Prayers AND ACTION for Orlando

source: Unvirtuous Abbey

source: Unvirtuous Abbey

I know I don’t have adequate words in light of the horrifying events in Orlando. Others have already said much more witty and poignant things than I can muster. I have read so many clever tweets and watched so many moving tributes. What more can I offer? If nothing else, I write for my own benefit, but I will do my best to also write something worth sharing.

I’ve been despondent the past couple days, as many of us have, in the wake of the latest mass shooting. I’m brokenhearted because precious LGBTQ lives were targeted and lost, because so many others are injured physically and emotionally and psychologically, because really nowhere is safe. Because weapons are an increasing and continuing threat in my first-world superpower nation, and I just typed “latest mass shooting.” Because there are yet again christians saying awful, insensitive, and/or hateful things. Because I am tired, and I feel helpless.

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One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the past several years is the importance of listening to other people’s stories. I first learned this lesson from my many friends in the LGBTQ community, and it has transcended across all my relationships and now my general approach to people and life. [I will have to write a separate post with all the many lessons I have learned from this incredible community.] I have heard them share their experiences and fears and hopes. I have wrestled with theology and what I believe alongside them. I have changed my ways of thinking, believing, speaking, acting, and relating as a result. One of the foremost conclusions I’ve come to is how tired I am of others labeling them as anything more than fellow human beings. Their lives are equally precious and important. To lose 49 people in a vicious attack due to how someone else labeled them… I have no words, just tears.

source: Human Rights Campaign

source: Human Rights Campaign

As sad as I am for the ones murdered, I feel even more deeply for their loved ones grieving for them, for the injured and those caring for them, and for every single person who witnessed the massacre whether injured or not. This violence was not just physical but also emotional and psychological. To fear for your life, to watch others die in front of you. To fear for your son or brother or neighbor, to wait for their call that may never come. And for LGBTQ persons everywhere who are forced to wonder if and when it will be them someday. No one should live in fear like this. Certainly not in this country.

Someday I’ll write a post about all the reasons I’m not patriotic, but for now I’ll just say that I do not think America is a great country. I think we have the potential to be a great country, but when my friends and neighbors fear for their safety, their very lives, because of a pervasive culture of fear, disapproval, and hatred, we have work to do before we can be considered great. And really, it’s not even that we have work to do before we can be considered great [for there is always work to do], it is that there is work to do and nothing being done. Not in the avenues where the work is most needed. I personally could care less about owning a gun, but I am not against you owning one. As long as you have passed tests that qualify you as a responsible gun owner, much like we pass tests qualifying us to drive cars, tools which are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. How many more mass shootings will it take? What targeted group of people will finally cut us to the quick enough to prompt action and legislature? Clearly, college students, muslims, christians, and not even children have been enough. It’s disgusting, and if we want to be a great nation, it must change now.

source: dinglefest.com

source: dinglefest.com

Greatness is gained by being the last. So said a wise man who was also God. It’s important that we remember and recite things Jesus actually said. Love your neighbor as yourself. Give to anyone who asks of you. Don’t judge others. Love your enemies. There are too many words being spouted off in His name that are not His. Just to be clear, Jesus never said “You reap what you sow” or any other such nonsense. I am so tired of christian phrases and platitudes that are not true. Some of them are found in the bible, but often they are taken out of context and/or twisted from their original meaning. We need some serious myth busting when it comes to these sayings. If you are a christian, be sure to know whether your words can be found in scripture and where. I myself have been intensively debunking these untruths in my own belief system over the last couple years and have been astonished at what I have believed to be truth but could not find in the bible. It is easy to adopt catchy clichés that sound so right, but that doesn’t make them so. We need to be smart and sensitive with the words we choose to use.

I’m just so tired of all of this. And I’m not even part of a persecuted community. But I have friends and family members who are part of various communities that bear the brunt of profiling, discrimination, prejudice, hate, and violence. The closest I come is being a woman living in a rape culture. So what in the world can I do? What should I do?

