Immunity as Practice

Strengthen your four immune systems to go beyond the banality of self-care

Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

The world is now approaching the 18-month mark of globalized life in a pandemic. It is no exaggeration to say that never before has the world’s population been so aware of the value of immunity. Immunity goes beyond the layers of vaccine efficacy and safety- it can provide a daymark for better overall health and an increased capacity for helping others.

If you find yourself still standing after the pounding waves of advice (self-care, anyone?) on how to get through the compounding daily challenges, you may find yourself in a painful in-between space. Still going through the moves, but wary about the certainty of anything.

Self-care, that staple of advice for getting through traumatic times, is similar to mindfulness- the core is beneficial for anyone, but once it is a cultural meme you can be sure that it has the corporate seal of approval.

Many people have given up on the belief that the institutions we could formerly turn to — particularly governance and employers — will take any care of us. This puts a shadow over the generic HR image of self-care, but also provides a reminder that caring for ourselves is our responsibility, even if it often gets pushed to the bottom of our lists.

Self-care is usually framed as actions you take (or don’t) to help ensure that

a) you do not burn out from any of your essential roles and/or

b) that you show up to those roles refreshed, attentive, and engaged.

But how does this help you?

You can go deeper by focusing your care on boosting your four immune systems: phsyical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Getting beyond ‘refreshed’ will help you understand yourself and open doors to freedom and wisdom while providing a shining example for others.

What does this look like in practice?

The first step is to acknowledge that we have more than one immune system. I am addressing four here (three beyond the physical body) and you may able to think of more (drop ’em in the comments!). One easy way to work with this is to tack health on to each one: mental health, emotional health, spiritual health. From our own experience, we know that a healthy physical state isn’t possible without a functioning immune system. Functional immunity keeps harm at bay, rather than having to expend precious resources to fight against it.

The next requires analysis, and you may need assistance if you aren’t already in therapy or other helping modalities. What is your baseline for health in these areas? How do you know if they have been compromised? How do you build yourself back not just to stasis, but to living in ways that support these systems to be full enough to do the fighting for you? This isn’t an affiliation scheme- what affects and takes away will be different for everyone. It’s an exercise in getting to know yourself while at the same time acknowledging that without immunity, we will be unable to help ourselves and our loved ones get through the latest shock.

While you are working out what works best, make a record of these that you can turn to. If you already journal, easy, but feel free to explore with data tools, audio or video recording, art, or whatever else comes to mind. You will need this for the next steps.

Next, put these ideas to work. Depending on what you’ve worked out, this can be straightforward or rather complex. For example, if you’ve written down hiking as a priority for all four systems, you know where to focus your time. But if you are struggling with lots of choices and priorities, the best approach is to carve away from your ‘physical immunity’ time, e.g. going to the gym, to enforce some immunity work for other systems. Either way, you will now incorporate your actions back into your recordings.

In this example, orange might be running, which has a significant effect across systems. The grey may represent meditation, while the brown is reading.

Finally, we reflect:

  • What offers us the most across systems?
  • Which of our actions is easiest to incorporate daily or weekly?
  • What self-care activities aren’t really working across systems or significantly in one?
  • What have I missed?
  • What new actions should be prioritized?

This reflection can start immediately after analysis. While we may often be at the bottom of the list, there is usually something we can start with (e.g. a good night’s rest). It is an ongoing task- yes, it’s more admin but it’s also for a good reason, so stick with it. In a week you will discover depth in your self. You will come to know that desiring immunity isn’t about selfishness, it’s coming to terms with the reality that those who know themselves best are those who can support others tirelessly.

It doesn’t matter where or how you live, most people are being stretched and stressed in ways we weren’t prepared for. We have shown up for being resilient, for doing what we’re told, even for doing some self-care so that we continue to show up. But we don’t want to just show up any more. We want to participate in lives in which we recognize our own power and our capacity to bring it out in others. This can only be done when we have immune systems that provide an active, engaged defense against anything that would seek to harm our bodies, minds, emotions, and inner lives.

Acknowledge and understand your immune systems- support and rebuild them. Then watch the beauty of what happens when they return the favor, freeing up your energy for the art of living.

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Interfaith minister & spiritual companion writing about spirituality, chaplaincy, and humanness— more at https://innerfaith.life

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Chris Turner

Chris Turner

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Interfaith minister & spiritual companion writing about spirituality, chaplaincy, and humanness— more at https://innerfaith.life