In many parts of the world, the balance between the mind and body allows a person to live a healthy life despite challenges like chronic pain.
For example, I participated in contact sports like football, basketball, karate and kick boxing, jumped off roofs and fallen off rigs, trucks and trailers when I worked in the farms in Kern County. I was told by my doctor that my arthritic pains were due to the repeated pounding my body took while jogging on pavement streets. Of course when I started this regimen in the mid-1970’s after reading the book The Joy of Running by Jim Fixx, above all things, to maintain good health. Aside from a bout with gout, which might I add was the most painful moment of my life, my body and limbs held up pretty well. When I approached 50—years-old, the early morning stiffness I tolerated for the past 10 years transitioned: I felt aches, burns and pain in the joints. It wasn't an immediate onset, more like gradual, targeting my right instep, ankles, knees, lower back and right shoulder, worse on cold wet days, non-existent on warm mornings: What a mess, sometimes not able to move an inch because of the swelling and pain.
As a martial artist since 1972, I was fortunate enough to learn qigong and tai chi when I trained in the Bay Area and San Francisco Chinatown. It took me three years to learn and about a month to forget when I decided to resume karate, kickboxing and long distance running. Little did I realize that 30 years later, I’d resume the Chinese ancient exercises due to the pain. Who knew that when I was taking punishment in a football field weighing 126 lbs. that I’d be shuffling like an old man when I turned 50.
A child from the Woodstock Generation, I learned that synthetic substances weren’t good for the body. Even medical Marijuana was better (to some of you all “way better”) than some of the stuff we got at a pharmacy. I took the NSAIDs, aspirin, and acetaminophen only when the pain was too much to bear. As I researched Traditional Chinese Medicine, I learned that illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, arthritis, and heart conditions were caused if not exacerbated by blockages in our meridians. These are cavities in our body where chi or our life’s forces or energy flows throughout our body. By opening up these blockages through energy cultivation exercises like tai chi and qigong, illnesses, at least the symptoms of these illnesses would be relieved (some claim to be cured – and that would be a topic in a future blog).
So fortunate I was to be trained in these techniques; the help of several books and the Internet, I was able to relearn the ancient movements that contributed to my being able to move about nearly pain free.
Due to a Medicare program that will be non-existent in the not so distant future, I resolved to work till I die with absolutely no plans of retiring and have to be healthy and strong enough to live many more years.
My dad as a farm laborer worked till he died; ergo, like father, like son.
As a former Bruce Lee look alike (well, I thought I did) turned cripple struggling to live in pain, I learned that once you’ve reached the PAIN STAGE, aside from taking strong pain medication and/or surgery, alternatives existed that could help. Come on, part of growing old is suffering some pain. We can’t go through life complaining about it. We have the ability and wherewithal to find ways of dealing with it and getting on with our lives, which I’m sure you have some pretty good living to do. So with that said, I learned that the basics like diet, exercise, rest and stress relief were key factors in living healthy if not healthier. Different types of low impact exercises (yoga, Pilates, ball room dancing, diet, life style changes, homeopathic and herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage, mental and spiritual reflection, guided imagery – all are available, relatively inexpensive, and there to help.
My future articles will address some of these subjects.
Now this is from an old Baby Boomer Sensei whose only qualification is his years on this planet. I am not a doctor, spiritual leader, nor any other expert (well, I'm old and I think I’m pretty darn good at it): I am however a karate sensei and martial artist whose picked up some neat mind body balance ideas that could be useful. Just like the following statement by one of my idols:
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” - Bruce Lee