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I sit in my office typing this with my two-month-old in the swing beside me and my two-year-old playing in her rice bucket, naked from the waist down because we’re potty training this week. Glamorous, I know. And I feel helpless in my home, in Small Town, Indiana, to do anything about these things other than pray. But lately, prayer feels helpless, too. Because we’ve been praying for how many victims of violence for how long now? And what has changed?

The truth is, somewhere in my head and my heart, I do still believe that prayer is important, even effective. But I also adamantly believe it is not enough on its own. Because I believe we are to be the answers to our prayers when we are able. I’ve just been struggling to figure out how I can be an answer this week, in this season of my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. I can be outspoken about my support of the LGBTQ community, especially among my christian community.
  2. I can reach out to my LGBTQ friends and express love and support. I can listen to them as they process these events and their feelings.
  3. I can read about issues on which I am still ignorant. In my case, I am not ignorant of LGBTQ issues, but I am always eager to read more stories, more perspectives. What I really need though is to educate myself on gun laws, legislative options, etc.
  4. I can donate blood, even though from Indiana it will not be going directly to victims in Orlando. Hopefully, it will help a fellow human being anyway.
  5. I can contact my local pride office and ask how I can help. Whether monetarily or with volunteering, small actions add up to change.
  6. I can write posts like this in hopes that a few people in my corner of the blogosphere will be encouraged and inspired to their own action.

I hope to come up with more ways I can put action behind my prayers. And I am hugely open to suggestions!

 

If you’re looking for other ideas on how you can act, here are a few links that I found helpful:

5 Dumb Things Christians Must Stop Saying When Evil Strikes

Emily Patterson’s Facebook Post

Here’s What You Can Do to Help After the Orlando Massacre (Since Prayers Alone Won’t Do Anything)

What Christians Must Do in the Wake of Orlando

 

I hope this helps you, dear reader, as it has helped me to write it. May we band together in love and unity for a safer, greater future. 

[lessons learned] from #moresociallessmedia

image via Dallas Hartwig

image via Dallas Hartwig

I spent the last month doing the More Social Less Media program created by Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of the Whole30. [Check out whole30.com and dallashartwig.com for more info on either.] I have completed one whole30 and am starting another today. I know the profound life-changing effects it can have, so when Dallas started writing about the effects on our health of social media and being constantly plugged in online, I was ready and waiting for whatever program he created next. You should check out his website for the full details, but basically the first two weeks were focused on being more engaged in face-to-face social interactions, and the second two weeks were a fast from social media and screen entertainment. Here are the things I gleaned from this experience.

 

A couple things to note first:

  1. I purposely did not remove any social media / entertainment apps from my phone.
  2. This experiment was especially difficult for me right now because my second daughter was born mid-April, so I’m currently spending my days [& good portions of my nights] with a newborn. I made the exception that I could read books on my phone when I was feeding her.
me & maya

me & maya

>> Social media and screen time has cost me too much in how I spend my time.

Moment app

I downloaded the Moment app to help me become more aware of how much time I spend on my phone. It was DISTURBING. Granted, let me remind you that I’m staying at home with a small human who doesn’t talk and pretty much sleeps all day but requires one or both of my hands most of the time. Even still, I was bothered by how much I looked at my screen, how often I absently selected social media apps, and how long I mindlessly scrolled through feeds on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the like.

In the first two weeks, while I was still active online, I could spend upwards of FIVE hours a day on my phone… [One day I even logged almost eight… *hangs head in shame*] Even though these tallies include good activities [like reading a book] and good interactions [like texting baby pictures to my long-distance family], I was disgusted by the amount of time wasted with my eyes glued to a screen. What did spending my time this way cost me? How often did I do this with my toddler playing near me? Did I miss opportunities to see her discover new things? How often did I do this with other people in the room? Did I miss out on fruitful conversations with them? How often did I do this when I could/should be doing other things? What productivity and accomplishments did I forfeit?

The second two weeks were better due to fasting from social media and screen entertainment. My average time on my phone plummeted to under three hours on average [remember that I spend time reading on my phone almost every time I feed the baby, especially in the middle of the night to stay awake!]. One day was even less than an hour and a half, which is what I would like to stay under as baby gets older. But even with the munchkin, that’s a saving of 2-3 hours every day. I cut my screen time nearly in half.

