Love & Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy by Dean Ornish, M.D., HarperCollins,
1998. ISBN 0-06-017213-4
Dr. Ornish is famous for his non-invasive approach to heart disease. He has written other books outlining the
success of his low-fat diet, exercise and meditation program for heart patients. In 25 years devoted to this work,
he came to realize that the most overlooked part of his program was in fact the most important: supportive relationships.
Early in his career, Ornish had established patient support groups as a way of helping them to stick to the
strict lifestyle changes needed to recover from their heart disease. His patients were soon reporting unexpected
benefits from the support groups; they were sharing their feelings, which led to greater closeness to others and
As time passed, Ornish became more interested in this facet of the treatment plan. He found mounting evidence
of the phenomenal healing power in just this kind of nonjudgmental love and intimacy. To his dismay, the medical
field has largely ignored this research, instead focusing on quantifiable health risks such as poor diet, lack
of exercise, tobacco and alcohol use, heredity, high cholesterol, and so forth. Yet myriad studies show that none
of these factors predispose a person to serious illness and early death a fraction of the way loneliness and social
isolation will do! People who follow medical fitness guidelines to the letter but who have no one they can really
open up to (or who don't know how to open up to anyone) are practically guaranteed to be afflicted with serious
disease by midlife. People who live alone and have no close friends are most vulnerable to major illnesses. Even
those with a large number of social contacts - - but no one they can share their full range of feelings with --
are still highly susceptible to sickness.
The flip side of this coin is that anything which increases love and intimacy in our lives adds to our physical
as well as our spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Having a loving and beloved partner tops the list, but lacking
this (or even with this), we can improve our health by forming friendships, becoming involved in supportive communities,
having a loving relationship to a pet, and doing work/service based on love. Anything which connects us to something
more than ourselves in a way that we come to know our value to others is healing. Spiritual experiences that connect
us to God/Goddess (or the universe) work this way as well... Reading this book was wonderfully affirming to me.
I cried with joy when I read that anything that helps people to feel less alone and allows them a safe place to
express their feelings and experiences -- even in written words -- is one of the most healing things possible.
This was a description of what we do with ST newsletters! Often I have felt very sad that so many of us are suffering
from severe Kundalini difficulties and I have wished we were able to offer more concrete help to people.
Ornish made me see that we are helping each other in the newsletter far more than we know. Not only are we
giving each other support; we are actually helping to heal each other physically and spiritually, just by the sharing
we do on these pages! It's not so much the proffered "solutions" that matter, but the simple act of caring
about one another that makes the biggest difference. It is especially important that people going through the
vast changes of Kundalini have a place where they can freely tell of their experiences without fear of being negatively
judged, because any problems we are having are made worse when we are forced to keep them secret.
It is not necessary for healing that the people we trust agree with us on everything, but it is essential that
they accept us and allow us to express ourselves without trying to change or fix us (unless we specifically ask
for help to change).
Ornish points out that psychology has overemphasized the need for personal independence at the expense of healthy
relationships. His work has greatly improved his private relationships. For instance, he learned that being close
to someone means curbing the impulse to criticize, which usually makes people feel attacked and causes them to
emotionally withdraw, which is the opposite of intimacy. Instead, he has come to a deeper and gentler appreciation
of his wife, understanding that she is quite literally the key to his lasting health and happiness, as he is to
Schulz (who has studied under Christiane Northrup, Louise Hay and Carolyn Myss) embraces the paradox in which
much of what occurs in our lives is mysterious and possibly fated, while we simultaneously have power to influence
what happens to us. She addresses health problems relating to each chakra level, and divides each level according
to the power and vulnerability issues it entails. Excesses in power or vulnerability at any level plays out in
specific health ailments as well as outer world difficulties. At one point, Schulz gives a brief test for readers
to gauge their overall power/vulnerability balance. To my surprise, I scored exactly even in both. Schulz says
she scored over ten times higher for power than for vulnerability, meaning "I find it easy to be out in the
world, but I have difficulty forming close relationships with all the inherent feelings of vulnerability and dependence
that involves." To me, it's endearing that she is very open about her own array of health problems. It was
through these crises that she learned that "disease is a message we need to receive so that we can reevaluate
some aspect of our lives and, most probably, change it." Yet she admits to having trouble altering some of
her own behavior traits that are mirrored through her symptoms. As a result, she doesn't make readers feel like
failures for not immediately "getting it" and triumphing over every quirk in their psyches. She is also
careful to point out that while certain illnesses are statistically linked to particular emotional characteristics,
there are no universal blueprints. It can help to read the profiles to see if what they describe is relevant to
our health situation, yet we need to listen carefully to the unique dialect of our own body language to hear what
it is expressing.
