Community: the heart of health
A renowned pioneer of the holistic health movement, and author of such classics as “Radical Healing” and “Diet and Nutrition,” returned to Honesdale on August 30 to share a hopeful and helpful message centered around the importance of community.
Friends, family, former colleagues and members of the public gathered at the Cooperage on Main Street to hear Ballentine’s talk on “Ecology, Community and Self-Transformation.” Following an emotional introduction by his daughter, Rebecca, who recently became a physician herself, Ballentine shared his long perspective of more than 40 years of study, medical practice and research integrating holistic schools of healing for personal transformation.
Currently living in Earth Haven Eco Village near Asheville, NC, Ballentine served as president of the Himalayan Institute for 12 years and director of its Combined Therapy Department for 18 years. He also established the Center for Holistic Medicine in six cities, offering an integrative approach using psychotherapy, homeopathy, Ayurveda, yoga, movement and meditation.
Now retired and teaching permaculture and tantra, Ballantine believes that health is connected to community. “We suffer from being isolated from others,” he said. “A community is like an organ, and each of us functioning in that community are like cells in search of an organ.”
For the past seven years, Ballantine has increasingly focused on community and how to make it work. “The relationship between people and the land, people and nature, and then people and each other, is a very complex and important one,” he said. “Community both supports and challenges you, and calls you into ever-increasing transformation.”
According to Ballantine, isolation has a profound effect on health. “The cell in search of an organ needs to find an organ to be healthy, and the immune system will often reflect that,” he explained. “We have an epidemic of immune deficiency and suppression that shows up as all kinds of diseases. Cancer is an immune disease. If the immune system is strong, it will identify a malignant cell as a foreign entity and eliminate it.”
Recalling a time when cancer was an uncommon disease, Ballantine cited the “absolutely astounding statistic” that one out of two people today will have cancer in their lifetime. “What are the ecological, community, emotional and spiritual factors that compromise the immune system?” he asked. “It’s always a nexus of things that lead to health problems. Your health prompts you. If you listen to what it is telling you and make the corrections you need to make, you will find yourself getting back on track.”
Health is very much related to spirituality and to identifying your purpose in life, according to Ballentine. “When you find your purpose, your body will thrive and feel good,” he said. “Transformation is following what you know is right for you. Working on your health pushes you to go through the changes in your life that are really transformative. Sometimes illness is part of the path and it often has clues for us about what we need to address.”
Audience members were urged to make changes enabling increased enjoyment of their lives. “People are beginning to discover that it’s not beneath their dignity to live simply, to give up a high-paying job to have time to be with their family, and to be in nature, and to feel what it’s like to be a human being on the earth and sit in the sun or walk in the woods,” he said. “We got assigned to Planet Earth for a while and part of our job is to enjoy its unique features. There are so many wonderful things to rejoice in. When you do that, your immune system picks up in response.”
Applauding the Transition Town movement underway in Honesdale, Ballentine noted that the community has its own health issues as a complex organism formed by individual cells. “It’s kind of an effort to diagnose and treat the community as a whole, to say what do we need to change about the way we’re living that will make the whole thing healthier.”
Ballentine encouraged listeners to follow their calling. “Every person has some unique offering for their community and the world,” he said. “You can’t make that offering unless you allow yourself to be the unique person that you are. We’ve lost a lot of our literacy about community and we need to recover that, or reinvent it, or create a new form of it.”