David's Book:The 13 Major Rx for Total Wellness
[By Dr.David N. Snyder]
The 13 Major Rx for Total Wellness
Some people focus only on their physical health spending hours on exercise everyday and others
feel that working on the improvement of their mental health is the only thing necessary. Because
Buddhism acknowledges the importance of the mind-body connection it is interested in total
The Buddha said, ―There are two kinds of illness; physical illness and mental illness. Many
enjoy freedom from physical illness, but rare are those who enjoy freedom from mental illness
for even one moment, except for enlightened ones. (Anguttara Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka)
Modern psychologists have concurred with the Buddha that everyone suffers mental illness in
varying degrees. We all experience anger, frustration, fear, etc. Some of us experience these
things in higher degrees than others.
In the Buddhist scriptures there are specific prescriptions given for improving health. Based on
these prescriptions and other teachings of the Buddha, this chapter provides some treatments for
creating and maintaining total wellness. Many noted physicians are becoming very popular with
their statements on how important meditation is for overall health, not just the mental side, but
also the physical side. Andrew Weil, M.D., is Harvard trained and another one of the many
successful authors writing books on this connection. Dr. Weil states that only about 15 to
20 percent of all diseases or illnesses need the care of modern medical science. The rest can be
prevented or even cured through methods such as herbs, diet, lifestyle, and meditation. (Weil,
1995) Caution must be used in this chapter not to proceed with any remedy mentioned here
without consulting your own physician for your particular and specific conditions. What is
mentioned here is only a guideline of potentials and possibilities that may be available and may
work in some cases with the practice of meditation. It must be mentioned that the goal of
meditation practice is to purify your mind, not to overcome many different physical ailments.
However, since there is the connection of mind to body and vice versa, several noted physical
benefits have been found. The benefits are mostly by-products of practicing meditation for the
purpose of purifying your mind.
The Longevity of the Buddha
The Buddha lived to the age of 80 during a time-frame when the life expectancy was 35 to 40
years at best. Thus, he lived over twice the typical life expectancy for his time. This would be
the equivalent of living to nearly 200 years of age during our current time-frame. Actually, the
Buddha passed away after eating some bad mushrooms which were given (offered) to him.
Thus, the exact length of life that he could have lived may have even been much greater.
The mind-body are interconnected as taught by the Buddha, but his emphasis on the mind and
overcoming mental stresses is another one of his teachings which has scientific backing. Besides
all of the academic and medical studies showing the value of meditation, there is another study
which clearly points to the power of the mind in longevity.
Scientists wanted to test the role of the mind and stress in overall health and longevity. They
tested rats in two separate environments. Both groups of rats were fed the same food, the same
diet. One group was placed under stress while the other group was not put under any stress. The
group that was not put under any stress had significantly less cholesterol and had no other health
problems. (Chopra, from his lecture series on PBS, 1997) Even though they had the same diet,
the animals with more stress had higher cholesterol and other problems. The mind can make the
body sick or can make the body well.
All we need to do is look at some very elderly family members or friends that we have and we
will see that those who are the oldest all tend to have one common characteristic: they do not let
things bother them. This is equanimity, the balanced mind which results from the practice of the
Buddha‘s teachings. On December 23, 1999 Sarah Knauss passed away at the age of 119. At
that time she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living person. Her
daughter was asked how her mother lived so long. The daughter‘s response was, ―nothing
bothered her, nothing would faze her. (Las Vegas Review Journal, newspaper, 12-30-1999,
Another common answer we hear from the extreme elderly for the secret to their success is their
saying that they do ―everything in moderation. This also fits well with the Buddha‘s teachings
For physical ailments meditate using the in-out breathing contemplation. One can alternate
between slow and fast rhythmic breathing. Fast breathing is good for people with respiratory
Meditate on wellness and the will to overcome the sickness. Through diligent concentration
favorable results can be seen.
If there is pain focus on the present, not the past or the future. Focus directly on the pain, do not
put any resistance to it, breathe slowly and the pain fades away.
