I have an opportunity, in each moment, to enter into health. The state of my body, mind, and feelings play a role in this, but not necessarily the one I have been conditioned to think. Growing up, I learned that if I had an illness, such as a flu or stomach troubles, I wasn’t well. Once the malady was treated and had passed, then I could call myself healthy again. Over time, this created a setup in which I began to feel healthy less of the time. As I got older and experienced more chronic issues, for example knee problems, thyroid dysfunction, or allergies, I was rarely able to consider myself in good health.

As a physician, I see patients of all ages with varying physical, mental or emotional conditions. Many times, those with acute illnesses relate to the state of their body with fear and anxiety. From childhood, we receive messages about how the body “should” or “shouldn’t” be. In the absence of questioning these preconceptions, we continue to live in reaction. As the state of the world often has us in crisis, this exacerbates a cycle of tension and stress.

Occasionally, I see someone with multiple chronic conditions who nonetheless remains vital and energetic. One young patient of mine has lupus, and had her kidneys replaced at a young age. She has multiple complications from this, among them frequent infections. Yet every time she sits with me she is energetic and engaging. She discusses her plans for the future, her passion for her job, and her desire to start a family. She has a condition of the body, but it does not affect her inner vitality.

How can I nourish this vitality in myself? I can start by not judging the state of my body. At this moment, I notice that I am tired and I have various aches and pains. I also have tools—developed from the practice of Breema—that remind me that I don’t have to get carried away by these symptoms. I can bring in any one of the Breema Principles to support me. I have a headache, and I have a choice. I can lose myself in my suffering with the sensations, or I can remember the Principle of Body Comfortable. I relax my shoulders, stretch my neck, shift my position.

The benefit runs deeper than just symptomatic improvement. When I begin to enter into Body Comfortable, I see that there are other Principles that come alive as well. I can work with No Extra, and see that I can release the tension I usually hold in my shoulders, face, and hands. I can bring in Single Moment, Single Activity, and pay attention to my breath, to the weight of my body sitting on the ground, or the motion of my fingers on the keyboard. All of these bring me to Mutual Support. My interest in working with my headache—and not merely seeing it as an inconvenience—becomes an opportunity. My physical symptoms become the catalyst for examination of the state of my body, mind, and feelings. If I am experiencing any sensation, this offers me the opportunity to observe my body as it is, without judgement. In this way, I can familiarize myself with how I am conditioned to respond to the world around me, and to use this information to enter into a deeper understanding of the true meaning of health.

Alexandra Johnson, MD, is an international Instructor at the Breema Center and has a private integrative medical practice in Oakland, California. For information on consultation go to greetinghealth.com.   To find out about upcoming classes Alexandra is teaching, visit breema.info/alexandrajohnson.