The following interview was conducted by Ariane de Bonvoisin for First30Days:

Abdi Assadi is an acupuncturist and alternative-healing practitioner. Raised in Africa and the Middle East, he studied a range of healing practices in these regions as well as in India. His work centers on helping his patients use their dis-ease as a doorway to spiritual serenity. Here, Assadi explains the importance of healing in one’s quest toward living healthier.

AB: What’s the most limiting health myth that people buy into?

ABDI: That someone outside of ourselves will heal us, and that we don’t have to change our way of living to be healed and be healthy. Find your own limiting beliefs and myths so you can learn.

AB: What do people both underestimate and overestimate in terms of health?

ABDI: We underestimate the power that self-hatred has on the body. We overestimate how much the power is outside, somewhere else other than inside ourselves. Also, people overestimate how quickly things need to happen.

AB: What does living healthier mean to you?

ABDI: Health is about serenity. The goal of life is to become your own inner guru: health is being at peace with yourself and with life. Also, it’s all about remembrance: living healthier is about remembering who you are. Many people have a great exterior body and health, but they have no peace on the inside. You can be fit and not healthy; the flip side is that you can have cancer but still be spiritually healthy.

AB: When do people start to think about living healthier?

ABDI: We repeat patterns until we’re forced by life to look at them and break them. We’re hitting rock bottom in our culture. We don’t have the luxury of time anymore. Before, we would get a small knock on the door; now we’re getting big wake-up calls. First, your body whispers, and then it screams, and suddenly you realize there is a dis-ease, an unease, in your life.

People are not living their truth and this is unhealthy. We live an external model, not an internal one. We are not listening to what’s inside of us, what it’s telling us to be and to do. Your inner core is already and always has been ready to wake up and to ask the hard questions. The body knows what’s going on and can heal anything. What you eat and drink and how you live your life determines your health. People need to be able to enjoy and be present in life.

AB: What gets in the way of our taking control of our health and our lives?

ABDI: We have a hard time with the unknown, so we need the specifics: the diets, the 7 steps. But the body is millions of years old and knows what to do; it’s the mind that gets obsessed with the practicalities. We must quiet the mind so that the body can say what its needs are and do what it has always known how to do.

Be careful when you think and feel negative thoughts. Your body is constantly eavesdropping on your thoughts; it will check to see that you mean what you say. All organs have emotions attached to them. For example, anger affects the liver, grief affects the lungs, fear affects the kidneys, worry affects the spleen. In Ghana, there’s a tradition that when you get up in the morning and get ready to leave, you leave your problems at the door of your hut and you can not take them with you during the day.

AB: Is there a difference between being cured and being healed?

ABDI: Yes, an important distinction can be made. Curing is what most people want, but healing is about something deeper on the inside. You can be healed and still leave your physical body and die.

The external often gets changed in medicine, but the internal doesn’t. There’s no reconnection to the heart. Healing is all about helping the patient get in touch with their capacity to heal themselves. Placebos account for 33% of healing in our culture, but this is really the body healing itself. Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine”. You can heal yourself through better foods, not a stack of pills.

AB: How do the notions of safety and certainty relate to living healthier?

ABDI: Many of us don’t feel safe in something internal; we identify with the ego, which is more present for us and easier to feel. Feeling secure is related to this. There’s a difference between security and aliveness. Security is like a bird in a cage; it’s your choice to be in the cage or to be willing to leave it. Leaving the cage is a scary process, but reframe that anxiety into excitement, into the freedom of flying and of no longer being dependent on other people to clean your cage and feed you. Love is the only thing that will make us feel safe, it’s nothing outside of ourselves. Love is the glue that keeps the show rolling.

AB: What are some small steps you’d advise for someone in the first 30 days of living healthier?

ABDI: I’d start by recommending five minutes of deep breathing daily to learn to listen to the body. In our culture, we rush to the gym and we listen to music, but not to ourselves. I’d also recommend a detox, which is about connecting the body to the mind. As for foods, don’t mix protein and starches in a meal, and have protein for breakfast. Water is very important; water in the body helps the system’s electrical current. People should not give everything up in one go. Do one thing at a time.