What I noticed in the two weeks fasting from media is that I didn’t really miss Facebook at all. When the two weeks ended, I didn’t feel the need to catch up scrolling on Facebook. I’ve long considered deactivating my account, but I’ve always kept it because it’s the primary/only means of contact I have with some people in my life who I want to stay in contact with. I’ve decided to keep Facebook for now but to limit my time on it.

Unlike Facebook, I did miss Instagram. I spent quite awhile over the weekend catching up on posts. I think it’s because I curate my feed more strictly on Instagram, and I find the posts more useful, educational, and inspiring as a result. I found the first week away easier than the second. I started to want to check it because I missed the good stuff rather than just out of mindless habit. Still, I’ve decided to limit how often I open the app and to place conditions on when I can do so.

And Pinterest. What can I say about my digital magazine clipping collection? I stopped buying magazines years ago for a reason, and that reason applies to Pinterest. It’s a waste of time leafing through [or scrolling through] pictures of projects I’m not going to do, recipes I’m not going to make, and stuff I’m not going to buy. I have found Pinterest to be a helpful catalog of ideas, so I’ll keep it, but no more scrolling; only searching when I want to find something specific, like a recipe or how-to tutorial.

 

>> Social media has created unnecessary clutter in my life.

Speaking of Pinterest, one of the other reasons I got rid of magazines is CLUTTER. I noticed that social media creates a great deal of clutter in my life. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally.

One [not-really-social-media-but-online] area I was able to decrease clutter was in my email inbox. I unsubscribed from all those unnecessary newsletters, flyers, coupons, and deals. It’s incredible how good it feels to open my email and find relevant messages without combing through tons of junk I’m going to delete before even glancing at it. I now only feel the need to check my email a couple times a day. I wasn’t expecting how freeing this would feel, but it really does feel like weight lifted.

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I also became pickier about who I follow on social media. My feeds were bogged down with posts that are depressing or dumb, some that even incite anger. I don’t need that in my life. Paring down my friends list and who I follow has been a release of emotional baggage. I like the new trend “Unfollow Friday” which encourages you to unfriend, unfollow, and unsubscribe from anything that doesn’t add positively to your life. I will continue to periodically evaluate what I’m streaming into my mind and heart as much as what takes up my time.

 

>> Social media has significantly influenced how I interact with people.

art by Steve Cutts

art by Steve Cutts

It’s amazing how aware of others’ phone use you become as soon as you aren’t looking at your own. Everywhere you go: grocery lines, doctor offices, coffee shops, every room in the house. I attended the band concert of one of our teens, and the guy next to me spent the entire time on his phone, only occasionally pausing to applaud. It’s sad enough that we don’t acknowledge people on the streets around us, but to not even acknowledge our own children… But I’m guilty of the same thing. I have too often focused on a screen than on my daughter. This realization smacked me hard, and I’ve made a concerted effort since then for my daughter to not see me on my phone. She’s never been allowed to play with our phones, but I don’t want her to see me obsessed with it either. The adage is true: they grow up too fast. And I don’t want to miss it.

One of my favorite outcomes of the media fast was having conversations with strangers everywhere I went. One time I shared an elevator with a guy wearing a Camaro t-shirt. I told him I liked it, and we got into a conversation about our first cars and our favorites. It was fun to talk cars with someone again. I don’t know the last time I did that. [Turns out he has never owned a Camaro, and he was impressed that I know what a Z28 is.]

