True confession: I once had a cyst on my foot. My ex-husband said I could cure it with some herbal medicine he was using and gave me an assortment of pills. I was hopeful. Trusting and open. My heart was at peace. I was willing to put aside all my cynical beliefs and I prayed that the cyst would shrink to the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
Unfortunately, I ended up on a serious dose of antibiotics and a scar the size of a New York City cockroach. So I’m not going to convert to Christian Science, although I have a good friend who has been a healthy Christian Scientist for years.
Still, I believe that living our best chapter means making sure that all coordinates of our life – body, mind, heart, soul – are playing the same tune in the same symphony. That’s why I was curious to talk to Dr. Isaac Eliaz, who has been researching the connections between our spiritual, emotional and mental health — and our physical health.
Diana: What made you start your personal journey toward wellness? I know that sometimes people have to hit their rock bottom before they embark on their best chapter. Was there a personal crisis or revelation that triggered your journey?
Dr. Eliaz: My personal journey was not driven by a crisis. I actually started my interest at a very young age by raising bees. At the age of twelve, I was the youngest registered beekeeper in Israel. By watching the bees and seeing how they interacted, I developed a greater sensitivity to the connection and the relationship between nature and its inhabitants.
At the age of fifteen, I spent a year and a half in Korea where my father was an Agriculture Engineer. I learned Tai Kwon Do and afterwards, I learned yoga and meditation, and that is where my interest started. Although I was not a Buddhist, we spent many weekends visiting Buddhist temples and I think this had a subconscious effect on me.
I soon began practicing yoga very intensely, and became a yoga instructor while beginning medical school. I learned shiatsu, and also organized and took part in the first course for Chinese Medicine at the medical school I attended. So it was really an inner calling.
Diana: I look for practical suggestions that people can use to live their best chapter. (Each week I have a blog post, Tool for Tuesday.) What would you say are the 3 most important things people can do for themselves each day?
Dr. Eliaz: The one practice that can address many things is mindfulness. Mindfulness means being mindful or being aware of what is good for us from the point of view of taking care of our physical body, our mental health, our psychological health, and our spiritual health. So really the word “mindfulness” does not mean a certain kind of meditation—it means being aware of the tools that we have and reminding ourselves to use them. The three most important tools are:
1. Exercise and Movement – There is no better medicine than walking. If we can walk every day for 45 minutes, it has a profound effect on our well-being.
2. Stress Management – Use meditation, relaxation, music, art, humor – whatever healthy methods you can use to get stress levels down.
3. Hydration and Nutrition – I mention hydration first because most people are chronically dehydrated…like an engine running without oil.
Diana: Should people who are very busy still try to squeeze in 10 minutes of meditation a day? And if so, how could that help them live the best chapter of their lives?
Dr. Eliaz: The idea behind meditation – even for 10 minutes – is that it allows us to slow down, watch our breath, connect with our feelings, and connect with our body. Slowly, within the peacefulness, we start to develop a space between our thoughts and our experiences, which becomes a window into our soul and into our being.
Usually it’s not so useful to do mail-order meditation teachings – it is best to get meditation instruction in person, as there are transmission and inspiration qualities to an in-person instruction.
Diana: Could you please just share with us just one meditation technique? Pretty please?
Dr. Eliaz: You can follow your breath, repeat a certain mantra, or just look at a certain object. For example, focus your eyes on a pebble, and you focus your breath on the pebble by visualizing that you’re exhaling to the pebble and inhaling from the pebble. Focus your concentration on the pebble. Keep your spine and your back straight, and your eyes relaxed. By just focusing, slowly distractions fall away and you will feel an effect after ten to fifteen minutes, with profound health benefits.
Thank you, Dr. Eliaz!
Readers, I’m going to make a committment — just for today — to try the pebble meditation. If I can’t last for 10 whole minutes, I’ll go for five.
I usually try to write out my stress. I just write and write. What about you? Why don’t you share what you do for meditation and mindfulness and any other stress-reducing techniques you use?