Feed the body, nourish the mind, nurture the Spirit:
By Danielle Perrault, Founder, Director, World Institute of Natural Nutrition
To be optimally healthy we must take a holistic view of our health. In truth, we can feed ourselves with great care and spend a large chunk of income on nutritional supplements, without any substantial result. This statement may come as a surprise to those who know me, since I have spent the greater part of my life advocating good nutrition. As I get older and hopefully wiser, however, I have come to recognize the futility of having a vigorous physique when the mind and spirit are lagging behind.
Does that mean that good nutrition is not important? No. Because, you see, in order to be or become optimally healthy, we must first make sure that our bodies are not slowing us down in our reach towards greater mental health and self-realization of spirit. There are plenty of examples demonstrating that illness of body makes it very difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to achieve a high degree of peace of mind. Therein lies a truth. An agitated mind will affect the body negatively.
Let’s take a look at our nutritional needs first. It goes without saying that the quality of the food we eat is crucial. It is difficult at times to determine the quality of our food, since we are bombarded from all sides by advertisements telling us that this food is healthier for us than another, or that we need to eat this to stay slim, or that to develop muscles, etc. Just watch TV and you will be told your menu for the week. There is, however, a very simple rule to follow in regards to nutrition. My first few students devised a tag line to help them remember: NAG – Natural, Alive, Good Quality. Natural, meaning as close to Nature as possible; Alive, meaning unprocessed by machines or human hands; and Good Quality meaning organic as much as possible. There, I have made your next market day much easier, and much more pleasant because you will sense the wisdom of this rule. Much more can be said and learned of course on the subject of nutrition. That’s why we at WINN (World Institute of Natural Nutrition) have created a fabulous program of studies that you can peruse on our website at winnorg.com.
If good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are our first concern, nourishing the mind comes next. Apart from the nutrients obtained from our food that keep our brain healthy, we must also recognize that the mind needs to be nourished through learning and intellectual pursuits. Facebook and Twitter may dictate our thoughts by the minute, but they are poor substitutes for intellectual challenges. We need to give ourselves time to reflect and explore new thoughts, in order to have a healthy mind.
Perhaps the most important thing we can do for our mind is to learn to handle stress positively. Unless we live as a monk in a cave by choice, we are subjected to stress daily and relentlessly. To allow stress to take hold of our mind is to cloud our judgment, and more often than not, to damage our body function.
“Stress consists of the internal alterations – visible or not – that occur when the organism perceives a threat to its existence or well-being” Gabor Mate, M.D. When the Body says No, Exploring the stress-disease connection. ISBN 978-0-470-92335-1
Stress related illnesses are too numerous to count. Stress brought on by repressed or hidden emotions are no doubt the most difficult to identify and at times require a great deal of courage to face. It is so much easier, after all, to ignore our negative emotions when they surface in our thoughts. Some of us become experts at evasion, but the toll on our health is considerable. Of course eliminating the sources of negative emotions is difficult, sometimes impossible. So we have to find other ways to cope and survive.
Everyday stress due to work or family can be alleviated in a natural way through exercises such as yoga, so popular nowadays, and the addition of certain nutrients such as the B vitamins. It is wise, however, to seek help from a mental health professional when the stress issue is deeply rooted. That is very important for illness prevention. But most of all we need to find effective ways to relax and relieve our busy minds.
There are many ways we can learn to relax our mind when facing a stressful thought or situation. To list them here is beyond the scope of this article. I found the following, from Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response:
Simplified way to elicit the relaxation response:
• Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.
• Passively disregarding everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind and returning to your repetition.
In my mind of course, and in the mind of many who practice it, daily inspired or guided meditation is the perfect way to calm the mind. Meditation is not just good for the mind, it is also essential for nurturing the spirit. And nurturing the spirit we must, if we are to gain optimal health. Meditation is not a religion, for those who would mistakenly think so. It is entirely secular, unless you want it otherwise.
When I first started teaching holistic nutrition some twenty two years ago, I was advised by ‘wise’ people to ignore the ‘spirit’ part of my teaching in order to be politically correct. I am glad I did not listen to their short sighted counsel. Over the years, awareness of who we are has grown by leaps and bounds, and the idea that we have a spirit that transcend our body-mind is no longer news. Let me correct that to say: we are spirits. Only in Silence can we recognize our true nature.
“Within each of us is a spark. Call it a divine spark if you will, but it is there and can light the way to health. There are no incurable diseases, only incurable people.” Bernie Siegel, M.D.
In 2014, I was giving a 20th anniversary address to a group of my former students and supporters. I asked the question: “Who in this room believe that we have the power to heal ourselves?” Imagine my surprise and delight when most of the 200 or so people in the audience raised their hand. Twenty years ago I would not have seen more than a few raised hands. It was the highlight of my evening and a testimony to the progress we, people of this Earth, have made in recognizing our wholeness of body-mind-spirit.
Danielle Perrault, Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has been teaching and promoting natural, holistic nutrition for over twenty years. She first founded the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in 1994, then expanded internationally with the World Institute of Natural Nutrition with Head Office in Fort Myers, Florida.