Monday, July 02, 2007


Our quest for wholeness begins with everyday choices

I was feverishly typing an email response or rather reaction, when someone nearby who must have noticed the steam rising from my desk asked, “does that email really require a response?” After a brief pause…. I hit the delete key.

The many choices we make each day in response to the circumstances and people in our lives, although sometimes seemingly insignificant, inform our minds, our hearts and our bodies moving us towards or away from our wholeness.

The root of the words "heal" and “health” is "haelen,” which means not an absence of disease but rather to make whole. There is no separating the body from the mind or the heart from our spirit.

Andrew Harvey, author and scholar, tells the story of Isaiah, a Holocaust survivor, who at the age of twelve had suffered the loss of his entire family in the death camps. He faced a choice that would shape the rest of his life. While Isaiah held in his heart the image of his mother’s kitchen, their cat lying in the sun and the love of his family, he was faced with the daily torture, unspeakable cruelty and abuse of the guards. He questioned what is real? Is the love I feel in my heart or the hatred and cruelty I see outside of me? He prayed for months and felt no answer. One day in despair after seeing the guard he most feared, he stood trembling in the cold winter snow and closed his eyes. He knew he had to choose for himself. From deep within, he silently screamed over and over “I choose love”, I choose love, I chose love”. When he opened his eyes the snow on the barbed wire sparkled like diamonds, and when he saw the guard coming towards him, for the first time he felt no fear or hatred, just pity. His life was forever changed. He added whatever you have to go through to know this beyond a shadow of a doubt is worth it.

I spoke this week to a wonderful man challenged with advancing Parkinson’s disease. The smallest tasks are difficult and he spends most of his time in a wheelchair. I was touched by his words. “My body is falling apart and I am seeing that as freedom. It’s no longer working well and as it falls away my spirit and true wholeness are more apparent to me.”

We all have large and small choices each day; to hold on to a grievance or forgive, complain or be grateful, nurture our unhappiness or our joy, move towards brokenness or wholeness, take action from a place of blame or of compassion. Health, in the true sense of the word, is our choice. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye reminds us:
“Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.”

– Amy Dunion, a registered nurse and licensed massage therapist, is Coordinator of The William W. Backus Hospital’s Center for Healthcare Integration. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dunion and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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