Stress / Hypertension
Meditate using the in-out breathing contemplation method. Breathe slowly and focus on
relaxation. Continue the relaxed meditative state after the meditation is over and throughout the
Eat well-balanced nutritional meals. Eat vegetarian foods as much as possible. Do not eat
beyond noon. People who skip meals generally more than ―make-up‖ for it in the next meal
which is why most doctors have advised against skipping meals. However, when you skip the
evening meal, by the time morning comes for breakfast your appetite has subsided and you do
not over-eat. The Buddha did not eat beyond noon strictly for the health benefits. Modern
science later proved that foods are poorly metabolized in the evenings.
At first you may need to just cut back on your calories to eventually eliminate the evening meal.
There is no need to push too hard or force anything, just to try it. If you find yourself getting too
hungry eat a small snack in the evening. A small snack is still much better than a full-course
meal. Eventually you may find yourself just drinking fruit juice or eating fruit in the evenings
with no full meals.
Maintaining Physical Health
To maintain physical health an active lifestyle is necessary. Many people have careers that
involve sedentary work in offices. Thus, a fair amount of exercise is needed. Aerobic exercise is
best because it elevates the heart rate for a period of ten minutes or more thereby strengthening
the heart. A stronger heart works more efficiently and beats less during non -
exercise and rest times. A person who is aerobically fit ―saves‖ about 5 million to 15
million heart beats per year over a non-fit person. Scientists have also shown the relationship of
a fit person to overall less stress and other mind related ailments. (Cooper, 1982)
Aerobic exercises include walking, running, bicycling, etc. As one participates in these exercises
it is important to be conscious of every action. As described by the Buddha in the Four
Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse, one should be mindful of each step taken in exercise.
Better performances will be the result, thus, fitness, thus, total wellness.
However, it is important not to over-do it. Medical science has now shown that those who
exercise too much such as those in competitions, are actually doing more harm than good. Those
who over-do it deplete their immune system and many have died young from cancers and other
diseases. Of the four ―running - aerobic gurus of the nineteen sixties and seventies, all but one
died very young. Jim Fixx, George Sheehan, M.D., and Fred Lebow are credited with the fitness
/ aerobic boom that started in the nineteen seventies and all of these three are dead. Only Dr.
Kenneth Cooper is still alive of the ―running gurus and he is now advocating a more ―middle
way approach, less strenuous, less running. (Lilliefors, 1996) Dr. Weil has stated that the only
exercise we really need is just walking. (Weil, 1995) In Buddhist meditation practice there
is typically a period of sitting and then a walking meditation period. Medical scientists have
recently shown that there is a good effect toward health in doing fitness sports such as running
and swimming, but that the benefit does not continue to go up as longer and longer time is spent
at that activity. For example, a person could derive great fitness benefits in jogging or running
two to three miles per day, but running longer than that does no further benefit. By running six
miles or more there will still be good benefit to reducing cholesterol and fat, but the benefit is
not any greater than the person who only runs two to three miles per day.
A good ―middle way position for fitness and maintaining physical health is to participate in
aerobic sports and activities for about thirty minutes to an hour per day. If you want a good
workout in a short period of time and you are in good health, stair climbing is an excellent
choice. I personally prefer stair climbing as it is very convenient since you can do it almost
anywhere throughout the day. Instead of the elevator or the escalator, even while doing chores,
you can take the stairs.
Besides the taking note of each step with mindfulness in your running or stair climbing, also
watch your breath. It is best to breathe from the belly as much as possible. This belly breathing
is the same way breathing is done in meditation. In belly breathing the diaphragm expands with
the in-breath and contracts with the out-breath. The opposite is chest breathing, which puts too
much strain on the lungs. Be mindful of your breathing so that it remains belly breathing as long
as possible. When you start heavy breathing during the work-out you may need to return to chest
breathing. Create a rhythmic natural flow of breathing with your strides or steps in exercise. For
example, in stair climbing try to do one in-breath with each one or two steps taken and then
one out-breath with the next two steps, and so on. Keeping this concentrated, mindful state
along with the breathing techniques will give you better results and performance.
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