A Clean Bill of Health
In a world where we spend the majority of our money paying our bills and a significant amount of time organizing our finances, we somehow manage to find ourselves with a clean bill of health. Strangely though, it is believed by many that the United States provides some of the best healthcare in the world even though we soar past everyone in terms of healthcare expenditure. It is also believed that we Americans are some of the unhealthiest people in the world even though we are a nation of immigrants which means that it is not one group of people who are the unhealthiest, it is the lifestyle of every person who lives here.
The phrase "a clean bill of health" is usually provided to someone who is recovering from an illness or injury and is finally able to function on their own without assistance or any apparent risks to his or her well-being. It is a phrase that has been adapted to fit every aspect of our society. Vehicles are given clean bills of health. Buildings are given clean bills of health. Even technology is given a clean bill of health. And, of course, humans are as well.
This process of routine inspection is often done by an outside professional, e.g. primary care physician, who is skilled in searching for potential problem areas that could place an entire system at risk. Essentially, they are on a mission to find what is wrong. But has anyone been hired to search for what is right or functioning well? Why is it that we don't spend time highlighting these parts and, as a result, take them for granted?
Think about it. What phrases do you most often hear in a workplace? Do any of these sound familiar?
"There's a crisis at work."
"I have too much on my plate right now."
"What issues [problems] should we focus on?"
"Come up with a resolution by the end of the week."
"We've been fighting with this for a long time now."
And then there is the frightening word "deadline", which connotates something different altogether.
A "clean bill of health" is more than the erasure of harmful elements from one's physiology. It is a realization of one's individual responsibility to his or her state of being.
It is very easy to see a system that is functioning well and put it aside until it reaches a state of dysfunction. By doing so, we can then put on our perfectionist glasses and work towards adding to this well-functioning system by diagnosing, and ultimately correcting, what is imperfect. Over the course of time, humans have successfully created a culture of fix-it mentalities. We are trained to look for problems, and we are just as determined to solve them. This approach has formed the idea that a "clean bill of health" is dependent upon the absence of negative influences and little to no risk to well-being.
So whose responsibility is it to determine and maintain this "clean bill of health"? Well, of course it is up to us all individually. So then, what if we started looking at our own "bills of health" from a different perspective? What would happen if we highlighted the accomplishments of our health and focused on enhancing them on a routine basis that would effectively remind us of the positive changes constantly occurring in our lives? Might this eventually reverse the negativity programmed into the standard approach to care; the constant need to fix things?
A "clean bill of health" is more than the erasure of harmful elements from one's physiology. It is a realization of one's individual responsibility to his or her state of being. It is a bill that needs neither paid no passed. It simply requires your attention one day at a time to remind you how to thrive rather than just survive.
A Whole Note in the Key of Life
A whole note is, according to the almighty Google, "a note having the time value of two half notes or four quarter notes, represented by a ring with no stem. It is the longest note now in common use."
For those of you who don't know me that well, I have a strong music background. I've played numerous instruments, written music, and practically made it my life by deciding to go to college and play piano professionally. During that last one though, my life took a sharp turn in a different direction, and to this day, I wonder what my life would have been like had I continued on that musical journey. Would I have become a professional musician? Would I have become a famous artist? Would I have become a music and song-writer like I had once dreamed of at a young age? Frequently, I ponder this alternate universe that I chose to leave behind nearly 20 years ago.
This does not mean though that my fingers don't hunger for the smooth glide across the steel strings of a guitar or yearn to fly up and down the ivory steps of a piano in an emotionally-driven whirlwind. I could not survive without immersing myself in the freeing experiences that music has blessed me with. It is an escape from all sense of time. Perhaps, even, it might be why I enjoy using my fingers to type this very blog; because my fingers yearn to dance again on the musical instruments they befriended many years ago.
Music has always been the easiest metaphor for understanding my life.
Regardless of where I once was though, I understand my life is here and now. My life is just as magnificent as it could have ever been had I continued my journey with music two decades ago. I firmly believe that. Just as I have always believed that life will guide you through your choices and will leave breadcrumbs along the way to remind you of where you came from. My life in music has defined who I am as an individual. Every person has experienced the joys of music at one time or another. For music is an opportunity to step beyond the boundaries of a confined lifestyle and live freely once again, even if it's only for the length of a short song playing through your headphones.
I find it interesting that the whole note is partially defined as "the longest note now in common use". It seems synonymous with life itself. Our lives are meant to be whole, just as this particular note is meant to be whole. It is the longest note in common use just as life should be lived as a continuous process following the rhythm of everything that has come before it. And the whole note is what leads and flows into the rhythm of the entire piece after it.
A whole life does just the same. It is complete; it is filled; it is never-ending; it is whole. The rhythm of your life is set by all of the experiences that come from the moment you are created. The rhythm you set in your life will also determine the rhythm that is set for the lives that follow yours. So your life is meant to be played like one glorious song. One WHOLE glorious song, to be exact.
Music has always been the easiest metaphor for understanding my life. Anytime I struggle or meet a new challenge, music frees me. It empties my mind by stirring my emotions and preventing them from stagnating inside of me ultimately leading me away from pain and towards movement, towards freedom, towards wholeness. A whole note to some may simply be the addition to all the other notes and viewed as a part of music that can be broken down into parts or counted as a sum of a particular number of beats. To me though, a whole note is not just a black empty circle hanging randomly from a line on a funny looking sheet of paper. It is an extended moment filled with a magnificent story driven by emotion, driven by the past that carries onward for as long as one chooses. This whole note becomes a whole vibration once the hammers strike the metal strings within signaling a whole resonance that invades and heals every space of your whole body. The only question left is, are you living whole enough to hear it?
