousand years, not so many people have been interested, so it doesn't happen.
But it is amazing how science has changed our lives and become pervasive. And as our understanding of ourselves and our knowledge about the universe unfolds, more and more people are practicing meditation and having a simpler and more profound understanding of health. The more we know about ourselves, the more meditation makes perfect sense. This is what they are talking about at all the hospitals in Boston and in the medical colleges and the universities there. The more we know about ourselves, the more meditation makes sense. And the more this understanding pervades the whole society, the more meditation plays a significant role in everyone's life. And so, in time, everything will be known.