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Impact of Life Experience
Part Two of the article, A Journey to Enlightened Healthcare, continues with the story of how my early life experiences resonated with the journey of Brother Promise and his inspired DWEP program
The intertwining of supposed separate worlds
Brother Promise is a fellow writer on Substack, where I discovered his work and connected with him. Our seemingly two separate worlds surprisingly resonate and intertwine with each other in many ways. As teenagers, we both had significant health challenges. Brother Promise sought better answers and was inspired to study, find help, and support in his search. He discovered mindfulness meditation through the teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh[i] and eventually became ordained as a monk in the tradition of Zen Buddhism. He now lives in a monastery and internationally known retreat center in southwestern France called Plum Village, where he continues his learning, teaching, and developing his holistic health program to help others.
A terrifying health challenge
My journey to the interests and advocacy for holistic health[ii] programs started at a young age. Undoubtedly, the unhealthy ways of my youthful years and cultural influences impacted my developing body and mind and contributed to vulnerability and health risks. I was infected with polio when I was a young teenager.[iii] It was traumatic, but I was brought back to health after months in a children's hospital, which at the time had an integration of traditional treatments and alternative therapies such as warm water and PT therapy as developed by Sister Kenny.[iv] The frightening encounter with polio, which caused many to die or become paralyzed, along with other severe illnesses of family members, inspired me to seek answers and better healthcare ways. Eventually, my search for better alternatives led to my interest in medicine and my studies in a prominent medical school. The reality was that medical school wasn't a very healthy but stressful environment, with little attention to students' health and well-being. The training and struggles to succeed were difficult, especially with what I now know, that I had to work around some dyslexia and autism spectrum traits common in my family.
I experienced significant anxiety and panic attacks during my training years. I thought my duress was just part of the training necessary to achieve my goals. That I was successful in meeting the requirements, talented and intelligent enough to pass, made me feel that this was acceptable, a trial by fire, to be successful in our culture.
In a bookstore, books about Eastern culture, especially yoga, attracted me. I bought a yoga book with instructions and began practicing the best I could. After graduating from medical school, I felt there was more to learn and a better way for healthcare and personal practice. I was able to study more yoga and some meditation and mindfulness Buddhist practices.
But the big enlightenment came when I attended a 10-day silent retreat for intensive study and practice. After a couple of days in the beautiful mountain setting and emersion in a wonderfully supportive and nurturing world of fellow participants and teachers, I experienced what true mental health and well-being were and felt like. I broke through the narrow reality that I had, that how I was living and taking care of myself was normal for a striving person in our culture, and that I was succeeding reinforced that my lifestyle and ideas that my way of doing things was best I could do, and all that was available.[v]
At the retreat, I felt a glow of health, relaxation, and peace in the flow of daily moment-to-moment experience, with a feeling of contentment. I didn't miss that insatiable striving for more or fear-based worry and thinking about the future. The retreat had a plant-based diet, daily routines of invigorating exercise, often in a natural setting, mindfulness and meditation practices, and participation in sharing and working with our participants in the care of the grounds, our living quarters, and the kitchen helping with food preparation.
The realization came that proper mental, physical, and spiritual health was getting beyond our learned ideas and beliefs and being open to the deeper reality of what contributed to health and well-being. There was now a beacon of light showing the way toward a holistic form of living for health and well-being.
Over the years, many of the influences for my teaching and career work have come from many of the elements and practices found in Brother Promise's Daily Wellness Empowerment Program (DWEP). The simple structure of his program for daily use, teaching aids, videos, and the daily practice sheet make it an effective program for many to get started on some primary practice to move towards the reality of better health and well-being, significantly where traditional recourse or medications-based treatment have fallen short or have been ineffective.
Tip and Points to Ponder:
As noted in the prior part one of these articles, A Journey to enlightened healthcare, I hope that more people will consider pursuing and trying out healthy alternatives to their present lifestyle, especially if there has been ill health or concern about not feeling their best in times of increasing demands and emotional distress. Brother Promise's Daily Wellness Empowerment Program (DWEP), presented in Part One, is free, with practices and lifestyle changes designed together in a concise, coordinated daily wellness program. Such beneficial programs can work well as a standalone but also would fit in with other more traditional healthcare you might be doing. Feel empowered to search and try wise and potentially healthy options when something seems lacking in your personal health and well-being program. Of course, listen to the advice of your primary healthcare provider for illnesses for which you are under their care. Still, it is quite alright to seek other opinions from trusted and experienced teachers, healthcare providers, and professional resources.
Suppose you have an interest in beginning a health and well-being program. In that case, it doesn't have to be in some type of intensive total emersion or retreat experience or commitment to a costly layer or complex program. Still, it may start with taking a simple step forward, attending a class, a lecture, or a simple workshop with a respected, experienced, recommended teacher or healthcare provider. Some, like me, began with reading and self-study and participating in health-enhancing activities with friends. So, whatever is your best starting point, commit and start as soon as the opportunity arises. If stuck and getting deeper into a problematic place, as with ill health or dysfunction, reach out to experience and professional resources for help and recommendations.
"is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, revered around the world for his pioneering teachings on mindfulness, global ethics, and peace. Ordained as a monk aged 16 in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh soon envisioned a kind of engaged Buddhism that could respond directly to the needs of society. He was a prominent teacher and social activist in his home country before finding himself exiled for calling for peace. In the West, he played a key role in introducing mindfulness and created mindful communities (sanghas) around the world. His teachings have impacted politicians, business leaders, activists, teachers, and countless others. Thich Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, including classics like The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace is Every Step. Through his simple yet profound teachings, mindfulness has reached a mainstream audience. With the energy of mindfulness, any action in our daily life—including walking, eating, brushing our teeth, or doing the dishes—can become joyful, relaxed, and meaningful. It’s a revolutionary approach that brings peace, clarity, and insight." https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh
[ii]. What is Holistic Health? Below is a quote from https://www.wcsu.edu/ihhs/what-is-holistic-health/
"Holistic health is an approach to life that considers multidimensional aspects of wellness. It encourages individuals to recognize the whole person: physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual. The individual is an active participant in their health decisions and healing processes, including wellness-oriented lifestyle choices. Holistic approaches to health are derived from ancient healing traditions that help to achieve higher levels of wellness and prevent disease. These approaches include the use of traditional medical systems, mind-body-spirit interventions, manipulative and body-based approaches, biological-based therapies, and energy therapies. Most of these approaches are used in combination with each other and with conventional medicine to provide a holistic and integrated approach to health. These traditional holistic approaches focus on the use of food, herbs, supplements, teas, homeopathic remedies, and essential oils as “medicine.” Movement, dancing, singing or chanting, sound and vibration, drumming, prayer, meditation, mindfulness, and touch are examples of activities that are included in holistic approaches. Holistic approaches include but are not limited to acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, massage therapy, chiropractic physicians, manual therapy, naturopathic physicians, meditation, guided imagery, yoga, therapeutic touch, reiki, and other energy therapies, and ayurveda. On campus, the interest and enthusiasm for this inclusive and multidimensional approach to health and wellness have resulted in the development of a concentration in Holistic and Integrative health within the Health Promotion Studies major at WCSU." https://www.wcsu.edu/ihhs/what-is-holistic-health/
[iv]. Sister Kenny Institute revolutionized the treatment of polio patients: https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2012/11/sister-kenny-institute-revolutionized-treatment-polio-patients/
[v]. Ron Parks, MD article in Mind Wise: Yoga and Eastern Influence on Holistic Healthcare https://www.inmindwise.com/p/yoga-eastern-influence-on-holistic-healthcare