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Andrew Weil Hints At Link Between Health and Holiness

Eric Nelson's picture

Health and Holiness

The disappointment on the woman’s face was unmistakable.

After explaining in some detail how her efforts to abide by a strictly raw food diet had failed to have any real impact on her health, the response she received from the evening’s keynote speaker was anything but encouraging.

“I’m sorry to say this,” replied renowned health expert, Dr. Andrew Weil, to a packed auditorium at San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency hotel, “but a raw food diet is not something I would recommend as a way to improve your health.”

Of course, he had plenty of other things to recommend – everything from fewer prescription drugs to brisk walks to increased fish oil. But it was Weil’s almost too-brief mention of what we can and should be ingesting mentally that provided the audience with the most practical advice of all.

“On the mental level, I think there are a whole lot of interventions that we can do that are very useful,” he said. “[For instance,] there is a significant body of scientific research on the power of gratitude that boosts emotional well-being…. There is also a great body of literature on the power of forgiveness.”

What Weil didn’t mention – although he is undoubtedly aware – is that there is plenty of evidence to suggest a similar connection with our physical well-being.

For some, such moral pursuits may seem like a quaint if not extraneous addition to a strategy geared more toward an immediate physical need. But the advice given by a health expert with an impressive track record and from a much earlier time turns this notion on its head.

“Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’” said Jesus a good two thousand years before anyone had even heard of things like antioxidants or Omega-3 fatty acids. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Hardly a green-light for having Twinkies and Coke at every meal, these instructions lay out a clear and concise plan for mustering both the inspiration and the ability to “live righteously” and, in so doing, enjoying better health.

As far as we know, Jesus never made any specific recommendations in terms of diet – no mention of vegan this or vegetarian that; high protein, low carb or Mediterranean. He does make it clear, however, as to where any game plan needs to begin.

That said, getting religion and “seek[ing] the kingdom of God” may not appeal to everyone. But somewhere within the thought that wants to get a second opinion when confronted with disheartening diagnoses, there must be a willingness to see things from a different, if not divine, perspective. Jesus was simply suggesting that’s where to start.

If such a course of action leads to a grateful mentality, more forgiving, we have every reason to expect to see both emotional and physical improvement – even if all we ate for lunch was raw food.

Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.

Comments

LB's picture

No one can serve two masters

I especially appreciate what you shared in your last paragraph, Eric. Gratitude, forgiveness and the practice of love extended to others (as more than a feeling) can all have a very healing effect on our emotional, spiritual and physical health. Even if we’re not cured in the traditional sense, the act of spiritual surrender can help us to bear whatever burden we’re carrying by lightening our load and increasing our capacity to empathize.

When Jesus tells his followers not to be anxious about what they will eat or drink or wear, I think what he was really addressing was a fear-based mindset that precludes a concern for God or others and instead is preoccupied with its own wellbeing and self-interest. Jesus also reminds us just a few verses earlier how, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."

My take-away is not that there's no value in making wise nutritional choices or in our taking good care of our bodies, but that we're to first concern ourselves with God's message of love, compassion, justice and an active concern for the wellbeing of others. Because Jesus was both Divine and human, I think he understood how fragile we all are and how easily our faith (and love) could be corrupted by worry and fear. We can become so focused on staying healthy, keeping safe, having enough food, water, power, money, popularity, whatever – we lose sight of the bigger message. It isn’t that God doesn’t care about our bodies, it’s that he cares for more than just our bodies.

Eric Nelson's picture

Well said!

Well said, LB. I couldn't agree more.

Mariel 's picture

Interesting thought

I love this. I always out God up there in my mind when I make decisions in my daily life. I don't talk about it much because I don't really know how to write about my outlook on the Devine applied to simple living without imposing to someone that without a higher power, your screwed. I really enjoyed how you mention good health is linked to belief in something greater than us- God without saying it's what we should do. Thank you for sharing this. It's a wonderful reminder for me that even with the best of the best I do for my health, it doesn't beat looking above for guidance in the end.

Eric Nelson's picture

Thanks!

Thanks for your comment, Mariel. Yes... it can be hard sometimes incorporating our concept of God within a conversation about health. That said, I do think there's a way to say "this is what works for me" without implying "this is what will work for you" or "this is what YOU should be doing."

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