What is Wellness?


Forging a friendship with your best friend—Your body

Wellness is equilibrium. Wellness equals a state of harmony between our environment and ourselves; a balance between the energy we take in and the energy we expend. Science may have a grasp on how certain facets of the body function, but only Nature herself comprehends and manages the full mystery.

Stop for a moment and think. No doubt you know the first few steps required to make a baby, but that's about all. Fortunately, however, your body knows the rest. This wisdom is second nature, because the human body is not separate from Nature, but an integral part of it.

There is a natural, harmonious vibration to a body that is in balance: the beating of the heart, the rise and fall of the breath, and the flow of thoughts and emotions. All of these are evidence that our bodies' systems are "go," functioning together in concert, at one with the Earth that sustains us. 

Wellness is more than just the absence of disease: it's an exhilarating sense of “all is right with the world.” When you have it, you wake up in the morning filled with excitement, anticipation and goose bumps rather than a sense of dread about what the day will bring.

And Wellness is a battle. You have to be aware that one must fight constantly for your right to live in a healthy environment free of toxins, find time to exercise, eat foods with purpose and confidence in their origins, and strive for the other simple truths I list below.

Antonio Machado, Spanish philosopher-poet-revolutionary, wrote, "There are no paths, my friends. Paths are made by walking." I have walked a long, winding, and fulfilling path—several of them, actually—over the course of 74 years at Rancho La Puerta and the Golden Door bringing self-mastery, health, and longevity to others. I’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t in the fields of exercise and nutrition. And yet what we know today about the body will seem like a pittance 100 years from now. After a thousand? Who can imagine?

But here and now, I feel compelled to say that some simple truths must be considered to help you blaze your own path to a longer, stronger, healthier, and happier life.

1. Eat real food! Trust the “aliveness” of foods. It’s simple: avoid all boxes, bottles, and cans as much as possible.

2. Cherish water. Pure water is your body's lifeblood—and naturally pure water is rapidly becoming rare and precious.

2. Crave oxygen. Rather than calling it “exercise,” think of pleasurable ways to get oxygen-rich blood pumping: a favorite walk, sport, dance. Express yourself through movement that makes you happy.

3. Shun chemicals. At home, at work and at play. Seek organic alternatives to cleaners, pesticides, bedding, upholstery, zero-VOC paints, and the like.

5. Rest! Reduce stress by developing a strategy of revival that doesn’t rely on coffee, sweets, or endless connections to screens and other devices. Try yoga meditation, massage—whatever works for you.

6. Sleep well. Make a commitment to healthy, restorative sleep. Create a sleep-friendly environment, and a schedule you can stick to. Start a nap habit.

7. Swear off all sodas. Avoid all energy drinks—including “diet.” Limit fruit juices—we’re all trying to cut back on sugar, and watching what you drink is the easiest way to start.

8. Limit meat. Have sustainably-sourced meat just once a week—or whatever you can achieve. Treat it as a condiment, not a staple. Remember that in the old days a “chicken in the pot” was considered a Sunday treat.

9. Cultivate family and friends. Isolation brings alienation...and unhappiness. You need at least two friends you can call at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

10. Save for an uncertain future. The world is in flux due to climate change and other stresses. Understand now that your lifestyle may not always be the same. Start a nest egg now to keep your options open.

11. Find a reason to be. The French call it raison d'être. Everyone has something they cherish, believe in, hope to make better—their reason to live. It’s also what gets me to Pilates every morning and makes me do all of the above. Embrace yours...and take action to make your life and the lives of others better.

Wellness practices are based on common sense. Please take a moment for the Wellness Warrior Pledge, and then do each to the best of your ability (even when you think it’s almost impossible). 

You’re on your way to becoming your body’s best friend. Many of you are well into the journey already. Some of you are just beginning.

Can I make a suggestion? From this day forward, when you wake in the morning and are still in bed, remember that your body is still a bit at “half mast”—you need a stretch. You need fresh air. Take a few deep breaths that send air deep into the most remote alveoli of your lungs. Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. Three or four times, that’s all. Then stretch...long, slow, and deliciously.

As you get out of bed, say “Good morning!” Shout it or whisper it out loud—but say it, and say it to your body alone.

It is a good morning. As the sun rises, almost every living organism seems to reach upwards and outwards. The grasses, the sap in the trees—a world filled with energy—awakes. You too.

Today is not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today! A day full of all kinds of potential and possibilities! Let’s treat it like we know we should, for it is the proverbial first day of the rest of our lives.

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  • Rhana Pytell
    commented 2014-10-11 15:41:50 -0400
    Imagining a world where humans consciously and gratefully blaze a path of cherishing the beauty, wisdom and genius of Nature. Thank you for sharing yours!
  • Lynn Hazan
    commented 2014-10-11 08:41:39 -0400
    Deborah: Such simple yet profound words of wisdom. Thank you for setting a positive tone of inspiration and action.
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