Many of us act in a panicky way without being aware of it, whether we are working or queuing for food and the train. (In Singapore, there is a campaign poster to remind people to let passengers come out of the train before entering). We walk fast without any apparent need. We also eat quickly, resulting in gastric reflux symptoms. And we look for quick acting medicine for relief.
These behaviours are closely identical to those observed during a trauma:
hyper-alertness (from working long hours);
impulsivity (the need to act quickly); and
hyperactivity (the need to be ‘on-the-go’ all the time).
In general, we lack body awareness and mindfulness. Usually, most of us cannot sit still and do nothing. A silent retreat sounds terrible for many.
Why do we behave in such a hurried and panicky way?
I believe, hurry is a sign of insecurity. This insecurity is a result of chasing after excessive wants, instead of having moderation in everything. We are afraid we do not have enough. We cannot lose out to anyone.
Saint Hildegard of Bingen, the Christian mystic and herbalist, described: The soul loves moderation in all things. Whenever a person eats or drinks immoderately or indulges in some other similar excess, the powers of the soul are wounded. We found a similar message in the 6th century philosopher Lao Tze:
I have 3 treasures and hold dear: The first is Love. The second is Moderation. The third is Humility. (Tao Te Ching, verse 67)
For this reason, St. Hildegard did not advocate extreme diet:
neither complete vegan nor excessive meat diet;
neither excessively cold food (such as juicing therapy) nor overly cooked food.
And she was right. Despite innumerous books promulgating various types of healthy diet, the only diet method that is scientifically proven again and again is calorie restriction. In other words, one important principle to observe is: moderation in eating, in order to allow complete digestion. Singapore’s very own centenarian, the late Madam Teresa Hsu, shared that the key to her longevity and good health was simple meals, physical activity, laughing, a heart for others, and contentment.
The Moderation principle also applies to eating, studying, working, drinking, sleeping, talking (of this, I am still struggling) and playing. There is a time to work; there is a time to rest and pray. The balance and regularity of life is best summarised in the Benedictine motto “Pray and work” (Ora et labora in Latin). The motto, inspired by the Christian monk Benedict of Nursia, considers both natural stimuli (Work) and inner work (Pray) as necessary for well-being in body, mind and spirit. To him, both work and prayer life are sacred; they are partners that enable one to live well. The monks do not stay in the monastery, pray and fast, and wait for donations or offerings from the laity to support them. Rather, they work for a living as farmers, teachers, and social workers, as well as spend time in silence and rest.
Let me conclude with a simple suggestion:
You should relax before you sleep.
Switch off your mobile phone once you get home.
Evening is resting time.
Instead of doing office work, using the computer, or watching TV programmes, do something relaxing like taking a warm footbath or a walk after dinner.
Finally, go to bed by 10pm.