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How To Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality
John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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From Regina's Journal

When we were writing the first edition of the Wellness Workbook, John and I both had difficulty with the fact that I was a cigarette smoker, and our book was about wellness. What would people think? Should we tell them? In working out this problem, we realized that it was more important to accept each other as we were than to try to fit other people's expectations. His acceptance of me, and my willingness to go outside when having a cigarette, led to his writing a little piece like this about the process. He also shared some of his vices."

We have each received more comments about those three paragraphs than about almost any other part of the book. Smokers were relieved. Nonsmokers were touched. The whole process of dealing, personally and together, with our inconsistencies has inspired patience and compassion for ourselves and for others.

Come to think of it, I've learned a lot about patience and self-acceptance in the years since then, and all of it motivated by seeming crises. In 1981, while traveling in India, I contracted hepatitis and spent eight weeks sick and alone in a foreign country. Here was an opportunity to face my deepest fears of death and abandonment - which I did. Years later, I fell on the ski slopes and broke my left leg in three places. Four months of greatly restricted mobility were the result. The "monsters" met this time were dependency and self-recrimination. I went through a "dark night of the soul" - sometimes called "depression" - for a chunk of time, and the compassion for the suffering of others that it taught me is inestimable. Will the lessons never end? Not as long as I'm alive, I suppose.

I consider myself a "well being," yet I've probably been laid up more than most people I know. But then, my definition of wellness has more to do with learning and loving than it does with sickness and health.

By the way, I stopped smoking cold-turkey in 1988 as I stood in a parking lot in a small town in Germany. I stopped that day because I finally saw myself as a hypocrite, hiding my smoking from some people and allowing it with others. The hypocrisy was too much to take. Not only was this a step in the direction of better health, but it was importantly, for me, a step in personal integrity.


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