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How To Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality
John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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The weight of the burden is the seriousness with which we take our separate and individual selves. —Thomas Merton

This job of becoming healthier is serious stuff - or so we have been led to believe. Just take a look at some of the books that deal with the subject. What you frequently find are predictions of dire consequences for failure to follow certain methods. Authorities" supply you with horror stories of what specific foods, or lack of vitamins, or traditional techniques can do to you, along with lists of do's and don'ts, and diets, and warnings about the cancer-causing qualities of almost everything. It's enough to make you crazy!

And the subject of health is not the only one to be taken "seriously." The same attitudes and beliefs permeate our approaches to religion, education, family affairs, politics - our whole approach to life in general. Everybody is giving us the same message: "You've really got to start taking this more seriously!" And we do . . . and that is probably the main cause of our problems.

Seriousness breeds anxiety and creates the tension that is one of the chief causes of the problems we experience in body, mind, and spirit. Seriousness is the parent of fear, and fear is a deadly child. Seriousness is the generator of judgment. It demands that we assign meaning to mystery, that we leave no question unanswered, that we catalogue, evaluate, and institutionalize every aspect of our lives. Even if we are playing, we've got to get serious and play hard, always try to win, and above all - do it right.

Seriousness is actually an aspect of overblown self-importance, as Thomas Merton mentions above. When we can't laugh at ourselves, it is because we are guarding our defenses, trying to be right, or good, or healthy. Trying to keep to some schedule that can't ever be broken. This is not sanity; this is self-obsession at its best. When every little thing about ourselves and our world is assigned some super-critical importance, we have lost perspective. We've placed "me" at the center of the universe, and determined that nothing must move us off our spot.

Whatever breaks undue seriousness opens us to play and to the revitalization that play brings. Bearing that in mind, you may want to try out some of the following strategies for breaking seriousness.

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