In the previous article, Covid 19: Learning from experience, I said that one of the things that we are experiencing during the pandemic is our human fragility. Prior to the pandemic, the most technologically advanced countries felt powerful. Spectacular technological advances had made us forget about human fragility and limitations. Japan, host of the 2020 Olympics, had prepared an extensive technological structure with many operations and services performed by robots. All it took was a microscopic virus to alter all these projects and demonstrate that a virus has more power than all the technology and centuries of accumulated knowledge. Human beings suddenly found themselves defenceless and unable to cope with the virus, having to run to hide like someone who is unarmed and persecuted.
Yes, let’s accept it once and for all: we humans, men and women, are fragile and vulnerable beings.
We therefore have the responsibility and obligation to take care of ourselves. Taking care of our life is our first responsibility, since life is a gift which has been given to us as a potential that we must develop. Each person is responsible for the life within them and the talents granted to them. Taking care of ourselves is therefore not selfish; it is an exercise in responsibility.
In addition to being individuals, we are also social beings, and part of our planet. We must therefore also be willing to take care of others according to their need and our ability, without forgetting to respect and care for the planet.
In any case, it must be clear that our priority is to take care of our health and ourselves, since this will enable us to also take care of others and the environment in a coherent, effective and disinterested way. “Nobody gives what they do not have”. If we don’t take care of ourselves, if we do not have peace and well-being, but are dominated by grudges, envy or other forms of physical and/or psychological discomfort, under the guise of caring, we run the risk of projecting our inner discomfort, and/or fostering altruism that hides the expectation of receiving a reward.
How should we take care of ourselves?
Taking care of ourselves does not mean indulging in everything and giving ourselves every pleasure. Desires and cravings don’t always benefit our health. Desires can be caused by internal conflicts. They can be compensatory mechanisms for avoiding the difficulty and pain that accompanies processes of addressing conflicts that were generated and established in the past, and/or that we have received as energetic inheritance. Taking care of ourselves is not always easy and pleasant. It can sometimes involve doing things that we do not like, even things that can cause pain. In order to take proper care of ourselves, we must learn to combine both receptive and attentive listening to our own body and emotions, and also to inform ourselves of the needs of our body and other aspects or levels of our whole person. This is a very generalised consensus that underlines some aspects, all of them important, for enjoying good health:
- Balanced diet: The body needs a healthy, varied and balanced diet. We must avoid fanaticism, but it is very important to take care of the diet. If possible, we should prioritize vegetables, preferably raw, and fruit. It’s best not to consume too many carbohydrates, starch or red meat. Whenever possible, we should prioritize products that are organic, not genetically modified, and free of pesticides and toxic additives. It’s also interesting to note that when we really want something and eat it with pleasure it is usually good for us, and vice versa. If we eat a supposedly healthy food reluctantly, it may not do us good.
- Physical exercise: The organism is a dynamic system and it needs movement. As with food, our relationship to exercise can also become fanatical and this is never healthy. The continued and exaggerated effort of elite athletes is competitively useful for breaking records, but it is not healthy. Healthy exercise develops good muscle tone and takes into account both effort and relaxation. Let us remember that life is a cyclical movement between activity and rest. This is how the heart’s rhythm works, which marks cardiac coherence. This is also how the respiratory and the muscular systems work. When we speak of physical exercise we speak of both activity and rest. The most recommended simple practices that follow this cyclical movement of activity and rest are walking, swimming, cycling, holistic dance, and others.
- Deep practices for physical, emotional and mental hygiene: Human beings are not just the body. We are a system, a team which includes the body, emotions and mind. We must therefore take care of all these aspects if we are to enjoy a good holistic health. The body often contains dysfunctional patterns which have been inherited or established due to experiences which occur early in life (such as during conception, gestation, childbirth), and beyond. The emotional world can also contain conflict and lack from the past, and the mind often develops operating structures which were useful in the past, but which have lost their validity in the present. These are often insufficient for appropriate and healthy management of the vital and emotional world. Conflicts of the different levels are obstacles that hinder, interfere with, or impede the flow of energy, and consequentially the holistic health of the human being. When energy does not flow, disturbances occur. These can manifest on the somatic, emotional and/or mental level, and can also interfere with social relationships and healthy cooperation with the environment in general.
Caring for others
Human beings are individual and social beings, and also part of the planet and cosmos. This means that we cannot ignore others or our environment. To consolidate our self-care we need a nurturing social framework where we can share and exchange the knowledge we draw from our own personal experience. This exchange provides us with new knowledge that contributes to expanding and enriching our vision of life and human reality. This exchange can occur at any level, including the material. Human beings are destined to be both independent and dependent. We must work to become adults, autonomous in our basic needs. However, as social beings, we also need the support and recognition of others and have the mission of offering support to others and cooperating in their process of autonomy. It is better to help people by teaching them to fish rather than feeding them, as this supports their autonomy. This does not mean that we cannot give timely material and financial support to someone who is experiencing difficulty, but it would not be an adequate way of helping if the financial support is perpetuated without any kind of exchange, since this could foster dependence and/or a feeling of debt on the part of the person being offered support, resulting in an inconsistency between giving and receiving.
The experience we are living shows our enormous human fragility and invites us to take more responsibility for our own health, and to cooperate with the health of others and of the environment in general.
Taking responsibility for our own human fragility involves learning to take care of all our aspects. We are a system made up of different aspects or levels, and are active participants in our society and planet. Our health depends on the proper functioning of the whole. Caring for ourselves therefore means caring for the body, emotions, and mind, and having a nucleus of reciprocally nurturing social relationships. We must also develop a humble mind that is open to a transcendence which frees it from taking excessive responsibility which can be beyond its capacities. Health care must always take into account the social and planetary dimension of our existence. When we talk about holistic health, we refer to the health of the entire system: individual, society, planetary.
If we take holistic care of ourselves, we will contribute to strengthening our immune system. This is extraordinarily important, since the immune system is our defender that protects us from elements that may alter our individual health. And if we are healthy, we will radiate light, peace, love and well-being in our environment.
Ramon V. Albareda
Theologian, Psychologist and Sexologist
Creator and consultant of ESTEL, Centre for Personal Growth and
School of Integral Studies
Co-creator of the Holistic Transformation approach
and one of its applications, Holistic Sexuality