In a modern western view of Health and wellness we usually talk about the mind, body and the spirit yet what we are essentially looking at is the focus on one entity; The self. These aspects, the mind is referring the self. The body, the self and the spirit is again the self. So, are we forgetting or missing fundamentally important parts of Health and wellbeing and is there more we can learn?
Across Australia, indigenous nations look at health and wellbeing as a much deeper and wholistic aspect and encompassing way of life, with three guiding principles. We call them – Country – Community – Spirit. I’ll discuss these in more detail further on but essentially, these three principles define every part of a person’s life and their actions. They must be kept in balance according to knowledge, tradition and rules. This is the Lore.
A healthy diet was a natural part of traditional life and healthy eating is something we should be striving to get back to, particularly with our fast paced, high stress, 24/7 modern lifestyle, where we are left with little time for well-planned, adequate meals.
When we make healthy eating choices we can put our minds and bodies back on track to deal with the high demand from our modern lifestyle. By incorporating more traditional, unprocessed food sources and the associated wisdom that has been developed over many thousands of generations, we can enhance the intake and absorption of the right vitamins, minerals and other elements our bodies need.
Something we have lost sight of with modern food practices is that people are designed to eat seasonally and diversely. It was common for Indigenous Australians to eat well over 200 different types of food sources on a weekly basis and many of these food sources and techniques are still practised today.
Fibre consumption was 10 times that of a modern western diet and whole parts of plants and animals were consumed which gave a rich and diverse diet essential for optimum health.
Although, it is not just the food that is important. It is also when it should be eaten according to totemic knowledge, how it is eaten and with what. It is about knowing and understanding your body so as to be aware of what it needs.
The associated ceremony and knowledge involved plays a big part in a healthy lifestyle.
Early anthropologists in Australia described the men they encountered as:
“Tall, healthy and of a physique perfectly in the image of his Creator. A specimen to rival that of any in the world, his diet and lifestyle play an important part to the nature of these people”.
And the babies were said to be:
“The plumpest and healthiest babies we have ever come across and is surely due to their healthy diet and environment and their nurturing mothers.”
These firsthand accounts give us an insight to what was seen as optimum wellness.
Understanding the relationship between food, diet and the principles of Country – Community – Spirit allows us to better understand ourselves and enhance our wellness on a wholistic level but also to give us purpose and meaning in life.
So what is country, community, spirit?
Country is where we live. It is the environment that we are connected to, yet it is much deeper than just the tangible surface of where we exist. Country determines who we are. We are connected to country. Country is connected to us. We must look after Country and Country looks after us. We need to give life to Country so Country can give us life. We need to sing to Country to keep Country alive. We speak of Country as a pronoun, as if speaking of our elders.
Community is essential for wellbeing. It is a family that comes with social responsibility and protocols. Community provides us with social health and a sense of belonging. We are all part of and therefore responsible for each other in our Community. Our Community is a living entity. A healthy Community becomes a life of its own. A symbiosis of people working as one.
Spirit is the essence of our self. There is no separation between the intangible spirit and the tangible self. Practising mindfulness and physical maintenance of ones self opens us up to understanding the connectedness between the tangible and intangible worlds. Looking after ones Spirit is essential to reach our full wellbeing potential.
Keeping the three principles of Country – Community – Spirit in balance makes us aware of our influence and responsibility to a deeper and more connected world. It is important to understand that by focusing on one principle, whether negatively or positively affects the wellbeing of the other principles. Balance creates a sustainable world in which we live and interact with on many different levels and plains.
This gives us a more rounded depth in our understanding of health and wellness.