Sondra Fields, Ph.D.
Ah yes, its February once again, a month filled with hearts, flowers and chocolate all designed to send us a rush of oxytocin, the feel good hormone, and open our hearts to love.
“All you need is love, love. Love is all you need”
These words written by John Lennon in 1967 and performed that same year at the Our World gathering are still, some 30 plus years later, sung around the world. When asked if his song Power to the People was revolutionary Lennon answered, “Sure. So was ‘All You Need is Love.’ I’m a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change.”
I suppose it could be argued that the world has become more loving since1967, but I think it’s safe to say we of the world still have a looooong way to go. “What the World Needs Now” is definitely “Love, sweet love… not just for some but for everyone” –another 1960’s song written by Hal David.
Fast forward to 2013 and the good ol’ USA where we find heart disease is still the leading cause of death for the entire population according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We feel love in our heart, but does the emotion of love or lack of love actually affect our heart’s health?
Harvard educated physician Dr. Dean Ornish, a leading authority on both heart health and the effect of love on the heart, has a very impressive list of national acknowledgments and awards. Here are just a few. He has been a physician consultant to President Clinton since 1993 and has consulted with chiefs at both the White House and the U.S. military as to a heart healthy diet. Life Magazine listed Ornish as one of the 50 most influential people of his generation and, maybe most impressive of all, his program for reversing heart disease is now covered by Medicare.
In 1990 when Ornish was writing his now famous book, “Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease,” he initially wanted to entitle the book “Opening Your Heart.” Although not communicated in the title he has nevertheless named this program The Opening the Heart program which he states “is the only program scientifically verified to begin healing heart disease without using cholesterol-lowering drugs or surgical interventions.”
This program is designed to heal the heart emotionally, spiritually and physically. Physically he talks about the closing of the heart resulting from the clogging of the heart’s arteries through inappropriate diet and lack of exercise, and emotionally, he speaks of the closed heart as one that has constricted or closed off from emotional pain. Either way, life force energy is blocked and the physical organ of the heart suffers and succumbs to dis-ease.
According to Dean Ornish, “Ultimately, the Opening the Heart program is about learning how to feel freer and happier…We can learn to open our hearts on emotional and spiritual levels as well as anatomical ones. While these changes are more difficult to measure scientifically than the improvement in coronary anatomy” he tells us. “I find them to be even more interesting and important for leading a happier, healthier life.”
Although we sing, talk and even pray about love, deep down do we really think love is for wimps? There are historic explanations for equating a loving person with being a pushover, for instance. In our more modern times, however, this could be understood as a backlash from the “flower child” era of the 1960’s.
More than likely, independent, self-sufficient, do-it-yourself, skeptical, crusty ol’ folks, like many of us up here in the mountains, do tend to defend against wimpy love. Consider this. Could it be we really don’t know how to love and not be perceived as a mushy, soft, spineless doormat? Check out Robert Redford’s character in the movie Horse Whisper. Now there, in my opinion, is the portrayal of a down-to-earth, Montana, cowboy booted rancher who knows something about being loving. Furthermore, his loving, caring ways literally help others to survive.
Referring to his 1998 book “Love and Survival” Ornish said this, “No factor in medicine, not diet, not drugs, not exercise, not smoking, not surgery, not even genetics, no other factor has a more powerful effect on our health and pre-mature death and disease, from virtually all causes, as the healing power of love and intimacy….Love and Intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing.”
From Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the master storyteller and Jungian analyst who first spoke to me about Aging and Agelessness, comes these powerful words on openness of heart. “We come to a fork in the road in our lives where we have to make a choice between being bitter and…being sweet.” Bitter means to “bite the source that has all the feeling and…to calcify it, to say it doesn’t matter.” Suffering, Estes explains, can turn one bitter, but it also contains the strength and courage of the warrior that allows one to go beyond the pain into the fullness and openness of heart. The strength that comes from the suffering of profound pain can actually break the heart open into a lushness Estes describes as “heart breakingly generous.”
Maybe love really is all we need if we want is to be healthy and happy. Feeling good and enjoying life gets a thumbs up from me. In closing, I want to draw your attention to a teleseminar entitled The Art of Love Relationship Series www.evolvingwisdom.com/artoflove . It begins on Feb. 12 and lasts for 10 days.
Until next month, keep busy growing ageless and (dare I say) more loving.