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It Only Takes Common Sense to Be Healthy

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naturalI just discovered a great resource for natural medicine or naturopathy, an example of alternative medicine that focuses on natural remedies and the body’s ability to maintain and heal itself.

I have to admit that I’ve been suspicious about alternative medicine ever since I started showing interest and passion in the medical sciences, but when I read more about naturopathy, and especially when I discovered WellWire, I realized that it’s really all about going back to basics and learning to live a sustainable, self-sufficient, and balanced lifestyle, which are things that I also personally uphold.

When we go back to basics and when we acknowledge how much we’ve been underestimating our bodies’ capabilities, you’ll realize that you can totally do away without taking in all those pills and multivitamin capsules and acai berry drinks, and still be healthy. All you really have to do is, again, look around you and embrace what nature has to offer. And I think WellWire‘s pretty good at advocating this philosophy.

Going back to basics when it comes to health is something that I work on each day, what with all the health trends being endorsed by models and so-called health gurus every hour on TV. It’s tough; I often forget about what my body really needs. And there’s also this ongoing paranoia when it comes to sickness, when really, at the end of the day, health and wellness isn’t about completely obliterating disease from the face of the earth. I think we’ve allowed this fear of disease (and death from disease) to take over our every day lives, that we end up stuffing ourselves with all sorts of meds that end up destroying our liver anyway. What’s even worse is when we shrug it all off and say, “Ah, to hell with it. We will all eventually die of cancer anyway. Let’s live in the moment!” and allow our bodies to waste away in drunken escapades and cigarettes.

Naturopathy is such a refreshing avenue in healthcare because it reminds us of the common sense we tend to overlook each day. Yes, it’s pretty much common sense, really — “eating the rainbow” (every color of fruit and veggies), managing stress to maximize your immunity to the flu, staying outdoors early in the morning to absorb all that sunny, Vitamin D goodness, etc. And with the ridiculous expenses attributed to hospitals and treatments, going back to basics also means saving yourself if not hundreds, thousands of dollars just to stay in shape. The sun is free, for one thing!

So, like I would always tell you guys — just look around you! Nature demands our attention… and for a pretty good reason, too.


The Identity Hunt

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Subjectivation – a philosophical term coined by Michel Foucault wherein people define for us who we are, and in turn, allowing ourselves to be defined.

What if, all along, I let other people define who I am?

Not too long ago, I had a painful realization. It started over a very small argument with someone that progressed into a deep wound and, inevitably, an actual panic attack. I had to leave my cubicle and excuse myself from work that morning. I couldn’t push myself to be productive knowing that I, someone who claimed to be living and breathing individuality, actually didn’t have an identity at all.

I woud’ve continued to wallow and let myself recoil in defeat, and with that I mean the most absolute, final defeat, but then I thought — what if perhaps everyone, every single human being here on earth, doesn’t have an identity either?

My own definition of identity is boxed into the overused word, ‘label.’ And again, for someone who’s supposed to be ‘unique’ and ‘individual’, I practically lived my entire life in the quest to attain one, just like everyone else.

To me, a label was something that will not only give you individuality and uniqueness. It also gives absolute direction. And who wouldn’t want direction — a clear and precise roadmap that explains to you the significance of your past, dictates to you your present, and guarantees a future?

People spend their entire lives killing for that kind of user manual. For answers. For purpose. For clarity. Because the end goal, the destination, will define his entire person. It would make him an essence. It will provide fulfillment.

And all these, through the achievement of an identity, which can only be born out of a label.

Where did labels come from? People. And what gave these labels enough street cred to actually be called a ‘label’ — a word that is so precise, so clear-cut?

Society makes the word ‘label’ as highfalutin and necessary as the concept is often deemed. Societies with authorities perpetually passing on what past generations believed was the ‘right’ way to live a life. Societies with parents and families and teachers and peers who stamp upon the searching youth’s mind that fulfilling all the prerequisites to the identity curriculum is a matter of life and death — because without an identity, you are practically nonexistent.

No wonder so many kids end up taking their own lives, tired and exhausted and resigned from the fact that they just can’t achieve that which makes them Real. Alive. Existing.

What if the concept of an identity is just an illusion? What if our purpose as real, alive, and existing human beings with a beating heart, a working brain, and sharp senses, is to keep searching without expecting to find something?

What if we are supposed to willingly and proudly admit — “I don’t have an identity!” — and not yearn and pine and live our lives courting, wooing and chasing after the answer, simply because the answer is already there, in our quest to find one?

One shouldn’t focus on the end too much lest he ceases from acknowledging how much he’s learning and gaining right now — from the process, from the trip.

Foucault’s response is to treat our own lives as a work of art, and we ourselves are the artists, rather than allowing others to sculpt us. He says that there is no such thing as an ‘authentic self’, that if our mode of life is that of searching for ourselves or discovering ourselves, we end up frustrated becuase there is no self to find. Rather, there is only a self to be made… and re-made.

