‘Health is not everything, but everything is nothing without health.’ Al Reem Al Tenaiji explores the most basic of human needs, and how we have approached it over the years

Confucius said, ‘It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.’ Motivation is the driving force behind everything we do; continuous progress always reflects at least some level of drive behind it.

According to humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, our actions are motivated in order to fulfil certain needs. Some of these needs naturally take precedence over others. Only once our basic needs for safely and physical survival are fulfilled can we move up a level to the more cognitive of needs: self-esteem, aesthetics and finally – hopefully – transcendence.

So what does this mean for our lives? Essentially that we must solve issues in our lives one by one, starting with our health. As the great Indian spiritual advisor Swamiji cleverly noted, ‘Health is not everything, but everything is nothing without health.’

There is no written historical record of how, when or where disease began. In ancient times, healing methods consisted of religious rites, ceremonies and special formulas that brought forth the mysterious, miraculous powers of deities and other supernatural beings. The healing theme centered around the idea of expelling the unseen, malicious forces that caused disease. Appeals were made to the gods for the cure to disease.

The Greeks looked to the power of the gods for healing, using customary rituals, hymns of praise, prayers and sacrifice. That healing power was transmitted by simple divine presence, by the laying-on of hands, through some sacred relic, or through the medium of a priest, priestess or sacred animal.

The Egyptians assumed that the body was divided into thirty-six parts, each under the sway of a certain god. There is no limb without a god. Interestingly, in manuscripts dating back to the twelfth dynasty, it was the stated duty of the pharaohs to maintain the health of their subjects. Health has long been an essential need for humans and belief was an integral part of the ancient healing arts.

The learning of the virtues and attributes of the gods activated healing powers within the patients, leading to the earliest definite knowledge of medicine. Whether it was the Egyptians, the Greeks, or other ancient civilisation, they understood the importance of stimulating the patient’s own healing energies. Or, simply, trusting the body to heal itself.

According to religious studies, man was created in a triune: body, soul, and spirit as one. The body is the physical part. The soul and spirit are the spiritual elements, which enable us to act, think, feel, react emotionally, and spiritually respond to God. Originally, each part of this triune was in harmony with the other two, and the entire triune of man was in harmony with God.

There is an important place today for the theories of healing utilised by ancient civilizations. The mind and body have not changed significantly in the last few thousand years – only the manner in which we view and utilise this relationship.

Modern holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions – in the quest for optimal health and wellness. According to holistic philosophy, one can achieve optimal health, the primary goal of all medicinal practice, by gaining proper balance in life.

Practitioners believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and, if one part is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. If people have imbalances – physical, emotional or spiritual – in their lives, it can negatively affect their overall health.

I believe that, in the modern world, wellness is the new luxury, and that the health of your body is only as good as that of your mind and soul.


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