But the most important thing that came out of this experiment was that it made me more thoughtful about my local tribe and making the effort to spend time with them more often. Due to some difficult decisions for the health and happiness of our family, we left an important community of ours over a year ago, and that left us feeling very alone. It was especially noticeable as we were expecting and then welcomed our second daughter. But it turns out we have a much larger tribe of people than we realized. They are a motley crew from all corners of our life, but they are loyal and serving and upbuilding to us. It takes more effort to spend time with them because we don’t have weekly meetings where we all show up at the same place and conveniently run into each other. We have to call or send a message, schedule a lunch date or weekend hangout. We have to be intentional in seeking them out and making time for each other. But we have learned from their kind and generous examples over the last year, as they sought us out and made time for us. [One friend was on her way home after dinner out, and she dropped by just to see if we were around. She helped me with kiddo bedtime so Shaun could get back into the field to finish up planting, and she ended up staying for three hours catching up! It’s one of my favorite experiences of the last month.]

Sure, social media hasn’t always had a positive influence on my relationships, but I would be remiss to not say how much I missed people with whom I interact solely/mainly online. No one is saying that social media or all of our handheld technology is inherently bad or can’t be used for good. The More Social Less Media program was designed to help us make conscious decisions about how much to use social media because it makes us aware of how we use it and how it affects us. I’ve lived in several different states, and I appreciate how technology and social media networks have made it possible to reconnect with old friends and to stay updated on what’s going on in others’ lives. I enjoy seeing pictures of my friends’ kids and my teens’ prom and graduation pictures. Without social media, I would be completely ignorant of these events; with social media, I get to participate indirectly. It’s recognizing the artificial quality of social media that keeps these digital connections in proper perspective next to my face-to-face relationships, and this is crucial.

 

>> I love social media. 🙂

Yep! I just have a better grasp on how to use it more effectively and how to not let it use me. In the next couple weeks, I will be evaluating my return to social media and other screen time and creating guidelines for my personal use of it. Maybe I’ll write a post about them.

In the meantime, check out More Social Less Media at dallashartwig.com and [ironically] #moresociallessmedia on Facebook and Instagram. And if you want to do more reading on the subject, I’ve linked to a few articles below. Let me know of other interesting articles on the subject. Tell me how you use social media and the effects of it you seen in your own life. I look forward to interacting with you here via comments or on one of my feeds!

 

Some articles on the effects of social media &/or screen time:

13, right now: This is what it’s like growing up in the age of likes, lols and longing

Smartphones: So many apps, so much time

Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society?

Gray Matters: Too much screen time damages the brain

[top 10] things going on in my life lately

it’s been a while! much has happened & changed in my life over the last 9-10 months, so i thought a top 10 list would be an easy way to catch up with ya’ll.

10. i had another kid.

so, i planned to post regularly on here starting last september, & then i got pregnant. i had no idea how tired i would be this time around. we’re talking epic fatigue. and that’s coming from someone who has a chronic fatigue condition! anyways, we welcomed maya lizbon casteel into the world & our lives on april 11, 2016. she’s a super chill, easy baby, & we kinda like her.

maya lizbon

maya lizbon

 

9. my father-in-law has cancer.

this is the sad news in our family. he had prostate & kidney cancer a couple years ago, & surgery plus radiation were thankfully enough to take care of those. however, his recent scans showed mets in the lungs, brain, & bones. fortunately, there are hopeful treatments for each location, & we are full of hope that he will be with us for a long time yet. still, cancer has a way of making your perspective & priorities change.

 

8. we found a church to go to, for now.

we spent 2015 looking for a new church to attend with little success until september. we finally happened upon a community that meets our needs & wants pretty well. we made a commitment at the beginning of this year to attend this church regularly this year & see if it’s the place we want to settle [i.e. do the whole membership thing].

 

7. we returned to our old church for the first time.

leaving a church is a hard thing. shaun & i have done it twice, & both times rank in the top 5 hardest things/times of my life. returning to your old church to visit can be nearly as difficult. but i’ve found it also offers a much-needed sense of peace & closure. we just visited for the first time to attend the graduating seniors celebration. the last of our youth group is graduating this year, so we wanted to be sure we were there. and it was a perfect evening of catching up with old friends, family.