To me, it’s ultimately this: You work to become the best goddamn writer, doctor, actor, musician, student, teacher, parent, sibling, friend, priest, counselor, CEO, whathaveyou, and when you reach the point where you finally realize that things aren’t exactly working as it should be, you triumphantly cry out upon your arrival to either one of the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ fork road destinations, “Wow, what an awesome trip. Now it’s time to thumb my way to a brand new ride.”

Written by Karla Mercado

August 18, 2009 at 5:40 am

Musing of the day: Trapped

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Homo Sapiens, who awoke to myth in a tribe and grew into politics as a citizen, is now trained as a lifelong inmate of an industrial world.

-Ivan Illich, based on Michel Foucault’s Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (on the rise of the pan-therapeutic society in which morality-charged roles are extinguished).

Written by Karla Mercado

May 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Faith and healing

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Interesting topic.  A documentary on Crime and Investigation this afternoon featured “Christian Scientists.”  I didn’t even know there exists such a group of people, officially.  It sounded way too fascinating to pass up so I decided to watch the entire thing.

Christian scientists claim that they’re not out to ram spirituality and religion down people’s throats.  They simply want to introduce the subject of spirituality as early as taking down a patient’s history by using questions such as “What beliefs do you find important in your life?”  They say it’s a great way to identify how certain patients cope with illness and mortality.

Spirituality is now part of the curriculum for majority of medical schools in the US.  The government is also now funding research on spirituality and medicine and how these two can be used side by side in the healing process.

Of course, you can’t help but have at least two sides.  There are a lot of doctors who are very much open to this recent development, but there are also some of them who think it’s absolutely absurd.

I personally find this topic fascinating.  I’m very much for science and can’t help but lean towards the side of the skeptics;  I myself haven’t found a real balance between religion/spirituality and science.  To me, it’s impossible to do that.  If I were to use both, and I believe I already do that in my own personal life, I’m pretty sure that I will end up having one of them dominating the other.

In my case, science heavily dominates spirituality.

But different moral compasses, traditions and cultures also exist.  If I were to become a doctor, I will do everything I can to make my patient’s healing process as comfortable as it is effective.  Christian scientists do have a point when they said that including the topic of spirituality, especially if it’s a huge part of the patient’s coping process, has its advantages.  Medical anthropologists, for instance, make sure that they are able to use traditional medicine proven with hard facts to combat certain diseases, while at the same time taking into consideration a society’s given culture and belief system.

But where does one draw the line?  The only problem I see with this fascination for spirituality in the medical field is that it might overpower hard facts.  Doctors can’t always adjust to their patients’ beliefs.  This isn’t a restaurant or an outlet store where the customer is always right.

Right now, I’m still a bit wary about introducing spirituality in the hospitals in such a full force way.  But it is indeed something to think about.

Written by Karla Mercado

December 23, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Back to Basics

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For the past week, I was mostly reflecting on my almost one month journey to vegetarianism, and how it has opened doors for me and my fiance to tap other activities that would help strengthen our mutual convictions for human and animal ethics and the environment.  The common denominator so far is the idea of living a self-sufficient lifestyle and the so-called ‘going back to the land’ philosophy.  I will try to break down these reflections in this entry.

First, what made me decide to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle?  The idea is definitely nothing new;  it is something that I’ve been thinking about for several years.  I am passionate about animal rights, and it is the fire that fueled this desire in the first place.

For several years, I had felt like a hypocrite, internally preaching about animal liberation while consuming animal products.  I guess it was precisely the reason why it was entirely an ‘internal preaching’ because I didn’t feel like I had enough ammo of experiential reality to bug other people about it.

A month ago, the night before I decided to quit consuming animal products, I came across a very powerful verse from Thoreau’s ‘Walden’, particularly from the chapter on ‘Higher Laws.’  It said that ‘the repugnance to animal food is not the effect of experience, but of instinct.’  As trivial as it may sound, this passage was precisely what made me decide that night that I will become a vegetarian from then on.

Going back to a very basic thing such as instinct is what finally made me decide that it was time to quit.  One of the reasons why I couldn’t do it then was because I had a difficult time convincing myself that humans can indeed survive without consuming animals.  If lions can’t survive without being carnivorous, then humans probably can’t either.  We have teeth after all.

Silly, right?  At the time, I didn’t find this argument silly at all.  But now, I realized how truly ridiculous it was to compare ourselves with animals that way.  I was practically admitting that we are no different than those animals who were at the same level with us on the food chain, when in fact, we are;  precisely because of the kind of instinct I was talking about — the human instinct.

We are different from the lions and the elephants and birds.  Human instinct, to me, is equivalent to reason.  Unlike non-human animals, we have the ability to choose not to do certain things.  Who knows if lions can survive without consuming other animals?  They will probably never know.  But we human animals can.

