(NaturalNews) Falling apart in America is currently so commonplace that it's considered normal. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of adult Americans have high cholesterol; 10 percent have diabetes; 11 percent suffer from heart disease; and 66 percent are overweight or obese. A recent Reuters report announced that the use of antidepressant drugs in the United States doubled between 1996 and 2005 and the National Institute of Mental Health reports that over 18 percent of the adult population in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders in any given year. Recent numbers released by Medco Health Solutions, Inc., indicate that more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems. And that's only the insured Americans. The number would be even higher if it included the 46.6 million, or 15.9 percent, of Americans who lack health coverage.
Americans are so conditioned to believe that life is just a slow march from the womb and the tomb that they don't even question it when they begin to fall apart. Philosophers, though, are of a different ilk. We question everything. Plus, I can't reconcile falling apart with my vision for a Good Life. According to traditional Chinese medicine, vital energy is called chi. There are two broad categories of chi: prenatal and postnatal. Prenatal chi is transmitted directly to us at the time of conception. It is a gift from our parents. The quality of prenatal chi determines our general constitution - whether we are strong and healthy or weak and sickly. As we progress through life, we draw upon this prenatal chi, first to develop and grow, and then just to survive. Since there is, however, a finite amount, we gradually exhaust the supply and our bodies begin to deteriorate.
Postnatal chi is a renewable resource. Taoist Master Peter Ragnar says, "Basically, we come into this life with a battery that has a certain amount of juice in it. I call this our prenatal chi. If you don't do a thing and you just continue to run with your lights on and the radio blaring, eventually the battery will wear out, depending upon how much demand you put on it. However, if you plug the battery in at night and you charge it, there's no end in sight - that's postnatal chi." Consumer culture, lived in the fast lane, doesn't provide ample opportunities for generating postnatal chi. Consequently, people exhaust the reserves of their prenatal chi, and begin to fall apart.
Many people come into the world with prenatal chi to spare. They are incredibly resilient and have iron constitutions. They can work like a Trojan, take a short nap, and get up and do it all again. Until one day they hit a wall. Things seem heavier, days seem longer. But if a person can learn to consciously shift brain states, they can tap into a whole new source of energy and cultivate the ability to generate more postnatal chi.
We don't, for example, need to jump out of bed and hit the ground running every morning. We can spend a few quiet moments doing yoga, followed by brief meditation or prayer. Some will find that it is hard to sit still so early in the morning. But with some practice, the light bulb will go off as new practitioners begin to notice that their days are actually going much more smoothly than they had when they had gotten up and jumped into the day at turbo speed. They will begin to be active from within a context of stillness. Mindfulness will grow. Morning yoga and meditation move us from our habituated beta brain states, ranging between 13 to 40 cycles per second, into an alpha brain state, cycling between 7 to 12 cycles per second. Huge difference. While beta waves are perfect for acing exams, playing sports, and defending a dissertation, slower alpha waves are the antidote for stress. Where beta represents arousal, alpha represents non-arousal. Lower brain waves equal lower stress levels. And, as our stress levels reduce, we have more energy. It is clear, creative energy that refreshes us, instead of chaotic, incoherent activity that exhausts us.
As we learn to relax our mind and begin reducing stress levels, we discover that we are generating - instead of depleting - postnatal chi. We are recharging our battery. Our vitality soars. The life force can be seen in our eyes and heard in our voice. Our bodies move without hesitation and our posture becomes regal. If we are conscious enough, we can change what happens with our bodies. We can preserve our body or we can kill it. Many people are killing themselves with their thoughts - with stress.
We are products of our own unconscious cause-and-effect cycles. As we become incrementally more conscious of our thoughts and develop more cognitive fluidity, a dynamic and powerful energy builds up inside of us. We are different. We radiate as if we have swallowed the sun. It's a wonderful experiment in freedom!
About the author: Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., is a socially engaged philosopher and cultural sustainability advocate. Her new book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle explores critical issues from this perspective. At the end of each chapter is a list of things that you can do to create a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. For more information: http://www.sherryackerman.com