Long Life vs. A Good Life
For centuries, wars have plagued our world and wreaked havoc on its economies pushing them to the brink of collapse and forcing societies and cultures to transform in order to meet the needs of the struggling people. Ways of life have morphed into forms that no longer resemble living. The concept of "being" has been overshadowed by the practice of "doing". We are never not on the move. We are chasing life, running from death, rushing to the next thing, or running from the last thing. We constantly live in the past or in the future. Then, before we know it, we have ticked our last tock. Long life or not, our time has run out.
With the passing of each moment, we no longer live in the past. The point of time where we rushed out of bed to rush and make our morning coffee to rush to work to rush home, all the while rushing to retirement and running away from death as fast as humanly possible, we are always on the move. Never stopping...always going. Never being...always doing. Life is meant to be lived and this requires action. But when one moment has passed and another is yet to come, should you fight to run from or towards either of them? Should you let your history define your present? Or should you let your history guide you to your present?
We, and all of existence, are born to live in the "now"; to live in the present. When your day at work has finished and it's time to go home, that day of work no longer exists. It is time for you to go home; to the home where you live physically, to the home where you live mentally, and to the home where you live spiritually.
A long life is by no means symbolic of a good life. Ancient texts that preserve the secret methods of longevity may have been testing the limits of time to see how far they could push them. We will never know their true purpose of this quest, nor what they were afraid of, if anything, that led them to desire the need for longevity. So I can only question their potential desire by asking, what's the point? Why focus on the need to live a lengthened number of days? Why not focus on the most effective ways to live a "good life", a happy life, and a life that exists in the present and nowhere else?
Making the choice to live a "good life" is to make a choice to ignore all distractions in your life; eliminate all stressors in your life; erase all dissatisfaction from your life; and ultimately, dismiss all sense of time in your life. Choose "now", and nothing else exists. Not even time, a concept created by humans. The fact that we only get one life to live should be enough reason for us all to make the right choice: the choice to live a "good life" versus a "long life". Enjoy the moment you are in now and I guarantee you that you will forget all about your desire for a long life.
That, my friend, is a "good life". And it will win every single time.
The Pursuit of Excellence
Yesterday evening I hosted our monthly Ask The Expert live interview with Jamie Gallagher, founder of Origin Fitness Fairfax and CrossFit Burke. (Listen to the Live Interview Here) At the end of a great interview, I asked him one final question, the same question I close every interview with each month:
"What gets you out of bed every morning?"
His response? "The pursuit of excellence." Knowing Jamie for some time now, I couldn't agree more with him that this is truly what he looks for each day. But what exactly is the pursuit of excellence? What actually does excellence mean? To answer this question, first ask yourself the same question I asked Jamie during his interview: "What gets you out of bed every morning?" More specifically, what is your purpose in life you are so passionate about that drives you to get up everyday and live every moment to its fullest?
The pursuit of excellence is ALWAYS exhilarating!
Excellence is built upon the standards you set for yourself because they are the blueprint of your life. If your accomplishments in life do not match your overall blueprint, then how could you possibly achieve excellence? From this blueprint, this innate schematic leading you towards fulfillment, you are driven to use your body in a certain way. You mind is flooded with only certain kinds of thoughts. Your spiritual beliefs tie them all together with what you see as your higher purpose in life. Without these connections, we are just an empty, lifeless shell following the robotic actions of what we were taught that society "needs" from us.
By allowing yourself to not just move against the current, but step out of the water altogether, you allow a transition towards personal freedom. From this moment onward, you understand the power of choice. For in every moment lies a new choice in life; one that can create opportunities no matter what lies before you. Be it negativity, pessimism, or doubt, you know that you can step away from that current and walk in the direction of excellence every single time. Your ability to hold the light as you walk to the end of the tunnel rather that walk towards the light that someone else is holding sets you apart from every other human being. However, the light you hold is actually a light shining from within you that is now so strong it has begun to illuminate outward and requires no holding at all. It is a self-generated luminescence that comes from your heart, your soul, and your newfound ability to unlock your personal potential.
I want to warn you though. This is not something I read in an inspiring book or heard on some podcast similar to mine. This is real and this is powerful. How do I know? Because, through experience, this is my life every single day. This is also Jamie's life every single day. Now, do we both stumble? Do we both have our days full of doubts and find ourselves questioning our purpose in life? Darn right we do! But do we ever veer away from the direction we believe to be "right"? Never. No matter the obstacle that appears before us, even if it's in our minds, we look forward to the challenge. Some might even say that I love the game more than the result myself. I might agree with this. That is because the pursuit of excellence is ALWAYS exhilarating!
The power of choice determines your understanding of your own potential and your own ability to empower yourself. This is not to be confused with destiny either. Your destiny points you in a certain direction, but it is your daily choice to get up an start your day with a specific mindset; a day that stems from a desire to pursue something. And the goal of this pursuit should be nothing less than the pursuit of excellence. THIS is personal power. THIS is inspiration. THIS is a life of fulfillment. I challenge you from this moment forward to join Jamie and me together in this pursuit; a pursuit of excellence.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.