On the flip side, we are also in no way different with animals in many respects, which brings me to my point on animal rights.  They hurt as much as we do both physically and emotionally.  One person asked what it felt like to a dog if someone kicked it.  The person he was talking to said, ‘Have someone kick you.  That’s how it feels like.’  Non-human animals tangibly feel pain, fear, sadness, separation and anxiety as much as human animals do in sickness, loneliness, terror and uncertainty.

When it comes to natural instincts, as there are different kinds of instincts, we are also in no way different than non-human animals when it comes to survival instinct.  At the face of death, non-human animals will do everything they can to survive, as proven in various reports of animal cruelty and slaughter.  They scream, try to wriggle themselves out of constricting hands or chains, slam themselves against cages until the locks break, or simply run for their lives.  They are as much aware of death as we human beings are.  This, to me, is one of the most powerful realizations I’ve ever had when it comes to distinguishing between what seems to be two groups from opposite ends of the pole.

Going back to basics helped me know myself better as a human being, which I had once completely avoided tackling altogether, what with the dawn of modernity and instant coffee.  Everything is practically laid out in front of me and all I have to do is push the button.

If I need a quick meal, I can easily hit the drive-thru.  If the weather is too humid, I can lock myself up in an air-conditioned room until the sun goes down.

Why not keep a vegetable garden or a fruit tree if you need to pick out something to munch on quickly?  Or why not enjoy a cool breeze at the apartment roof deck on a scorching summer’s day?  Going back to basics made me start asking myself such questions, and I am truly thankful for that, because my life has changed ever since.

Sundays for Skeptics

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She thinks about her past and she doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or pull each and every strand of her hair out.

It started about six years ago, when she met a really square 22-year old her cousin was setting up with her sister.  They were at the university cafeteria and she watched him pray before munching on his cold sandwich.  Boy was he weird.

It didn’t seem like he was aware that he was being ‘set up.’  Later on, they will find out why this made sense.  He belonged to a group where all the kids, by the time they hit their mid teens, a.k.a. their ‘prime’, would offer their entire selves to this so-called god by the name of Jesus Christ, and by entire selves, that meant not only their virginity, but dating altogether.

Along the way, she somehow managed to allow these people to convince her that this was how she was supposed to live her life.  On October 2004, she made a promise to devote her entire life to this Jesus Christ as well, and that was when she started becoming a Christian missionary to the youth.

It was an endless high, to say the least.  She was always up and about and on the go, going from one place to the next ‘preaching the good news’, inviting people to Bible sessions and concerts, and also ending up convincing almost every one of them to make that same commitment — it was an attractive group, the music was catchy and the head preacher very elating;  not to mention hot.

She finally found her niche and had a passion, something that most people don’t get to experience even in their thirties.  This was her moment.  She was at the prime of her youth, and it felt wonderful because she didn’t own this life anymore.  Someone else did.  Someone whom she believed called her to do all these things and live the kind of life she lived.  The life of a missionary.  The life of a Jesus freak.  The life of a woman of God, a sheperdess, a leader, and at the same time, a servant.

She was happy serving this guy she claimed she had met countless times before without even seeing him.  This happiness lasted long, contrary to the usual trend of a phase.  But the bottom line is, it didn’t last.

It was a happy life but it was also filled with confusion, heartbreak, disappointment and uncertainty.  It was a life filled with questions that were forced to be left hanging in the air, simply because she, along with the people she walked that same life with, were discouraged to try and answer these questions.  Being disconcerted, distracted and most importantly, curious, was discouraged.  In their world, everything was sure, even in the midst of skepticism.  Everything was real, even in the midst of ambiguity.

It took years before she realized that she couldn’t live in such a half-baked setting anymore.  It took years before she felt the most basic trait all human beings possessed, which separates them from the rest of animal kingdom, and that is REASON.

In so many years, almost her entire life, even before the big Christian episode, she allowed herself to live a life wherein decisions were made almost out of sheer emotion, and worse, FAITH, believing so strongly in something even when reality says, ‘Honey, nothing’s there.’

Tonight, she admits that she does miss the emotional highs she once felt when she lived a life of pure faith, but she keeps herself grounded on the fact that when she continues to live a life of faith and not of reason, it is tantamount to saying that she is just fooling herself, and worse, taking for granted the gift that nobody else in this world, except for human beings like herself, owns.

From now on, asking questions will never be discouraged.  Skepticism will never be looked down on.  She is a human being.  She was fashioned to be curious, rational and distinguished from pure emotion, faith, and sometimes, even personal experience.  This is the kind of life Marion Silver wishes to live and is prepared to pass on to many generations to come.  After all, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the faithful who are a minority.  It’s the skeptics.

Written by Karla Mercado

October 26, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Instinct, Reason

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