Although the main principles Schulz presents in this book were not new to me, I learned a lot from her, and
got deeper understanding of things I had already suspected from my various symptoms. Schulz is a master intuitive,
and being able to eavesdrop on her mental processes in Awakening Intuition can open our inner ear to the amazing
voice of the body/mind.
While many forms of music have healing potential, the book's title refers to the universally beneficial effect
of Mozart's music. People from all cultures and background, including those who did not enjoy classical music,
were found to have positive mental, emotional and physical responses to Mozart. Dr. Alfred Tomatis said that in
his fifty years of clinical and experimental research, "the powers of Mozart, especially the violin concertos,
create the greatest healing effect on the human body." The Mozart Effect is filled with stories of treatments
and cures including medical miracles resulting from music therapy. Although the cases presented are of the more
normal variety of ailments, this information may prove invaluable to anyone trying to work on a vibrational level
with their Kundalini imbalances.
In addition to explaining myriad concepts which relate to the journey, Metzner does a great job of sorting through
the subtlties and paradoxes of awakening. For those of us who seem to be endlessly plodding along without much
to show for our efforts, The Unfolding Self gives credible answers to the burning question: "What's the point?"
More than this, it provides insight into the symbols and rites of passage that announce themselves in our dreams,
visions and daily events, enabling us to see that no matter how strange, confusing, painful or overwhelming our
experiences may be, they are integral to the holy mission of our souls.
As in all traditions, the purpose of life in the Judaic system is spiritual evolution, and "Our main task
is to clear the way for the soul to manifest itself, which means moving the ego aside in daily life." The
Judaic solution to the problem of the ego is more holistic than most of the Eastern teachings. In Minding the
Temple of the Soul there is a story illustrating this inclusive approach: A Talmudic sage, believing the lure
of the self-seeking ego (yetzer hara) too strong for humans to overcome, prayed to God to help the world by eradicating
yetzer hara. His sincere request was granted. "The sage woke the next morning, expecting to see nothing
but happiness and bliss. Sure enough, people seemed happy. But then it was discovered that the chickens were
not laying eggs, and ewes were walking away from their bleating lambs, since they were no longer interested in
nursing them. Sudden the sage realized that the yetzer hara, though often destructive, was also the passion that
kept the world going. The issue is not to eliminate it, but to turn its energy to good use." There is a
deep humility in Jewish lore, reflected in the inutterable most sacred name, YHVH, which is an acknowledgment that
the Great Mystery cannot be fully comprehended by man. Earthly incarnation, according to Jewish wisdom, is intended
to teach the soul both humility and compassion: "By learning about the profound difficulty of being human,
it gains a respect for humanity. When the soul leaves this life, it will have learned things it could not have
learned in the highest world of souls. It will know not only that God is in what is good and great, but also that
God is in the very worst and the very small."
A blinding spark flashed
within the concealed of the concealed
from the mystery of the Infinite
a cluster of vapor in formlessness...
Under the impact of breaking through,
one high and hidden point shone.
Beyond that point nothing is known.
So it is called Beginning.
Matt goes on to say "As emanation proceeds, as God begins to unfold, the point expands into a circle.
Similarly, ever since the big bang, our universe has been expanding in all directions." This book is far
more accessible than others of its ilk (like Capra's The Tao of Physics), particularly if you happen to
be a physics dunce like me. Matt not only reconciles splits between religion and science; he builds bridges where
other cultural rifts exist as well.
Offering a modern view of the sacred Torah, Matt follows the rabbinical tradition of regarding the written scripture
as a work in progress rather than Absolute Truth. He advises us to "take tradition seriously enough to challenge
it, wrestle with it, help it evolve." Troubled by sexism in both the religious and secular worlds, Matt speaks
with reverence of the feminine aspect of God, Shekhinah, who appears as ocean, well, garden and apple orchard.
He risks heresy by empathizing with the feminist Mary Daly, who has protested: "As long as God is male, the
male is God."
Addressing the catch-22 between mystical experience and religious dogma, he observes: "Religion is based
on revelation. Revelation leads inevitably to tradition, but new revelations threaten tradition. By nature, religion
is conservative, and revelation, revolutionary." Because each of us is a portion of God, not only are we
incomplete without the Divine, but the Divine is also incomplete without us. Spiritual awakening is a reciprocal
process whereby we become aware of our Source/Self while, by evolving through each one of us, God also becomes
aware of Itself. As Matt puts it: "... the self discovers it is no longer merely an isolated fragment, but
rather a unique expression of the Self of the universe... Yet God -- the Self behind all selves -- is not a passive
object of our budding spiritual awareness. By evolving through spacetime, by organizing Itself into the complex
variety of existence, God grows and learns endlessly, discovering awareness through each of us -- God's countless,
-- El Collie
© El Collie 1995