We hear the word prevent in many forms, and quite frequently; doctors tell us about preventative medical procedures, health enthusiasts claim certain foods can prevent disease, and so on.
Are we really capable of such certainty? Is it even possible? I certainly could not have prevented being molested as a child or getting breast cancer three times.
Claiming something can be prevented is a profound statement. First, it implies that whatever we’re attempting to avoid won’t happen if we do things to prevent it. Second, the idea of prevention leads us away from the present moment and projects us into the future. Third, it’s disempowering. Now, some people might say, “Well, wait, if you take preventative measures to avoid [blank], you’re actually empowering yourself, right?” I don’t see it that way.
Consider that your doctor, your friend, your homeopath, your neighbor recommend you do something preventative. As soon as you have considered that you must take action to avoid something, you’ve disempowered yourself with the illusion that you can actually avoid pain and therefore change an integral part of the human experience. You’ve disempowered yourself because you have let yourself be romanced by the idea that pain, disease, heartbreak, and every other part of the human experience, are avoidable. Sadly, they are not.
Similar to what Pema Chodron explains, I believe pain is a fundamental certainty for human beings — actually, for every organism on Earth. However, suffering is a kind of non-acceptance of our pain or misfortune, and is completely in our control.
So, the long and short of it is this: I don’t think we can prevent anything from happening.
We must empower ourselves to awaken to reality and notice that since pain, in all its forms, is inevitable and necessary for growth, we must begin to accept our personal responsibility to master our suffering processes.
Let’s reign in the idea of prevention, and embrace the idea of health and well-being in the present moment. Let’s slow down our projections into the future and ask ourselves what we can do this very moment to be honest with ourselves.
Guidelines are helpful in that they remind us of how to live our lives with health as a priority: eat your vegetables, be nice to other people, and other general practices that help us lead good lives. But in the end, preventative measures can very easily become one more thing to add to our to-do list. More profoundly, they distract us from deeper personal development by turning our gaze away from our true purpose: to master our suffering.
Stop. Stop everything in this moment. What is it you need in this moment? What is your body telling you about your health, your emotions, your relationships? What is happening right now?
The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to make the choice to be present in this moment. Perhaps if we learn how to listen to our whole selves, we won’t have to try to prevent anything at all.