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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Responsibility for Health

Human beings continually persist in looking out there" for answers, formulas, and fortunes, only to discover that they had them within themselves all along. Many fables recount the adventures of a young seeker who travels the world in search of a noble truth or a priceless treasure. After years of weary searching, pain, and hardship, the aged pilgrim finally returns home only to find the object of the search in his or her own backyard.

This truth applies just as well to our desires for health and wholeness. Attempts to find the doctor, or the therapy, or the book that contains the magical solutions to all our problems and questions will end in frustration. Looking within, and assuming responsibility for what you find there, is a necessary condition for wellness.

This may be hard for many to accomplish, because from our earliest years we have accepted that somebody else knows what is best for us. As a society we have given up our personal power in many ways. To the teachers in our schools, we give the responsibility for telling us what we need to learn, and when and how to learn it; to professional mechanics, the decisions about the upkeep of our cars; to our professional politicians, the right to use our money and direct the military power of our country. Even in the area of spirituality, many people continue to allow their professional "holy one" to tell them what God demands. Likewise, we have entrusted our medical professionals with the responsibility for our health, giving them - and only them - the power to determine what our minds and bodies need.

The general attitude of "tell me what to do and I'll do it," or "you do it for me," seems easier initially.

We appreciate that the training of the specialist gives him or her a special skill. You would probably never get around to washing your dishes if you had to fix your own watch, TV, or cell phone. Experts are necessary in all aspects of life. But the problem is not that we use experts. The problem is that we often shift all responsibility to someone or something outside ourselves. When we do this, we don't have to suffer the guilt that might follow upon failure. We remember only too well the terrifying admonition: "You'll have no one to blame but yourself!"

To take charge of your own life and health implies taking calculated risks. It means recognizing that you have choices, and it carries with it your willingness to live with the consequences of those choices. For instance, in order to meet a deadline you may place yourself under prolonged stress, neglect your diet, and forget your exercise. These are your choices. If they are short-term, you will probably bounce back easily. But occasionally, they may result in a cold or some other condition that sends you to bed. Are you responsible for the cold? Yes, at some level you are. You may have no conscious awareness of it, but you created the condition that weakened your body and made it ripe for dis-ease. If you choose to take responsibility, you may accept the cold as an important message from your body and use it as a chance to rest and rebalance.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
I am large,
I contain multitudes.
—Walt Whitman

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