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Illness vs Wellness

I am sick with the plague as my husband puts it. I can barely lug myself around my apartment and, when I do dare to move, I feel an ache across my lower back that reminds me of a shattered mirror. I'm uncomfortable and restless but one thought has taken my mind away from my nest of crumpled tissues. I remember hearing a teacher quote a talk Swami Satchidananda gave in 1998. Dr. Dean Ornish was in attendance, and he shared the following anecdote, which appeared in Oprah Magazine, 2002.

“The spiritual teacher Swami Satchidananda was once asked, ‘What’s the difference between illness and wellness?’ He walked over to a blackboard [during Grand Rounds at the University of Virginia Medical Center] and wrote illness and circled the first letter, i. He then wrote wellness and circled the first two letters, we.”

So many people at home and abroad are feeling ill right now. There are so many changes on the macro and micro levels, but I believe these upheavals are presenting us with opportunities. These cracks in our foundation are helping to bring people, communities and organizations together in pursuit of a common goal - justice, equality and peace. I was curious to see what our founding fathers had to say about democracy, and I was flabbergasted when I came across these words from John Adams. This is an excerpt from a letter John Adams wrote in 1814:

"...Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never."

I'm still digesting those words, albeit with a fair amount of acid reflux, but I refuse to give up on our ability to heal from this injury. I think our democracy will become even stronger if we unite against injustice, prejudice, and hate. Like I said in an earlier post, Kids and Kindness, no act of kindness is too small. Our ability to heal is intrinsically related to our ability to bridge the divide and come together. Wellness or Illness? I look forward to taking part in the Women's March here in NYC this Saturday and will be sure to post my photos.

I am re-posting a poem below because I feel it fits the theme of today's post. Next week, I will explain the science that supports the claim that healthy relationships correspond to our wellbeing. Science has caught up to Swami Satchidananda's words of wisdom. Stay tuned!

Dear Bystander,

by Lauren Taub Cohen

Clamoring chaos

and ceaseless chatter

muddy the waters of

truth’s clarity.

Division slices

Bullying assaults

Deception corrodes

Frustration festers

Now what?

We stand up

and walk into

the wound.

We don’t leap over it,

run around it,

or worse,

ignore it.

We courageously walk

into the smoldering

pit of our collective pain

and let it

evolve us.

We can learn to meet fear and hate

with kindness and connection.

We can bolster

our prayers for peace

with actions and words

in service of the

peace we seek.

We can live our prayers

out loud.


not me

or you

or them



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