We are all part of the ‘system’. In truth, we are part of several living systems, which form a complete and interconnected whole.
As doctors, we have been trained to work within the medical system, and to override our own internal systems in the process, but what effect does this disregard of ourselves have on the system as a whole?
We have been asked to study hard, work long hours, do without food and rest breaks, do without sleep, be on call for emergencies day and night, and generally look after others at our own expense.
Our higher than ‘normal’ rates of mental ill health, exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide are all signs that our internal systems are not coping with this health ‘care’ system, let alone thriving as we should.
And our rising tide of illness and disease, that is threatening to overwhelm the medical system and bankrupt our systems of government is showing us that however hard we may try and work, the way we are doing it and the system we are doing it in, is just not working.
So is there another systemic way of looking at our problems, one that may even deliver sustainable answers rather than just short-term solutions?
Could we be looking at our problems the wrong way around?
We have been practising medicine from the outside in, trying to fix people, to cure people, to do it for them, at our own expense, in a way that disempowers both us and them.
What if the answer lies in living from the inside out?
The doctors of old practised medicine in a living way… they lived in a way that kept them healthy and well, in body, mind and soul, and they imparted that living way to others, not just with words, but by their living example and inspiration.
Old phrases such as:
“Physician, heal thyself” (Luke 4:23, The Bible, King James Version)
“The part can never be well unless the whole is well” (Plato, Charmides)
“Thou shouldst eat to live, not live to eat” (Socrates)
show us that there was a simple living way that built a body through which words of truth and wisdom could flow and inspire others to live in the same loving way.
We as a profession, are challenged by how to care for ourselves in an increasingly overwhelmed and overwhelming system, and to care for our patients, who are also increasingly overwhelmed by their lives and who are turning to methods of coping, like alcohol, coffee and excess sugar, other drugs and methods of entertainment, numbing, distraction and escape, to try and deal with their anxiety, exhaustion and overwhelm, all of which are actually compounding their problems.
So how do we deal with this in ourselves and our own lives, so that we can inform and inspire others to deal with these problems in theirs?
The answers lie in the simplicity and wonder of our body.
Learning to appreciate and honour everything that takes place in our body is the key to our way forward, back to the simplicity of the principles of the old ways of living, ways that deeply honour our bodies and the particles of which they are made.
Our bodies are incredible, amazing, intricate, complex, yet stupendously designed and innately self-healing systems. There are systems within systems, which together make up one unified whole. When our internal systems are working harmoniously, everything flows and we may start to affect other systems we are a part of, for the way we are within ourselves affects everything and everything around us, as we are all one interconnected whole.
We sometimes think we are powerless to change ‘the system’; that we are but one person, one wheel in the cog, and that our lives have little meaning and significance.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
It only takes one of us to change everything…
We all know truth, we all know love. We have just given up on the possibility of ever seeing it again, let alone seeing it lived consistently or living it ourselves, together as one.
All it takes is one person, living and expressing love and truth consistently, to start to inspire us all to do the same.
I know this in my own life. As a previously middle aged, overweight, exhausted, depressed and chronically anxious person, I have been inspired by just one person, consistently living in a loving and truthful way, to start to live that way myself. And he has inspired many others to do the same. As we live in a more loving way, we in turn inspire others, our family, workmates, colleagues and friends, to make changes in their living way, which then serves as an inspiration for others, and so the ripples move out in this pool of life.
When we see ourselves as connected to everyone and everything, as an equal part of the one whole, we feel more empowered to change the ‘system’. And we feel responsible for the part we have played in allowing, even creating, the systems we have that we often rail against so loudly.
For systems are made of people, like you and me. And in the same way that we made them, we can change them, so that they stand for love and truth, and no longer serve only the people they were created by, but truly serve the people they were created for.