 

6. our last kids are graduating.

did i mention that the last of our youth group is graduating this year? cue the tears, & pass the tissues. the kids who were in 6th grad when we took up leadership of the youth ministry for a brief year & a half are now seniors, very shortly to be graduates. my, how time flies. we are so proud of the young adults they have become, of all they have accomplished, of all the potential they are going to be fulfilling in the coming days. it’s bittersweet.

with our graduating girls

with our graduating girls

 

5. i’m prepping for a whole30 in june. 

i have to admit, i didn’t do such a great job eating healthfully during this last pregnancy. i was a slave to my lack of appetite & my cravings. most of the time, i didn’t eat or i ate junk. fortunately, i didn’t gain a ton of weight, but i definitely feel the need to reset my habits & get back to healthfulness. my favorite way to reset is doing a round of whole30, so for the month of june, i’ll be following the program. it takes a lot of work upfront, menu planning & food prep, so i’ve been immersed in that lately.

 

4. i’m prepping for camp in july.

every summer, i work at a summer camp for teens, the same one i grew up going to. this year is going to be a very different year for me. it’s the first time in seven years that shaun won’t be going with me. it’s the first time in 19 years that my sister won’t be there with me. it’s the first time in 10+ years that i won’t be counseling in the cabins. it’s the first time ever that i’ll be teaching with someone other than my sister. and it’s the first time i’ll be going with a kiddo in tow. [well, i have gone with both bianca & richie, but they were teens, not babies, so it doesn’t really count!] prepping for camp this year is looking very different, too. mostly, i’m trying to plan how i’m going to travel solo with two kids, a 2-year-old & a 2-month-old, what i need to pack to survive a week at camp with a baby, & how my participation will look. some time in the coming month, we’ll get teaching assignments, & then i’ll be working on that with my co-teacher.

 

3. we’re hardcore working on the casa.

in preparation for a new baby & then a summer staying home with baby & toddler, house projects have consumed our to do lists & time. i have been on a decluttering kick which has lately attacked my clothing closet & art/craft supplies. my latest achievement has been turning the office into a half-office-half-playroom so i can work while the girls play [aka roo plays & maya sleeps]. right now as i type this, roo is busy coloring at her own little table. it’s amazing how much STUFF a house can accumulate, & i’m tired of all the junk. we’re trying to embrace minimalism more & more. this summer will continue my ruthless rampage, & i hope to tackle the basement. yikes.

 

2. i’m doing “summer school” with roo.

as a former preschool teacher, i can’t help myself. i have to use these days home with my toddler in formative, educational ways. so i developed a color-of-the-week curriculum to do with her this summer. this week is “rainbow week.” we’re starting with an overview of all the colors, going to the zoo, & painting rainbows. a lot of the activities i have prepared for her are ones she can do during independent play while i write or work around the house or take care of maya. but there are activities & learning time every day where she gets focused one-on-one time with me. she’s used to having structure & instruction from being in daycare, so i think it’s important to continue that during the summer months. plus, it’s fun for both of us!

 

1. we’re celebrating our 13th anniversary.

today actually! poor shaun has put up with me with calm kindness & humor all these years, so it is certainly worthy of celebration. we’ll go out with the girls tonight so i don’t have to make dinner, but we’ll celebrate just the two of us later this month.

us, circa 2008

us, circa 2008

 

i guess that’s the big stuff. feel free to catch me up on how you’re doing, too! maya’s crying, so time for me to sign off, but i’ll be back again soon. promise.

learning resources

colored pencils 2

School is in session, so it’s time to gather your supplies and textbooks. Even though this always cost me a fortune when I was in college, I loved this part of the school year. Preparation and organization are fun activities for me. My friend Holly frequently mentions her obsession with all things office supplies. Me too. I love color-coding everything with pens and markers and post-its. I enjoy creating reading schedules from course syllabi in my day planner. When we first moved to Indiana, I created my own curriculum for three different courses and drove to Purdue three times a week to spend time in the library doing “school” on topics that interested me. Yes, I’m a verified nerd.

As we explore the holistic life, I have a few online resources that I enjoy following or referencing as needed. I’ve compiled a list below for your benefit. Disclaimer: I am not endorsing everything written on these blogs or feeds, nor am I paid by any of them. 

