Collaborative living


There is something warm and magical about the word ‘collaborative’ — it holds the beauty of inter-being, heartwarming, kind, caring, wanting another’s happiness, being supportive. When I came across this wonderful parable, the word ‘collaborative’ sprang to my mind.

A large-hearted gentleman decided to spread goodwill and set off on his journey on foot. He walked all morning, enjoying the scenery, and reached a village in the afternoon. He knocked on the first door and asked the woman who opened it for something to eat. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said ruefully. ‘But I have no food in the house.’ It struck him that she did look gaunt and impoverished. And an idea came to him…

‘That’s all right,’ he said gently. ‘I have these special cubes in my pocket and if you will just put the cubes in a pot of boiling water, perhaps, we could share the most delicious soup in the world between us!’ A light sprang in her eyes. And she put a large pot of water on the fire. As it was warming up, he told his hostess, ‘Perhaps you could invite a few friends to enjoy this splendid soup with us!’ Quite overcome by his generosity, the woman ran out and told her neighbour about the special cubes and invited her over.

Word spread and the villagers assembled to watch as the traveller tasted the boiling water. ‘Mmm!’ he exclaimed. ‘It only needs some potatoes.’ ‘I have some,’ said one villager, hurrying out, and returned with a vessel full of nicely cubed potatoes. The traveller took them and gratefully added them to the pot. Enthused, another villager got sliced onions, another got diced carrots, another brought a tureen of fresh, shelled green peas, a senior gave milk and cinnamon, another contributed salt and pepper. All were accepted with courtly grace and added gratefully to the boiling water.

After a while, the traveller tasted a drop and a smile of satisfaction crossed his face. ‘It’s ready!’ he exclaimed. ‘Everybody get a bowl and spoon and some bread if you like and taste this most wondrous meal! Come, let us feast and enjoy each other’s company!’ The villagers got their bowls and spoons and loaves of bread. They all ate and drank their fill, talking, laughing, enjoying the meal, revelling in one another’s company… And the traveller smiled. He too felt good at having so many friends. ‘It’s amazing!’ he thought, ‘But it appears to me that there are no strangers in this world!’


Enhanced living

If you can look with a sense of fellowship into another’s eyes, you see an instant kindling and connection light up there like a flash of recognition. It’s as magical as the traveller’s special cubes. Even if we don’t know it, we are into collaborative living.

Anything we do for another is collaborative living. And anything we do for another with kindness and care is enhanced collaborative living. The act of living collaboration is not like a loaf of bread. If I share half a loaf with you, I have less to offer to others; whereas collaborative living is: I receive and offer wholesomeness and so do you and so does the next person and so on. Wholesomeness spreads and multiplies and gets better as each one spontaneously adds their bit of kindness and caring to it just like the traveller’s soup.


A healing team

That’s why it delighted me deeply to know that Dr Peter Van Houten practices collaborative medicine in his clinic — here, practitioners from multiple fields whether they be dentists, behaviour therapists, medical specialists, nurses, etc all work together as a healing team. If a patient has physical and mental problems, he or she accesses the desired treatments easily and the high-quality medical follow-through thereafter helps the patient not only to be cured but also healed.

The beautiful thing is that Dr Houten has added a deeper ­dimension to this wonderful medical collaborative ­practice. It goes beyond being merely clinical. The medical staff builds a bond of friendship and respect with each patient. The patient is not ‘told’ to take the medicine or to stop a habit, but through the caring and explaining and patience of the medical team, understands and collaborates in getting well!

Dr Houten says, ‘Because patients feel respected and heard, they often come up with a strategy that I also feel is the right one to take! Together, we come up with solutions in which the patient feels he or she is participating and using their own initiative.’

If you can look with a sense of fellowship into another’s eyes, you see an instant kindling and connection light up there like a flash of recognition.

When communication and harmony are the watchwords, a passive sick bed turns into a humming communion of wellness. There’s trust and a feeling of being heard and seen as an individual. It’s a beautiful, mature medical approach — to tune into and share a patient’s world that has gone topsy-turvy and help right it.

Interestingly, Dr Deepak Chopra had an awakening — if I may call it that — as a medical student when he gamely enrolled in a research experiment. Under the influence of LSD, a psychedelic drug, the group was asked to view a poster of Mother Teresa — the kindest, most loving person on Earth. ‘I’ve never felt such deep empathy and compassion as I felt then,’ says Dr Chopra. ‘I was crying. I just wanted to leave medical school and become a volunteer for Mother Teresa.’

The experiment had such a profound influence on him that now, 50 years later, his Chopra Foundation is collaborating with Mind Med, a clinical stage psychedelic medicine biotech company, to create awareness of using psychedelic medicines to treat mental illnesses such as depression and addiction as also to erase stigmas on mental illness and suicide. His wisdom is amazing. ‘Science should not be influenced by stigma or personal opinion,’ he says. Another gem: ‘Medicine is not about just treating people, it’s about healing suffering.’


Five health-makers

Health needs a collaborative approach at our individual level too — physical activity which promotes fitness, diet, sleep, thoughts and emotions, mastering calmness. The most beneficial exercise is the one you do voluntarily. ‘They’ve chosen wisely who’ve found it,’ says Mark Sisson. ‘It doesn’t matter what it looks like, or what it involves, as long as you’re doing your thing.’

Eat foods that your body finds easy to digest. It’s neither good health nor good sense to feel heavy, sleepy, lethargic, to bloat and burp constantly, to throw up or be constipated. Respecting your body’s comfort is treating yourself kindly and gently. The best foods are the ones you’ve grown up on but with less or zero fat added to them.

On this track of fitness and health, please understand the vital importance of thoughts. Dr Soumitra makes a startling observation. ‘Schizophrenia is primarily a thought disorder that affects mood; depression is a mood disorder that affects thinking,’ he says. Please watch your thoughts. Read and absorb great sayings and make them part of your thinking culture by writing them in a journal. Chant any word, sound, mantra or prayer that feels right —  the chant cancels the thought even as the thought cancels the chanted word and what ensues is utter peace. The mind needs to experience peace and inner space every day.

Give your mind a vision to hold on to instead of cynicism, suspicion, judgment, moodiness. ‘A vision is not just a picture of what could be, it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more,’ says Rosabeth Moss Kanter. When Rick was diagnosed with AIDS, he called on the vision of not only his guru, he envisioned that he was washing away the world’s sufferings as he washed his breakfast dishes; when he went out, sunshine became the healing light of ‘a hundred thousand suns’ entering his body.

In these ways, we court and collaborate with good health. It’s about being simple, and joining our loving energies to everything we think and do. It’s a sustainable, ever-healing, synergetic partnership with life.

The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.


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