Thursday, November 18, 2010

a portrait of health

According to Abraham Maslow, the psychologist whose humanistic ideas spurred Esalen into being, there are only a handful of fully-functioning people out there. How do you find them? Here are the signs:

1) openness to experience. (such a person sees the world for what it is, sees herself for what she is, without having to disguise or defend against unpleasant truths.)

2) living fully in each moment. (this person is not stuck in behaviors that no longer work simply because "that's how she is" or obsessively planning for the future.)

3) inner trust. (this person listens to her emotions and intuitions and does not question her own judgement, values, or ideas.)

4) experiential freedom. (although this person is aware that her environment can limit her choices to some degree, she also knows that she has a choice in every moment of how to respond to and think about her circumstances.)

5) creativity. (this person can play around with her own concepts, her own reactions, her own emotions to come up with new ways of being every day.)

I couldn't tell you exactly why Maslow's theory resonates with me more strongly than some of the others I've learned, but I can always tell the good ones because the day after I've studied them I behave in happier and healthier ways. Thinking about self-actualization and human potential made me drink enough water today; it helped me make long-term decisions that were right for me even if they were contrary to prevailing opinion; it helped me stop and do some kung fu and tai chi instead of pushing obsessively onward with the mountain of work that seems always to loom.

I like to think about all the people I know that fulfill these criteria, and how lucky I am to know them. I like to consider those I don't know so well, figures from history and of present-day importance, and wonder which among them would qualify as self-actualized. I like to look at the long stretch of my life still ahead and see how openness, living in the moment, trusting myself, sensing my freedom, and acting creatively will open it into something truly lovely to experience.

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