Nurturing healing connections is a challenge as the pandemic keeps on rolling, economies lurch, and current events range from gut-wrenching appalling to potentially hopeful. Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy both offer ways to connect or re-connect with a deeper healing balance inside. In past blogs, I’ve written about the importance of connection for a strong immune system and in relation to racial justice and self-care.
Today’s blog is in the nature of a book review, a rave on the insightful work of Johann Hari, in Lost Connections. A great storyteller, Hari thoroughly assesses research and community work leading to the conclusion that for our own mental as well as physical health, nurturing healing connections matter. DUH. The nature of the connections he highlights is worth further exploration.
As a young journalist, Johann Hari wrote numerous pieces on the benefits of pharmaceuticals for mood disorders. As he says at one point in Lost Connections, “It sounds ridiculous to say I found it easier to interview hit men for the Mexican drug cartels”(for his first book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs) “than to look into what causes depression and anxiety…” Many of us can appreciate this reluctance and difficulty.
In the midst of his explore of what DOES work to calm depression and anxiety, he roams the world, and takes us readers with him. He looks at the underbelly of culture and capitalism, and is frank about what is not working. He has this refreshing way of first introducing experts with stories about their younger selves. While recounting their findings, he refers to them by their first names, humanizing and making more accessible both the research and the researchers.
He takes us to a working class neighborhood in eastern Berlin, where a gay night club is supporting the community-building efforts of Turkish immigrants. We are with him as he chats up one researcher after another, often over Chinese stir fry or donuts. There is not an obvious Ayurvedic bone in this body of work. Yet as one looks closer, there could be.
Lost Connections is about nurturing healing connections with oneself as well as others, coming back into balance. Hari names nine ways we’ve disconnected from our essential nurturing healing connections, and then explores seven ways we can reconnect. Communication in relationships is of course one of these. One Polarity Therapy client was reviewing with me in a phone session a difficult communication he wanted to make with another person this week. He said with swift insight, “As I speak about this, my anxiety goes down. Thinking I’m not going to talk about it, my anxiety goes up.”
There are five levels of healing in both Polarity Therapy and Ayurveda: the physical, the energetic, the social/emotional, the belief/intellectual, and the sacred. Lost Connections touches on many of these levels in a skillfully secular way, without pulling any punches.
In the first section on reconnecting to other people, Hari investigates how being a part of a group comes easier to Asians than to most Westerners. Our highly individualistic society has made us miserable. Extensive social research has found that a collective vision of happiness creates more well-being for individuals and groups. Reflecting on this research, Johann writes, “Now, when I feel myself starting to slide down, I don’t do something for myself – I try to do something for someone else.” He observes that this works much more effectively “than trying to build myself up alone.”
The second reconnection, what he calls social prescribing, is closely related to the first. Research tracked seriously depressed and anxious people being seen in a center in East London. Besides drugs, individuals were prescribed ways to reconnect: with other people, with society, and with values that mattered to them. For example, a group worked together to transform an abandoned lot “Dog Shit Alley” into a neighborhood park. The outcomes of this study indicated that “when you can become connected to the people around you, it’s restoring of human nature.”
This point seems especially important now as we work with massive social disconnections – from our work places, most of our friends, and from any activities deemed “non-essential” (whether that’s your weekly Dungeons & Dragons get together, tree planting, bowling, or a singing group). While Zoom use has soared, we need to take into account all five elements when we consider connections.
In both Polarity Therapy and Ayurveda, nurturing healing connections come from all five elements. Part of this is simply connecting with the natural world (another one of Johann’s points). Earth, water, sunlight, fresh air, space encompass these five nurturing healing connections with nature. These connections need to be made with heightened awareness now. The Pecos River, not far from our home in northern New Mexico, is now packed on the weekends with people, us among them, desperate to balance the heat and isolation with cool water and some sociability.
Nurturing healing connections with the elements can be more subtle, too. Each natural element manifests in one of our five senses:
Upon brief reflection, you can see that the elements of earth, water, and air are not getting as much of a workout in a Zoom session as sight/Fire and sound/Space. Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy would invite us to find ways to nourish all the elements as we connect and reconnect, with smell, taste, and touch as well. HOW is the question.
At this point, I’ve got one big question and not so many answers yet. How do we create nurturing healing connections for ourselves now?
As we begin to seek out new ways of nurturing healing connections in a radically different world, we will need however much healthy Kapha we’ve garnered in this last month. May we ground with humor and awareness as we face the turmoil together somehow, inside and out. Lost Connections gives us creative guidance on how we might do this.