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Posted: December 01, 2006

Spiritual Caregiving

Rx for Heart Health

For Rauni and me, last February -- heart month -- was a special time of year. With the publication of my new book, The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret Language of Healing, I have received an incredible gift.

The stories I shared, including my own, have opened a conversation between people nationwide about love, loss, grief, and forgiveness. It is a testament to our rising consciousness that the conversations are not about the physical heart, but the emotional, mental, and spiritual heart, which is what makes us unique as human beings.

The month of publication ended with a book signing and lecture. Hundreds of people came to celebrate. As our yoga instructor led them in a loving kindness meditation, a sea of people held out their hands and offered love to the world. I could hear sniffles and gentle crying as people asked for forgiveness, gave forgiveness, and prayed for peace on our planet. "May all beings live in peace," said our instructor, and Rauni and I knew that our work had taken on a dimension beyond our hopes and dreams.

Health is more than the absence of disease. Health is living with purpose, meaning, and passion. Finding our role in the human family is what gives us a reason to live.

A patient of mine, Janis, was for many years preoccupied with her heart arrhythmia. She had the best physicians, a large home, and a loving husband. Yet her life revolved around the skipped, extra, and fast heartbeats that prevented her from traveling or leading a normal life, although her physicians reassured her that the condition was annoying but not harmful. Visits to the emergency room and trials of dozens of heart medicines were ineffective.

One day, Janis appeared in my office with a sparkle in her eye. She had started to volunteer as a caregiver at a nursing home, where she read to an elderly man. She told me of her love for this gentleman, the care she took in reading him stories, and how she looked forward to their weekly meetings when she would serve him lunch.

I asked about her heart. "I still have the arrhythmia," she said, "but it won't hurt me." There is truth in the old wisdom that in giving we receive.

If I had to write a recipe for health it would be: Let go of the past, forgive those who have hurt you, and count your blessings every day. Treat your body like a temple, for it is the only house you have.

Your body requires proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Stress comes from how we perceive a situation, so take a few deep breaths before you say something you'll regret. Practice "random acts of kindness" and offer your gifts to the world. Listen to what your heart tells you and let it, not your ego, lead the way.

When we realize that we can only change ourselves and not others -- that, as Gandhi said, "We must be the change we want to see" -- we will heal ourselves and our planet.


Mimi Guarneri, M.D., and Rauni King, R.N., are codirectors of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California. Guarneri is the author of The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret Language of Healing (Touchstone, February 2006).

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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