By Maggie Lyon Varadhan

What does it mean to be in optimal health? How do we learn to make meaningful health decisions?

There is such a wonderful and confounding cultural frenzy around health and wellness these days. Yet, steering our selves through such an enigmatic maze and knowing what to do for our bodies at any given moment can be astonishingly hard.

Here’s an intense example: In 2007 and 2008, when I was sick and suffering from a severe parasitic infection, I was at an utter loss as to how to get myself better. I had no guide, no code, nor password in. I felt desperately alone in mapping my journey towards wellness.

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Over time though, I realized that I was my own most qualified guide. As I trusted in myself more and more, I came to believe in my body’s innate capacity to heal. This doesn’t mean I didn’t go to something upwards of 15 specialists, but that deep trust became essential as I moved into the subtler layers of healing myself and in coming to terms with what I’d been through.

Today, just in case you are feeling betrayed by your own body, here are some things we’ve learned along the way that will hopefully light up your path:

Our health is always in motion, our levels of wellness perpetually changing.

The physical, emotional, and spiritual are deeply intertwined, and always at play.

Bodies tell the truth. Our physical bodies often become the vessels through which our deeper voices are trying to get us to make changes in our lives. Pay attention.

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We are all so wonderfully unique. No friend’s beauty, diet, or exercise regimen—no matter how great they look – is necessarily a match for who we are.

We must find our own authentic expressions of wellness. Binding philosophies can be dangerous. There is never only one true way to live healthily.

Balance is key. Peace rarely resides in excess or deprivation. Let’s face it: fanatical programs are impossible to maintain.

Tapping wellness happens in the center of our busy lives. Retreats, fasts, and cleanses offer amazing opportunities to jump-start our systems, but they are only beginnings.

Appearances are tricky. Beautiful shells do not always translate to glowingly healthy insides.

Accepting our imperfect bodies works wonders. Kindness is incredible medicine.

We know our bodies and our states of health better than anyone. We just have to slow down enough to intuit what’s happening and to allow for our expertise.

An old mentor once said, when things in her life got messy, she would look outside to find the wind rustling through the branches of a tree. This, she felt, was the most calming reminder for her to simply stop and breathe.

This essential wind, this fundamental inhale and exhale, is at root our only true job. When we get quiet enough, we can actually listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us. We then can know which way to go, and quite magically, health unfolds.

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