The Hippy Homemaker // She writes about homeschooling a great deal lately, but this includes reviews of natural toys and supplies which is helpful. She has a wealth of information on natural health products, many of which she shares the recipe so you can make your own. She also has an Etsy shop where you can purchase the ones she has made. I am a huge fan of her Owie Salve (now called Salvation Salve). It’s basically a natural Neosporin but better. Even Shaun is an avid user of it!

Wellness Mama // She posts mostly about health-related topics, sharing recipes for making your own products and information about suspected-to-be-harmful ingredients. Her recipes are some of my favorite resources for making my own concoctions of natural cleaners, toiletries, and homeopathic remedies.

Heidi Priebe on Thought Catalog // She writes a lot of articles on the Meyers-Briggs personalities that are insightful and humorous. I enjoy learning about my own personality and others, so I follow her on Facebook to keep up with her latest posts.

Elephant Journal // This site is “dedicated to the mindful life.” It covers a wide variety of issues, but I like the Wellness section the most. It’s eclectic to be sure.

Whole 9 Life // This is a site that breaks down living holistically into 9 factors. The cofounders’ book It Starts With Food revolutionized the way I view nutrition and eating. They are super balanced and realistic in their approach, and there is always a strong dose of tough love included!

For inspirational quotes and photographs, I recommend following Dallas Hartwig and bymariecarmel on Instagram. For inspiration and humor about real, messy life, I recommend following Glennon Melton (monastery) on Instagram and/or Twitter. She also has a blog.

Well, that’s it for now. That’s enough to keep you busy for a while! I’ll add more resources in the coming months.

What online resources do you like that foster a holistic life?

defining holistic living

The word holistic gets used a lot these days. Perhaps it’s unfortunately overused. However, that doesn’t have to diminish its usefulness. But to use it well, we must understand the term, its definitions, history, and connotations.

The official definitions of holistic include:

1// characterized by the comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole

2// relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts

3// holism: a theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes (as of living organisms) that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles

whole world

Because I’m a linguistics nerd, you’re going to get a brief etymology of the word, too. I find that learning the roots and history of a word can better help you understand its concept, its essence.

The word “holism” was first used in 1926 by South African General J.C. Smuts in his book Holism and Evolution. A quote from the book:

This character of “wholeness” meets us everywhere and points to something fundamental in the universe. Holism (from [holos] = whole) is the term here coined for this fundamental factor operative towards the creation of wholes in the universe. (p. 86)

The word holos that he derived holism from is Greek. According to Strong’s Concordance, holos is a primitive adjective and the root of the English term “whole.” There is some debate about whether this is accurate, but the definition of holos is true to holism: properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts. The Greek word holos is actually more closely related to the English word safe, and its definition is also interesting: uninjured, unharmed, healthy, whole, intact, not exposed to danger, free from risk, “safe and sound.”

As I explore the meaning of a holistic approach to life, these definitions help me put everything into perspective. Everything is connected. I’ve long held a holistic philosophy and approach to health. When I have a headache or my neck hurts, I could respond like a typical Westerner and pop a couple pain pills or even get so creative as to use a heat pad or ask for a neck massage. But a holistic view understands that the headache is a symptom related to other factors. Taking an Advil is not necessarily the wrong course of action to temporarily relieve the pain, but it is more important to identify the root cause(s) so you can prevent further headaches and neck pain. For example, the headache could be caused by dehydration. Pretty easy to figure out and remedy. But there are many other things that could be causing both the headaches and neck pain. It could be another physical issue, like poor posture. Poor posture could be triggered by an environmental factor like a work area that isn’t properly set up. Or it could be another environmental source like a stressful job. The emotional stress response could be stemming from a looming deadline, a demanding boss, or a dramatic coworker. Some of these things may be more difficult to remedy, but “knowledge is power.” Everything is connected, and it is worth the time and effort to find the connections.

As I mentioned before, the term holistic may be a bit overused these days. Since it’s coining less than a hundred years ago, it has increased dramatically in use. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it really caught on, peaking in the 2000s. When a word becomes so popular, its meaning can easily become muddied. Before we talk about what holistic health and living is, we must first weed out what it is not.

