Although we get a sense of physical well-being from healthy habits, this sense is nothing more than the sense of self-control. Self-control is in part a physical awareness wherein we perceive the functions of the body, monitor them, and can identify the mechanisms of maladies.
We need not be in control of the mechanisms (we never are completely), but we can be aware of them. We must be scrupulously honest with ourselves in terms of our physical habits. We betray ourselves and our bodies if our food, rest, exercise, hygiene, or attitude are not promoting health or balance. The balance here, however, is between mind and body, not between excess and abstinence.
Ultimately the body is aware of this relationship. With bad habits, we become lesss able to communicate with the body, to perceive its subtle messages and needs, as we abandon or stray from the path of balance. A descending slope can open before us as not only health deteriorates with bad physical habits, but health deteriorates with bad psychological states. So, then, the entire relationship has to do with self-control.
The physiological or psychological precondition for that marvelous faculty of self-control as developed in Eastern though is that of perceiving disease in one’s self: its etiology, direction, and end. Ayuverdic medicine, for example, perceives the totality of health between mind and body, as does acupuncture, herbalism, qigong, and many related arts. It is no coincidence that these arts are intimately interconnected with specific philosophies and spiritualities.
But these insights into how the physical mechanism works have all pointed to another essential function: meditation.
In the Western world, meditation has been used pragmatically: meditation relaxes, enabling us to continue our bad habits. But the motive of relaxation, while a good introduction to meditation overall, must be complimented by right habits.
Meditation leads to self-control, the integration of physical and psychological, the precondition to the faculty of self-awareness and monitoring of body. This faculty is subtle not obtrusive, detail-oriented but not fixed on epiphenomena. At a certain point, the body receives confirmation of the self’s aim of self-control, and the self’s aim resonates throughout the body as well-being.
When this does not work — when the body does not work well anymore — we get the cognition of the wise as to what should be done to remedy things or whether anything can be done.