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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Wellness Amidst Illness

Wellness describes the quality of natural health or wellbeing that is fundamental to human beings. This quality of wellness is not dependent on physical wellbeing for its expression. It is an unconditional state of being that may be obscured - but not destroyed - by illness. It is therefore possible to discover wellbeing in the midst of a serious or chronic illness. Although this may seem simple and obvious, it is a major statement that sets the wellness approach apart from the more common treatment approach that measures only our state of physical health.

One aspect of self-love and self-acceptance is allowing disease to be an instructive and positive life force. The lessons that accompany it are essential to the fully functional human being. Since we are all going to die anyway, the test seems to be how we deal with our illnesses rather than how well or how long we can avoid them.

One day years ago, Regina fell on the ski slopes and broke her leg. It was right in the middle of a very pressured period of work. The situation forced her to slow down, to rest, to struggle with her general reticence to ask for help from someone else. It became an opportunity rather than a problem. She used the time to write a new book, After Surgery, Illness, or Accident: Ten Practical Steps to Renewed Energy and Health, about how to make optimal use of the recuperation period.

History is filled with examples of individuals who experienced personal transformations as a result of serious disease or crippling handicap. For instance, the writings of Helen Keller and the music of Ray Charles have inspired millions of people all over the world. More recently, Christopher Reeve's advocacy for the handicapped provides another notable example. Wellness may be encouraged by a physical handicap as much as by a vigorous exercise program or a pure diet. Of themselves, none of these things automatically leads to wellness. When used as tools for self-exploration, for education, for growth, everything leads to wellness.

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