Why does political change or a downturn in the economy cause us stress? How can we protect ourselves from being negatively affected by these changing times? As a physician who has witnessed the impact of cultural events on the health of my patients, I have frequently asked these questions and would like to share the insights I have gained over the years.
In our society, we identify our well-being with the amount of money we have. Money is equated to abundance. We assign a high value to it. It is our reward for hard work and we have made it a goal that defines our success. When a society is defined by money, it becomes a core value that drives society’s behavior. The fear of scarcity becomes a symptom of this value. In order to compensate for scarcity, people shop to collect material goods. It gives them the illusion of ‘abundance’. Shopping becomes their medicine. This creates more stress. When people feel financially restricted, they shop for discounts. They support large corporations at the cost of small businesses. In an effort to save money by eating cheap, processed food, they support the food industry at the cost of local farmers. These foods add to illness. This pattern has perpetuated stress at all levels in our society and the world at large. Large corporations engage in unsustainable practices to manufacture large scale goods that they sell. Labor is outsourced as it is less expensive overseas. The purpose of this is to generate more profit. This furthers economic stress by transferring jobs away from our country. By allowing our scarcity consciousness to motivate our spending choices, we become a part of this problem rather than the solution. We need to support practices that foster our health, the health of our economy and the environment. This awareness is the first step in our recovery. It may seem small,l but can have a significant impact on the whole. We must reevaluate our definitions of abundance and scarcity and view them from a larger context. We must bring consciousness to our spending choices. We must support practices that are in alignment with wholeness.
We have assigned a greater value to money than to qualities of the Feminine Principle such as connection, collaboration and sustainability. This has decreased our value of process and increased our value of product. Many people in our society do not want to know the true cost of how products are made and what practices are utilized to produce them. We need to become mindful of the planetary and humanistic costs of what our money supports. Unless we have the courage and maturity to reframe our context to a larger one, we will not be able to heal the symptoms that are making our country sick. Many respond by stating that they do not have the financial resources to make choices from this context. I personally understand this dilemma. When I was challenged with financial stress in my forties, I considered this as an opportunity to reevaluate and reframe my priorities. I challenged my scarcity consciousness to prevent it from directing my choices. I quickly realized that choices from scarcity would be choices based in fear, not abundance. They would not be in alignment with my personal integrity. During this time, I was also faced with financial uncertainties that challenge primary care in our country today. I was unwilling to compromise my values due to fear of scarcity. I chose to decrease the amount of value I assigned to money. I reframed my context of abundance to include living more deeply- from a place of meaning. I simplified my life and reprioritized my spending. This was an opportunity for me to reframe my relationship with money so that my contributions made a difference for all. I chose organic living as a financial priority. I was unwilling to compromise health or meaning due to financial restrictions. I recommitted myself to this as a core value. I did not allow scarcity to define me.
Meaning is the most important quality that impacts all levels of well-being. Lack of meaning is bad for our health and the addition of meaning restores health. As an employee of corporate medicine, I was expected to compromise meaning for profit. My values were in contrast to the values of corporate medicine. I realized that money could not fulfill my need for meaning. I left corporate medicine in my late thirties to create The Ommani Center. I risked all of my material possessions to create a health care system that was aligned with the vocation of medicine. This restored the sense of meaning in my work. As a business owner, I was unwilling to compromise my values for profit. Incorporating the Feminine Principle into my life became a core value. I redefined the business model of medicine as one that was self-supporting and meaningful at all levels. I redefined ‘profit’ as the health that my patients reclaimed and the savings that they gained through healing their medical conditions. Furthermore, when my patients lived organically, their risk of illness declined. They supported the local economy. I viewed this as profitable for all. This felt aligned with the principles of my vocation. I replaced scarcity with abundance in my personal and professional life and became a part of the solution in my community. As I served my core values, my practice grew. This helped my business become self-supporting. My definition of ‘profit’ benefitted all and restored meaning to my work.
The current definition of profit in our society is self-serving. Health care cannot be practiced ethically from it. This is a conflict of interest with the mission of health care. Our current system must regard profit as that which benefits the whole, not simply as monetary gain through symptom management and sick care. For the current health care system, health is a conflict of interest for its business model and both physicians and patients are unfulfilled as a result. Working from this definition lacks meaning for all.
At this time in our history, we are being asked to redefine what we value and need to place a greater value on meaning over money. It requires us to simplify our lives and assign more value to elements of the Feminine Principle. This context can heal our scarcity-driven society and restore our feeling of abundance. It can heal our current lack of meaning and restore our health. From this context, we are also protected from the stress of the economy. We become part of the solution as we commit ourselves to our health and well-being at all levels. We become role models for others.
This is an area that people sacrifice when money gets tight. There is a direct correlation between economic stress and self-neglect. Self-care is the most important investment we can make during times of stress. It is critical for sustaining our health and resilience. Self-neglect causes us stress. Most people medicate their stress by drinking, shopping, eating or taking prescription drugs. These behaviors lead to illness. Material goods do not fulfill our needs. In addition, they create more stress. They do not hold true value. Living from choices that are healthy and sustainable is a form of self-care. Choosing personal growth is a powerful act of self-care. This requires a shift in our conditioned mindset of what we value. We need to raise our collective consciousness to make self-care a core value. When we live in this way, we begin to heal. In addition, our self-worth is restored. Self-care empowers us. It is good medicine for stressful times.
4. Choosing Organic
Those of us that view health as a core value shop locally and live organically. This supports both our bodies and our planet. We must NOT compromise organic food and products for chemically produced ones as the latter continue to harm our environment and our personal health. Personal and planetary are interconnected. How organic food is grown is healthy for the earth and our bodies. In addition, the goods we use on our bodies or in our homes contribute to health or illness. Chemicals make us sick. The increasing incidence of chemical sensitivities in our country is startling. Most of our illnesses are correlated to the food we eat and the products we use. We need to purify the environment we live in.
A plant-based diet dramatically decreases disease rates. This act alone can also save enormous resources like oil and water that are required to produce meat. This drain is harming our ecosystem and our health. Numerous studies have shown that a plant-based diet is the best medicine for acute and chronic diseases. Food IS our medicine. We need to be active participants in our healing process. We have the ability to heal the personal and planetary by making conscious choices that can restore our environment. We must invest in eating and living organically.
Asking these important questions and living out the answers by making conscious choices that support personal and planetary health will increase our resilience. This will protect us from the damage that stress can have on our bodies and minds. If we choose to live simply and sustainably we become part of the solution. We need to decrease the value we have assigned to money and materialism and reassign it to meaning and health. We need to leave the earth better than we found it. We need to be the change we want to see. We must consider this our sacred task.
©Aug2016 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director of The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. Dr. Kumar is accepting new patients; call our office to schedule at 262.695.5311. www.ommanicenter.com Author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife. 2011, 2014 Medial Press