From “Understanding the Differences Between Holistic, Alternative, and Complementary Medicine” by Ilana S. Mandel:

The terms holistic medicine, alternative medicine, and complementary medicine have often been used interchangeably. In fact, alternative medicine and complementary medicine are different and holistic medicine is a term which tends to embrace a larger definition of a system of treatment and practitioners who do not work within the system of conventional medicine. A more precise definition of the term is that holism is a philosophy that believes in treating the whole person and in the integration of mind, body, and spirit. Holism promotes the belief that these three elements of a human being must be treated in order to achieve any notion of “healing,” rather than simply treating a person for a specific illness or injury. In the holistic belief system, illness and injury are often the result of disharmony in the mind-body-spirit, which they see as one. The disharmony can often come about from a dysfunction in any one of these areas. But holistic medicine believes that a dysfunction in one area affects the whole person and not just that one area of the body… Holistic medicine is as much about a way of life as it is about medical treatment. The holistic philosophy embraces an approach that promotes overall body wellness. (source)

Holistic health and living, while it may include alternative and/or complementary medicine, is not the same as these medical methodologies.

Holistic health and living is also not the same thing as balance. I think this is a common misconception. Balance is this frustrating ideal that always seems just out of reach. At least in the way our culture tends to define it. We view balance as having it all, a little bit of everything, all in perfect order in equal amounts all the time. I think that’s unrealistic. It’s the same as believing that a relationship requires both persons to put in 50% of the work [or some like to cheekily say both need to put in 100%]. When a relationship is experiencing one of its high points this may be true, but life and people and feelings and moods and needs and expectations change frequently. There is a constant ebb and flow. When Shaun was working on his dissertation, the last semester of his graduate schooling, he couldn’t give as much time and effort to our relationship as I could. Yet our relationship was still in a good, healthy place. I gave more because he couldn’t give as much. There have been other seasons in which he has lovingly done the same for me. This is true of life in general. Sometimes I need to give more attention and time to my family than my work and vice versa. The goal should never be “balance” as in having it all because that will just drive you crazy in an impossible pursuit. There are not enough hours in the day to achieve that kind of balance in all the areas of life that we desire.

Okay, okay, we’ve already touched on this quite a bit, but now we can talk in detail about what holistic health/living is [at least to me]. To quote Suzan Walter from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines:

Holistic Health is actually an approach to life. Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, this ancient approach to health considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with his or her environment. It emphasizes the connection of mind, body, and spirit. The goal is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning the very best that is possible. With Holistic Health people accept responsibility for their own level of well-being, and everyday choices are used to take charge of one’s own health… Holistic Health is an ongoing process. As a lifestyle, it includes a personal commitment to be moving toward the right end of the wellness continuum… Quality of life, now and in the future, is actually being determined by a multitude of seemingly unimportant choices made everyday. (source)

Holistic living includes all of the self and one’s environment. Holistic living is a lifestyle that is based on countless small, daily decisions. Holistic living requires personal responsibility and personal growth. 

Here’s how I break down the parts of the whole:

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Within the scope of self, I include body, mind, and soul. Home is the environment in which I spend much of my time and have control over. In this area, I include form, function, and finances. Love is separate from my self, even though I see emotions as part of myself, because people are outside of me yet a very important part of my life. Love includes family, friends, and community.

Within each of those subcategories are smaller parts. Body includes predictable things like my hair and skin, endurance and balance, fitness and nutrition, and general wellness. Mind includes work and hobbies. Soul includes spiritual disciplines and worship. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be writing on Wednesdays [& occasionally on other days] about “wellness” and will be expounding on all these parts that make the whole. I’ll be sharing specific actions, methods, and products that I use or want to try. Next Wednesday we’ll start with the importance of self care and break down what I include in body, mind, and soul.

I look forward to hearing your feedback! What does holistic living mean to you? Do you agree or disagree with the definitions I’ve shared here? Is there something you would include that I haven’t?