HOW SICK ARE WE?

My doctor told me that it was unusual for a 60 year old man not to be on prescription drugs.  That shocked me.  Apparently most people my age take several drugs on a regular basis.  Does this mean that we are an advanced society because we have invented so many drugs or a very sick society that we need so many drugs?

I recalled a monkey I knew in the jungles of Panama.  He was the head of his tribe but was badly battered from territorial fights or perhaps from encounters with predators.  Three fingers were missing from one hand, two from the other and he had only one eye. Yet he still was the alpha male of his monkey troop.  What he lacked in body parts he made up in attitude. 

One day a potential Tai-chi student walked into my studio with a severe affliction.  He was able to walk only by leaning over and holding his knee with his hands, inching his way forward.  As soon as he made it into the studio he sat down, exhausted from the fifty foot walk.  I thought to tell him that he would never be able to learn Tai-chi but I would never discourage anyone who was willing to try. 

At first he did the Tai-chi Yang form while holding onto two chairs, which I re-adjusted for him with each movement.  He could only last for two or three minutes at a time and then had to sit down.  To make a long story short, he learned the entire sixty movement form without holding onto chairs, the tiger form and the staff form, which are very vigorous.  He also learned the Push Hands exercise and was quite good.  In this exercise you stand facing each other and try to throw each other off balance.

After a few years he told me that he was very discouraged.  He practiced the forms for an hour a day, then did Yoga for fifteen minutes, worked out with weights for forty five minutes and then practiced chi-gung for another fifteen minutes. 

So what was the problem?  He told me that after all this he was so tired he had to stop and sit down.  I reminded him that he used to be tired after two or three minutes and could barely stand up without holding onto something.   He had gotten so used to being healthy that I guess now he expected that he could leap over tall buildings at a single bound.

To some degree we can determine whether we slide down the slope of increasing sickness or lift ourselves up to greater health.  It largely depends on whether we focus on our ailments or our potential.  This is not to so say that we don’t all have some legitimate medical problems.  While modern medicine makes our lives better with great advances, it can also make us lazy.  We reach for the pill or the operation rather than trying exercise first. 

Many doctors will encourage their patients to try exercise to alleviate their problems before trying drugs but unfortunately many people don’t want to be bothered with the exercises.  It is easier to pop a pill down their throats.  But remember that each drug has side effects and you may start taking drugs to alleviate the side effects and then more drugs to alleviate the side effects of that drug and so on. 

I am suggesting that if your doctor suggests exercise rather than drugs then you probably have a caring and knowledgeable doctor.  While the television ads push you to ask your doctor for drugs, I suggest you ask him or her for exercise alternatives. 

Your body and mind are powerful when they work together cooperatively.  Even if you do take drugs, exercise itself can help to alleviate the negative side effects.  Drugs can only really help your body cure itself.  But the body also needs good food, rest and exercise.

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