Healthy Living

When trying to heal ourselves, studying too much information can get us lost and alienated from the hopeful payoffs of our good intentions toward health. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves thinking that the road to good health is following an overly restrictive list of “do’s and don’ts” that requires all of our focus . I know what it’s like to feel protective of my body driven by the fear of not wanting to “make myself worse.” It is an understandable position, but it’s important not to get stuck there.  

In a world rife with so much turmoil and anxiety, it can be hard to feel inspired to go beyond simply being alive to actual living. One important aspect to creating a healthy life is having role models who embody a sense of arrival to where we have set our own compass for. There are a lot of health gurus out there who have either forgotten, or never knew, that actions carry more weight than words.  There is so much information and advice everywhere, but seeing a living manifestation of vitality puts us in a much better mindset to contemplate the potential of the human spirit.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Banff Film festival. This film festival travels to different cities in the US, and other countries, to show films which are:  “Stories of profound journeys, unexpected adventures and ground-breaking expeditions told by renowned authors, photographers, adventurers and filmmakers from around the globe.”

The festival emcee introduced a number of films varying in length and subject matter.  I found each film to be inspiring and educational. The films captured quests and adventures undertaken against outdoor backdrops. Nature brings the adventurers in touch with a much larger sense of meaning to their lives than what the everyday grind of a man-made surrounding could provide them. 

I noticed the people featured in these films had a few things in common with each other:  a love for nature, a respect for the power of nature which they experienced firsthand, connection to others with whom they participated in their task, humor, adaptability, an ability focus on their environment through their senses rather than being stuck in their head, an ability to face their fears, the resilience to withstand physical discomfort,  and a sense they carried with them that the journey itself was paramount.

Just being a part of the audience of this film festival impacted my life. I won’t describe every film, but I’ll discuss a few and post links to the short trailers.

The film Salween Spring is especially important to me. It features Travis Winn and his quest to bring attention to rivers in China in an effort to protect them. The description under the trailer says it well, “Travis Winn has dedicated his life to fighting a battle he knows he won’t win:  keeping China’s rivers flowing free. Through he can’t control the outcome, he’s learned to appreciate the process—sharing the joy of running rivers with the Chinese people.”

Travis takes Chinese people on guided tours of flowing rivers that could one day be destroyed by the building of dams. Besides the impressive scenery of the landscape, the true treasure of this film is how Travis faces that his work could be a losing battle. He explains the toll his cause has taken on him including a mental breakdown and time spent in a mental hospital.

But Travis clearly made it through the dark forest that some levels of awareness can threaten a person with. He came out to the other side with an incredible boon to share. He gives us the key to living with painful levels of awareness while not giving up hope. He attains a rare level of vision and acceptance with his outlook that if the rivers are preserved, then it will be an incredible goal achieved. But if they disappear, then his time with them will only hold more value as he was able to experience and appreciate them before they were gone.

Beyond this movie, I studied a little more about Travis and his cause. I was impressed by his keen perceptions that only a thoughtful person, who is actually out on the front lines, would be able to possess. Look into Travis Winn further if you seek guidance on how to navigate complex and potentially soul-crushing levels of awareness with action.

The film Unbranded is about a group of four recent college grads who travel 3,000 miles across the country on horseback using sixteen mustangs. The journey is undertaken to draw attention to the plight of the fifty thousand wild mustangs that have been captured and are awaiting adoption. This film is a real life cowboy adventure caught on camera with humorous and poignant moments.

The last movie I’ll mention is called Chasing Niagra. It’s about a team of kayakers who spend two years preparing their friend, Rafa Ortiz to paddle his kayak over Niagra Falls. Will Rafa succeed? Or is the journey of teamwork and pursing one’s passion without guarantees, the true feat that is accomplished by this team?

The people in these films at times may have had their stress hormones at unhealthy levels or maybe their arteries are damaged by the wrong fats, but there is definitely a sense of health present within them despite there being any damage done to their bodies. Perhaps it’s important to differentiate between damage done from living, from chasing one’s passion, and the poor state of health that is illness.  

I try not to take the meanings of words for granted when I meditate on an idea. So I looked up the etymology of the word health and it relates to being whole. I have always felt that a component crucial to becoming whole is freeing oneself in some way.  On a website dedicated to Greek studies, I found a description of the Greek word for freedom, eleutheria.

“Eleutheria seems to come from arriving (eleu) to where one loves (eran). This way eleutheria radically means the fulfillment of one’s love as an end of a trip. There is included here also the meaning of growing and rising, advancing to a higher state of being.”

If we choose role models who don’t model freedom because they are lost in the weeds of their own information, then our own chances of success will be undermined. We may never know what’s possible in terms of moving toward our goal of wholeness. The Banff film festival is important to support because it depicts real life examples of arriving “to where one loves” that can inspire, or even permeate our daily lives.

Undertaking the journey to heal, become whole, and achieve some form of eleutheria is hard as hell, it could even get you killed. However, Travis gives us an important clue in his film, “You have got to believe in the power of the river to take care of itself.”  And humans too have to learn self-trust as we allow ourselves to surrender to the flow of life within us.  This is healthy living.

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