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Gaining Release: Healing Hands and Labyrinths

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Posted: January 28, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

From the Heart, in Every Meaning of the Word

(Editor?s Note: The many demands of caregiving require a sharp mind to ask good questions, get practical answers, and juggle information, schedules and finances. These two reviews and one short article look at an invaluable resource for balancing those heady activities and keeping in contact with a tremendous source of energy and well-being: the heart.)


Heart: A Natural History of the Heart-Filled Life

By Gail Godwin
(HarperPerennial 03/02 Paperback $13.95)

Imagine you are sitting down with novelist Gail Godwin for an intimate and wide-ranging conversation about the heart and the immense and varied role it has played in literature, myth, religion, philosophy, medicine, and the fine arts. Like us, you will soon be totally caught up in the thoughts she presents in this deeply spiritual book. We consider it an essential text for our remedial course on heart skills.

Godwin quotes Marie Louise von Franz who wrote in 1988: ?In our modern world we have achieved sexual freedom. Now comes the much bigger problem, the liberation of the heart. That is the program of the next 50 years.?

We couldn?t agree more. The contemporary culture exalts reason as ruled by the head above the discernment of the heart. People seem ill at ease with the idea and reality of looking within. We are all ?children of the Great Heart Split? as Godwin puts it. And that fissure causes many problems, including widespread depression, fear, and anger. The newspapers and the media are filled with stories illustrating heartlessness or the heart of darkness. More than ever, we need tutoring in ?heart skills? that include kindness, reverence, openness, compassion, and hospitality.

With grace and flair, Godwin uses Heart to take us on a royal tour of ideas, stories, and anecdotes about heart beginning with the oldest artistic representation of the heart on a Spanish cave wall in 10,000 B.C. to the most recent books on heart by the Dalai Lama, Thomas Keating, and Paul Pearsall. She is especially cogent in her musings on this seat of wisdom for the Jews, ?the great fulcrum of the universe? for Hindus, the throne of God for Sufis, the source of ethics for Confucians, and the true home for the Kingdom of God according to Jesus.

The author celebrates the Kama Sutra as ?a guide for keeping the principle of desire alive and balanced in the human heart and therefore in the cosmos at large.? The Sufis, known as devotees of the heart, devised manuals for paying close attention to others. Godwin also salutes the human hearted behavior of Socrates, Jesus, Muhammad, Rainer Maria Rilke, George Herbert, Paul Klee, Pierre de Chardin, and others. She shares some of the heartbreak experienced in her brother?s suicide and ponders the many ?sinkholes of heart absence? in our society of go-getters who tend to view any mystical connections to others as hokum.

In a time when the rift between head and heart still reigns, this is a pioneering work that deserves a wide reading. The same sensitivity, imagination, and adventuresomeness that have been the hallmarks of Godwin's novels shine through these pages. Take this book to heart and let it inspire your inner work.

-- Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Why a Family History of Heart Disease Is a Good Reason for Optimism

A recent study from Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Promotion strongly suggests that life may be longer on the sunny side of the street, especially for people with a family history of heart disease.

Why? After following 586 such men and women for 5 to 12 years (the average starting age 45), researchers found that the optimists had only half the number of ?heart events? of their less optimistic counterparts. Surprisingly, education level, diabetes, and smoking status were not found to be strong predictors of heart disease.

So should having fun be considered a new way to self-medicate? Maybe. According to Diane M. Becker, Sc.D., M.P.H., senior author, ?In future studies, we?d like to examine whether adding pleasurable activities to the lives of this population affects heart disease risk.? (Find out how optimistic you are using leading optimism researcher Martin Seligman?s self-test,)

-- The Editors of Spirituality & Health


The Heart?s Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of Our Heart Energy

By Paul Pearsall
(Broadway Books, 04/99 Paperback $13.00)

According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, a clinical psychologist, the heart is more than a pump, more than the most powerful muscle in the human body. Using research from many fields, interviews with transplant patients and their families, and his own experiences as a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor, the prolific author contends in The Heart?s Code that the heart thinks, feels, remembers, and communicates with other hearts.

Are you a head or a heart person? The future of civilization may depend on the answer. Dr. Pearsall sees the heart as the source of that mysterious ?fifth force? of energy in the universe ? a non-local, invisible form of info-energy that the brain finds very difficult to accept. The heart?s code builds ?a bridge between the biochemical wonders of modern medicine, the spirituality of ancient traditional healing systems, the various alternative or complimentary medicines, and the wisdom of religious scholars and spiritual leaders.?

Dr. Pearsall?s speculations open the door for readers to consider afresh the importance of cellular memory, loving connections, prayer, laughter, and healing.

-- Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

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

© 2005 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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