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Self-actualization and health

I have been thinking a lot about how we best approach health in our state, country and world. I have said before that I believe that health is best reflected by one’s biological age - the younger your body’s true age is, the healthier you are.

Thinking about this paradigm, I began to reflect on what are the most critical components of helping us be healthier and biologically younger, closer to the person we were in our youth.

Being younger in mind and spirit may indeed be the central key to rediscovering the truths many of us knew as we were growing up: the only real time is now, and we see the world with wonder, friends and joy.

If not traumatized, children are naturally observant and creative. The gradual inculcation of formalized schooling, scheduled activities, social rules, hierarchy, competition, and fear about the future slowly reduces their ability to see things differently than adults.

What do we do about this? How can we, as adults, rediscover the healthy frame of children?

First, we need to work on building safety and resilience in our traumatized population and communities.

Safety is a critical element in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and was the key element found by Google in all of their highest functioning teams.

As we proceed to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy is self-actualization – being our best selves, aware of and appreciative of others.

Maybe reaching the top of this pyramid denotes our reaching inner feelings of safety, to be in the now (versus the past or future), and to experience the world with wonder and awe.

The poet and sage William Blake wrote in the poem, The Auguries of Innocence, a reflection in being captured in the rapture of exploration and an opened heart, as he wrote:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

This approach reflects deep gratitude and attention to the present for the incalculable gifts and miracles in front of us each day.

Statistically, the odds of us being alive on earth in our current lives may be as much as 1 in 700 quintillion. That is virtually impossible, but here we are.

Although experts in quantum physics, who are trying to understand the rules that govern foundational mechanisms of the earth and universe, are struggling to explain a number of non-reductionist observations, given the odds against us living on earth, I would surmise that just being alive is a miracle.

What do I mean by non-reductionist observations? Start with the fact that small particles of nature, like electrons or photons, behave differently if observed and measured than if no observer is present. In addition, we know that mass is energy (E=mc2.) We also know that anything that looks solid to us is mostly empty space.

In fact, 99.9999999% of our body is empty space, but it appears solid due to the way our brains and minds interact with these seemingly solid objects. Moreover, the passage of time is less a concrete reality than a reflection of the increasing knowledge and complexity that the earth and the earth’s population has created since its inception.

As knowledge grows, we percieve that increase as the forward march of time. But Einstein showed that time and space are really equivalent measures, as are gravity and acceleration.

Given that even the brightest of us don’t understand almost everything about everything, then it seems reasonable that we should just enjoy our everyday miracles - in nature, in purpose, in each other, in smiles, in adventures and in our lives.

Nelson Mandela, who spoke to the world during his inaugural speech upon becoming the first president of all South Africans after his country’s decades-long struggle against apartheid, provided this piece of inspiration:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"

Maybe self-actualization is really just living with the wonder, spirit and awe of a child by appreciating our miracles, lightening our burdens and seeking joy in each moment.

Maybe this is also how we create better health and a better world.