Pope Francis

Four health tips...from the Pope!

pope_francis_072813Did you get swept up by the hope, peace, and love that the Pope's visit generated in the U.S.? Or did you just see it as a lot of hype? Whatever your stance, I can tell you this. Most people expect to learn about faith from the Pope, but I think we can learn about wellness from him, too. For starters, did you know that he is 78 years old? What stamina and enthusiasm he has at that age, no?! I would love to be so vibrant and enthusiastic in my late 70's.

Here are four health tips that I gleaned from the Pope: What on earth are we doing...to the earth?   For a long time, all I cared about was good food. I wanted to eat well for my own health, and the health of my family. I got into health coaching because I wanted to communicate the importance of good nutrition to everyone. I didn't understand or care where my food came from. And then it dawned on me (not so much a slow realization as a frying pan across the back of my head, I must say): good food MUST come from good soil. In other words, the quality of all food is inextricably tied to the wellness of the soil from which it springs!

Now I am learning all about the benefits of permaculture, rotational grazing, and other ways of farming soil and raising animals, that cooperates with nature, rather than trying to dominate it and force it (via chemical and technological means) to yield unnatural quantities or foodstuffs. For too long, we in the U.S. have focused on money as the bottom line, to the detriment of the land we are tilling and the animals we are raising. The Pope puts it this way: "When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society."

It's not just how we farm the land, but how we treat the whole earth that is troubling. It's as if a friend lent us his car and we started racing around the city, driving recklessly, parking carelessly, oblivious to the consequences. The car gets banged up and so do we. We are disrespecting our friend, and it is clearly dangerous for us and the vehicle. Here's another way to look at it. "A great challenge: stop ruining the garden which God entrusted to us so that all may enjoy it."

It's about how we relate, not just what's on our plate.  "Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change." Have you ever been so mad at someone that you were unable to eat? Has a fight or disagreement with a friend or coworker ever caused your stomach to hurt? Yes, our digestion is tied to more than just our stomach acid levels. How we relate to those around us has a tremendous impact on our health (and theirs, of course).

But we cannot change their behavior. So our only recourse is to ask God for help to change our own. Ask him to give you perspective, to see each person through God's eyes. They are also "imago dei" (made in God's image) and worthy of your respect and empathy, even if you disagree. If you hold onto unforgiveness, you may think you are hurting them, when in reality you are only hurting yourself. Unforgiveness is a poison to your system, corroding your inner life, and, yes, your physical body as well. We can't conjure up forgiveness on our own, however. We need a supernatural source. "When we experience the merciful love of the Father, we are more able to share this joy with our neighbor."

Go to the Source.  We can only give what we have been given. When we need faith, hope, peace, or love, we can't just will it into existence. We must reach for something higher.

What if you have no faith? Seek it. Faith is moving forward without immediate, visible evidence. Take steps of faith as you move forward---like attending church, reading the Bible. God says  "Seek me and you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 33:3 And do not be discouraged on the way. Remember that the faith life is a journey. “There are dark days, even days when we fail, even days when we fall … but always think of this: Don't be afraid of failures. Don't be afraid of falling. What matters in the art of journeying isn't not falling but not staying down. Get up right away and continue going forward. This is what's beautiful: This is working every day, this is journeying as humans."

Be honest. Be humble. When we think we've got a corner on a certain diet, career, or experience, we can all become self-righteous and Trump-like. The key is to remember that we are not God. It's okay to admit that we are small, deeply flawed, and often limited. In the midst of this truth, we are loved and beautiful, still. "God loves the lowly. When we live humbly, he takes our small efforts and creates great things."

Does the Pope inspire you, too? Have you learned anything about life and health from him? Post your comments below.

Oh, and one final footnote: I got so inspired by the pontiff's visit that I decided to follow him on Twitter. I got the suggestion from Twitter" "You might want to follow these similar accounts." It then listed President Obama, the Dalai Lama, and Ellen DeGeneres. Hmmm.