In this tradition of medicine, the physical and emotional body are not separate. You know this, have your own experiences; the nervous stomach, the stress induced migraine. We know the intensity in our country, world and lives shows up in our bodies, our hearts, our sleep, our eating and exercise, our physical pain and distress, our skills communicating and collaborating together. And I feel a lot of gratitude that in my work with patients I have the honor to witness, support and care for the WHOLE. Nothing is left out.
I was away from clinic a couple weeks in October; a tender time in southern Belgium and northern France grieving the death of a non-bloodmother. I returned 10 days before the election. With some critical voting outcomes leaning into Thanksgiving, the uptick of holiday emotional stress, Mercury doings its backward step, well it’s all been pretty intense. For the first time in months, I recently made it to the mountains, one of my favorite classrooms as evidenced by past Lessons from the Mountains.Large expanses of earth and sky always breathe clarity and peace into my heart-mind. My writing today explores, with a loose mountain framework, how we can consider and create healthier human community in the midst of our complicated and troubled world.
When scaling a boulder field, be aware of the people around you. You can loosen rocks that will fall on another’s head. During our second annual backpack in September (Clara Lake), I shared poignant time with my nephew and niece, now 8 and 10. At one point, my nephew wanted to scale higher on a boulder field than my niece was inclined. So we bounded up us two. I cautioned him that we can easily loosen rocks that will harm the bodies of others, particularly those down the mountain. It can be healthier, safer for all, to climb side by side rather than sprinting to the top without regard for those below. How we are positioned in this world influences how we impact others. How might this look in interactions with those around you; in your work place, your family, your community, your daily interactions? How could it look to be attentive to how you’re climbing?
Share food.One of my hiking buddies and I love sharing food on our hikes; home dried figs or other treats, carrots, trail mix and sweet tea. When I lived in Nepal (in a long past life chapter) I was always awed at how customary it was to divide and share even the tiniest piece of rare or gifted food. I found it always tasted better, even a single mouthful, when shared. There is more sensitivity around inequities this time of year and people are often moved to act and share resources generously. How differently our city and communities would function if we always shared nourishment with those in our world, if it was customary to share even the most precious delights every day. How could it look for you to share nourishment and resources with those in your immediate world?
Communicate clearly, directly.Particularly in dangerous terrain or circumstances, communication is important. Clear, direct language is imperative, sometimes to keep everyone alive. My father was raised in the same Tacoma zip code in which he still lives. My mother is Australian, moved to Tacoma in 1967. And I spent half the years between 18 and 26 on the east coast, the other half out of this country. I have been told my communication style is atypical for this region.
Seattle is notorious for passive – aggressive, indirect patterns of communication, particularly when the group is predominantly white. But it’s not just Seattle. There are similar patterns in the South, the mid-West. It doesn’t make sense to me. How can I expect someone to understand what I’m saying if I’m not actually saying it? I find it simpler, to the best of my ability and awareness, to communicate with clarity and directness, rooted in kindness and respect.I find this, this whole big mess of human communication, A LOT easier when I tune in to what’s happening in my own body, heart, mind (there’s the whole again). That requires that I pause, a practice most know I find pretty valuable for all aspects of health. Humility and curiosity serve me well in the whole endeavor.
Passive-aggressive or unclear speech is dangerous in the mountains, can land one dead. In day to day life, it wrecks havoc on workplace interactions, family, organizational, and individual health. I’ve found clear, direct communication, rooted in kindness, fosters domestic harmony, parenting ease, work place collaboration, organizational thriving, and while we’re here, world wide peace. If everyone reading this newsletter chose to communicate more directly and clearly, rooted in kindness and respect, and also broadcast this idea through social media, it could go viral. Let’s transform the city and the world.
Today is the winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. From tomorrow, we slowly crawl our way back into the light; one day, one successfully passed humane progressive initiative, one newly elected representative (actually representative of this country), one human conversation and gesture of sanity and respect at a time. East Asian medicine has no market corner on seeing clearly the relationship between emotional and physical health. We all know that what’s happening in our world has a direct impact on our bodies, our health, our lives. So here’s an explicit invitation to pause and reflect. Better yet share dialogue (open, honest, kind, respectful) with others about these ideas in your own life. Bring authenticity to the holiday dinner discussion. Together, we can all live into the light of human and humane possibilities starting today.
These year end reflections offered up with humility and profound abiding care for your health and well being.