Abundant health! Optimum wellness! Today, these terms get tossed around incessantly. But what do they actually mean? We all have such different definitions of wellness, distinct ideas of how to create it and of how it manifests in us and in others. Yet, I believe we fundamentally agree on the feeling that wellness evokes, the sense of profound systemic fluency that arises in its wake, a feel good, vibrant, wonderfully delicious experience.
My simple definition of wellness is the harmony of body, mind, and spirit in conjunction with the characteristics of a literal well. In other words, wellness embodies a well’s receptivity and collectivity, where we become our own reservoirs of physical exuberance, emotional stability, and energetic awareness. This, and I am not denying it, is a tall order. So where do we begin?
Many of us start with the physical body. Indeed great zealousness and intensity of effort are palpable when it comes to the collective push towards physical wellness. In response to this, there are growing numbers of brilliant integrative doctors, nutritionists, and health pioneers who offer incredible wisdom on living optimally well in body. No doubt, given that the body is our most immediate place of worship, it is of great import.
Interestingly, the Indian sage Krishnamacharya felt that wellness, or what his son T.K.V. Desikachar calls self-harmony, begins with the physical body and mind, but extends beyond a feeling of wellbeing, and is in essence a matter of one’s relationship to the divine. In further describing his father’s belief, Desikachar writes, “It is this relationship that brings us to wholeness.” The subtler side of wellness is when our innate divinity is illumined as an out-flowering of a sound body and a steady mind. Wellness then ultimately means to live in rhythm with the sacred.
In truth, I’ve been a life-long wellness seeker. My journey has stemmed from my physical vulnerabilities as an allergic baby, through my childhood of emotional upheaval, and into my adolescence riddled by self-destructive relationships, drugs, and body struggles. I have also had a desperate, scary brush with my body completely falling apart as an adult. The root spiritual practices of Zen Buddhism and Iyengar yoga, that I began in my late teens, are still the practices that blessedly enable profound wellness today, no matter how uncooperative my belly, my skin, or my erratic mind.
Of course we all aspire to live in wellness in perpetuity, and we can. However, this is not because our bodies and minds stay in supreme health at all times, but instead because our stance is such that we are aligned with wellness (or wholeness) in our hearts. We believe in the spirit, the holiness of wellness. This dynamic dance of body, mind, and the divine continues whether we are center stage or in the wings. The gist is simply to show up for the lively dance.