It sounds big and scary and mind-boggling to think that everything in life is connected. It’s true that our lives are multifaceted and complex, we each see the world in our own way and experience situations differently. But when we break ‘life’ down into its individual components, and define what each component means to us, we will quickly end up noticing links and relationships between them.
I was inspired to write this blog post by the work of Lissa Rankin, doctor and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute. There are lots of different models that explain the ‘everything in life is connected’ theory, but we will explore hers. It’s called The Whole Health Cairn.
The Whole Health Cairn: a model for a healthy life
A ‘cairn’ is that stack of rocks you see everywhere (pictured above) symbolising balance - hence the use of this shape to illustrate life in The Whole Health Cairn. Typically, you’ll see wellness models in the shapes of circles, squares or pyramids. The beauty of the cairn is that you can physically see that when one rock is removed from the stack, all of the others will move with it. This perfectly represents the fragile connection between each component of life.
Let me now delve into the meaning behind the rocks so that you can get a better picture of the model. In this model, there are 10 components that make a healthy life. The first nine of these are relationships, work/life purpose, creativity, spirituality, sexuality, your environment, finances, mental health, and physical health. The tenth component is your inner pilot light, or in other words, the truth of who you are. All of these facets must be in balance with one another, and most importantly with the inner pilot light. This is why the inner pilot light sits at the foundation of the stack - to illustrate that if you aren’t living your truth, the entire stack will fall.
Turning the traditional interpretation of wellness upside down
The shape and formulation of Lissa’s model turns the standard idea of a healthy life on it’s head. Most commonly we will see wellness models feature physical health as the foundation, but in the Whole Health Cairn, we see that the body sits right on top. Why? Because the body is the first component to sense trouble when other components are out of line. When we struggle with finances, we feel the stress of it in our bodies. When an issue arises in a relationship, we struggle to sleep and we experience strong emotions in our body. Our physical health is the most precarious rock in the stack, and we must try to cultivate balance for all of the other components in order for the body to be in peak health.
The science behind the theory
When I first watched the TEDx talk on the Whole Health Cairn (linked below), I was astounded by how much sense it made to me, and the science really does back up the theory! Through extensive research and data collection, it has been proven that each stone in the model is critical to leading an optimally healthy and ‘well’ life. So much so that Lissa has stated that caring for your mind is the single most important preventative health measure you can take. Mic drop.
When you have a moment, take a look at the Whole Health Cairn diagram and write out what each of the ten components mean to you. Delve deeper and determine how each component affects the others, and where you sense that something in your life has become unaligned. Where is stress coming from? What do you need to fix?
Looking at wellness in this way will allow you to uncover what is really going on for you, and where changes need to be made. These ten components will construct your unique formula for balance, wellness and success.
For more on Lissa Rankin and the Whole Health Medicine Institute click here.