Living Optimally: Happier, healthier, longer, better

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What is it we all want, but which always seems just beyond our reach? For most of us, it’s a life-long quest.  We all want to live happier, healthier, longer and better.

What does it mean? And how do we get it? This optimal lifestyle the experts say we should all strive for.

I know I’ve been through many phases in my personal quest.  There was the Earth Day-inspired environmental stage; the recycling stage; the anti-sugar, pro-sprouts, healthy eating stage; the food co-op stage. Then I mellowed out to the everything-in-moderation, don’t-be-afraid-of-the-supermarket stage. My family was glad about that.

I’m now in the process of re-thinking it all, as probably you are, too. Information is flowing fast and heavily – from a deluge of health magazines and medical newsletters to Internet sites on every area of body, mind, spirit and the environment. How do you absorb it all?

Does all that in italics sound new, old, or ongoing?  Probably all three. That  was  the beginning of the first column I wrote (1998) for our local paper, Fowlerville News & Views.  I have to laugh, because I’m always re-thinking it all.  And now, I’m thinking about how far we’ve come, or I’ve come, on this quest since then; yet it remains a constant theme.

I’d always been interested in creative, healthy living…and the quest for that in my own life. So, I was excited to be asked to attend for the paper, the first county conference about healthy living.   The conference  (called Healthy Livingston)  inspired my “Living” column. Here’s more of what I wrote following the  event:

It seemed to bring together many of the thoughts I’ve had over the years. Seeing what can be accomplished when people from all walks of life put their heads together for the betterment of the community was inspiring.

What’s more, it made me see that we, as individuals, can make a difference in our communities, in our own way, with our unique contributions.

I’ve also witnessed this in the countless interviews I’ve done with people in our county. All of these people have played a part in my thought process. I’m not sure where this column will go. But hopefully, it will always encourage the reader to think about lifestyle choices.

I suppose you could say I’m writing this for myself the most. My ideals never seem to translate into the balanced life that glimmers…somewhere out there.

Probably I can trace this self-prodding back to my college days. I was mystified when one of my professors, a language professor of Turkish descent, handed us a treatise on “balanced living” for students.

I read it. But I didn’t “get it.” What college student thinks about how to live a balanced life? It’s funny how you usually have to stumble on these insights by yourself.

But perhaps the seed was planted. Now that I’m just ahead of the baby boomer pack racing madly up behind me, I’m beginning to get the idea. Plus, I’m now listening to every scrap of advice I can get my hands on – unlike my college days, when I, of course, had all the answers.

Sometimes I wish I could phone up my prof and tell him he was right after all. Eureka. The only thing is, I still need help. The journey is endless. We are each individuals and we must each thoughtfully choose how we navigate the waters of our life-journey. For it is ours alone. But we can inspire each other along.

It will help me to focus on these things. Perhaps you might find a nugget or two among the paragraphs that will spur you onward in your own quest for better living – or to discover a way you can make a difference in your family, your church, your community.

Here’s to living happier, healthier, longer and better – to live optimally in Livingston…or wherever else on this “blue marble” in space you call home.

That was 1998. Not much has changed; and yet, everything has changed. We still have the same personal quest for living happier, healthier, longer and better. Well, we do, don’t we? In 2011 we’re still seeking. While endless debate continues over what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, the good news is that the scientific establishment, the medical and business communities, the global media – and maybe even today’s college students – are getting on the bandwagon. People are paying attention; and I couldn’t be happier.

My “Living” column continued to evolve.  Almost anything was, and is, a topic for creative, healthy living for me.  Only now, I’m expressing myself louder and venturing off into new territory. Living creatively and healthfully is not so much a quest anymore; it’s a necessity.  I’d like to stick around this beautiful blue planet as long as possible; and, with that in mind, I need all the support I can get.

Truly balanced living, like my professor was trying to inspire in us, still seems  a glimmer way out there in some ways. But I’m older and wiser now. I know that by inspiring others to keep on the quest for creative, healthy living, I will naturally be inspiring myself, as well.  Plus, it’s fun.

Who knew in 1998 that having fun was a requirement for a balanced lifestyle?  Play, of all things.  Looking back, I think our dear prof was having fun with us.  Yet, it took another professor to make me see the light.

Four years ago, I landed on the doorstep of Dr. Henry Reed, director of the Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies.  I’d found myself in a personal, spiritual crisis and felt that dream work might help. Dr. Reed mentors dream quests for just such times; and I decided to embark on the journey.

Since then, you’ll find threads of dream work in my columns, as well as all things creative, intuitive, imaginative, and fun.  Introduced also to mandala art, I discovered it to be a wonderful tool for centering heart and spirit.  Essentially, Dr. Reed captures a daily balance within a painting.

Mandala art is painted or drawn within a circle.  “Mandala means circle. In this case, the circle refers to the symbol for ‘All that is,’ especially all that can be, or Creation’s complete and full potential, the unmanifest. Carl Jung brought mandalas to our attention and noted that they often appeared in conjunction with the square motif.”

“Jung noted that the square, a four-side figure,” Reed says, “seemed to be a universal (archetypal) theme about life on earth, as in “the four directions” or the “four corners of the earth . What is the significance, then, of the circle and square together?”

In a nutshell, it’s “that blend of the unique and the universal” – squaring the circle – the magical blend we strive for. I wonder if my college prof knew of mandala art?  It’s one thing to determine that you want to live a balanced lifestyle.  Yet, we need tools for the journey.

Mandala art is one tool.  I don’t paint them yet, although I may sometime get the bug to do so. But, I love to see what new art piece will show up in my inbox each day (subscription free from ) Eventually I’ll probably try to paint them for fun. Currently, I’m content to enjoy viewing each Daily Mandala, see what it brings up for me in my own day, and write a personal reflection.

I’d barely heard the word mandala when I wrote my Living column. Now I enjoy a beautiful tool to help me focus on that balance that I truly desire.  So far, I’m loving this journey of living — as long as I carry my Living Optimally toolkit, like Dorothy’s picnic basket, on my yellow brick road to Oz.  Oh, yes, Toto’s tucked in there, too.  But that’s another story, for another time.

Living Optimally Quote:

When your body, mind and soul are healthy and harmonious, you will bring health and harmony to those around you, and health and harmony to the world – not by withdrawing from the world, but by being a healthy living organ of the body of humanity. – BKS Iyengar

Living Optimally mandala links:

Henry Reed’s Daily Mandala

My personal mandala reflection archive

Healing Art — Mandalas


About Susan Parcheta 101 Articles
Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.