I have often written about taking care of the mind, because firstly the mind’s journey to meet God is what life is about, and secondly, I think in western society we don’t focus enough on health of the mind (like stress reduction and emotional coping). Today I’m going to just write a little bit about the body instead. The mind body connection is strong, so obviously diseases of the body do affect the mind (and your ability to focus on Gurbani for example) and anything affecting the mind, including stress, will affect the body.
Our body is our temporary, but life-long vessel for the mind and soul. Unfortunately on my job I see the preventable effects of people not taking care of their bodies. For example, I see people who have to have amputations from their diabetes, or go blind. Given the prevalence of diabetes in the South Asian community, this is why I spent a lot of time in my younger years educating people in Punjabi about diabetes awareness and the importance of managing their diabetes. I see the end effects of intoxicants- smoking, drinking, and drugs. Unfortunately despite the fact that Sikhism teaches us not to do these things, Punjabi culture seems to emphasize drinking alcohol heavily as being the norm for males and as a result people develop substance use disorders and complications of alcohol use including liver disease or failure.
In the times of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and even the Guru Jis before that, there was extensive physical training in becoming warriors. As I mentioned in my recent post, Guru Angad Dev Ji mentions about how we should be exercising our bodies and taking care of our health. There are so many forms of exercise for us to do. We can do high intensity exercise like sports or running which really has the benefit of feeling just really good afterwards, or things like yoga which are more about being in tune with the body and about building flexibility (which directly affects our ability to be able to sit comfortably during paat), and there’s things like strength training which is simply practical. My dad used to talk about how much physical work they used to do in India, and how there wasn’t anyone overweight because they were working so hard. Unfortunately nowadays a lot of our jobs are pretty sedentary and people simply don’t take out the time to exercise. I think it’s really great when we get people engaged in forms of exercise when they are younger because they are probably more likely to just stick with it through life. Academics is important, but we shouldn’t overemphasize them over physical health and we should teach our kids that their health and physical fitness is important.
In Guru Angad Dev Jis time, Mata Khivi Ji used to prepare a healthy and nutritious langar. Nowadays I feel like we have moved towards putting large amounts of butter and sugar in our langar. I am happy to see recently we have added at least salad, but in reality most of our meal is supposed to be fruits and vegetables and its not. Particularly when I went to Surrey during the Nagar Kirtan I actually didn’t see any healthy food options despite there being hundreds of food stands. Food is what feeds our bodies, and of course affects our energy levels and general wellbeing.
Lastly, of course comes sleeping, which could be a topic in and of itself!
I think at the Gurdwara we should be also reminding everyone that the Guru Jis taught us to be physically fit and be an example of that, at least in the langar hall. Taking care of this body is important in making us live a long and healthy life in order to fulfill our duties of sewa and meeting God in this lifetime. As a reminder, the Nagar Kirtan is coming up on the 20th, an excellent opportunity to get some exercise!