Health and the Holidays

Thanksgiving, my favorite Holiday, has passed, again
threatened by consumerism, anxious to get started sooner and earlier in the
“spirit of Christmas.” But, the true spirit of Christmas, charity, is best
expressed by a thankful heart, a sure sign of strength and understanding of our
relationships with our fellowman. Understanding how each of us fits in our
society also brings forgetting and forgiveness, or what Christians call
repentance. Charity, gratitude, forgiveness will help us endure and mitigate
the harshness of illusionary independence; these attributes contribute mightily
to spiritual and, hence, physical health.
One of the most striking aspects of my practice is
helping patients change the lifestyles that have caused their health problems.
But, more important, and difficult, is to help them forgive themselves when
they falter and return to those toxic habits. I remind them of Atlas, the
weakling wrestler, son of Gaia, Mother Earth. Defeated often, he whined to his
mother who promised him he would henceforth get up stronger each time he fell
and hit the ground–herself. Sure enough, with each defeat Atlas got stronger
and grew into the mighty Atlas we know today.

I also bring up the Parable of the Prodigal Son. After
spending his inheritance in riotous living, he returns to his father, who,
grateful to have regained his lost son, sacrifices the fatted calf to the
chagrin of his eldest who has faithfully remained at his side. Among the
obvious lessons is the oft-misunderstood principle that there is more strength
in one who stray and returns, than in one who never falters through sheer
discipline. The latter may follow the letter of the law only, as evidenced by
his lack of rejoicing that his lost brother has returned. The faithful brother may
even secretly envy the “pleasures” his lost brother enjoyed while idly spending
his inheritance. He may even lack kindness, compassion, and the ability to
forgive, central tenants of a true and faithful son and brother.
The prodigal son, upon being forgiven, will he not be
more humble? Will he not be more capable of understanding, giving and forgiving
himself? By having known failure we are exposed to the key to happiness, or a
courageous life: an understanding of letting go and being guided by divinity, accepting
whatever comes our way: “thy will be done.” Then, we will no longer wish for
anything, but an understanding of life’s Middle Way, suffering willingly and
patiently, both good and evil. Then, we will endure and thank all those in our
lives who help us learn these lessons.

Merry
Christmas to you all.

  1. Anonymous Reply

    Beautiful. Thank you!

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