All posts by John

Two Hearts of a Great Man

I was on my way home from visiting a friend in Indianapolis, listening to a talk by Fr. Richard Rohr (https://cac.org).  He was talking about a time that he was working in India giving retreats and teaching.  He told a story of meeting an Indian “holy man” during his stay and how deeply moved he was by something the “holy man” said.  He told Fr. Rohr that:

“A great man has two hearts.  One bleeds and the other forbears.”  

Rohr went on to explain that the word “forbear” was used in one of its oldest meanings.  It is a word whose origin dates from before 900 CE.  It derives from the Middle English term foreberen which means “to endure.”  The “great man,” then, has a heart which is able to “bleed,” to feel pain and compassion for his fellows, and to endure when circumstances call for this quality of character.

I was so struck by this phrase and Fr. Rohr’s use of it that when I got home I did a search  online to learn more.  It turns out that the “holy man” in India was quoting a line from Sand and Foam (1926) by Khalil Gibran (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931), a Lebanese artist, poet, and writer.  Gibran is, perhaps, most well known in the English-speaking world for his book The Prophet (1923), an early example of inspirational fiction.  This book includes a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose.  You may be familiar with his oft-quoted essays;  On Love, On Marriage, and On Children.

In those three essays he expands on the themes of love and commitment.  He speaks eloquently of the gifts as well as the costs and demands of true love which we can only know if we “yield” to it.  When we try to control it, we lose it as surely as trying to hold onto the wind.  Love promises both wonder and wounding.  The “great man” knows this and is able to forbear through the bleeding until he finds fulfillment in the deep connection and intimacy of love.  It is true with his beloved and true even for his connection to all of humankind.  Compassion, which is born in love, expresses this willingness to “suffer with” another in sharing pain until it is resolved.  Gibran expresses these ideas in the following verses from On Love:

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. 
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: 
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. 
To know the pain of too much tenderness. 
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.”

Gibran summarizes all this in his quote, ”You may forget the one with whom you have laughed, but never the one with whom you have wept.”

Professional Philosophy

plantHave you ever wondered why we use terms like “gut-wrenching,” “heartache,” or “hurting my feelings” to describe our emotional state?

The brain and the body are inseparable. 

Pain is the body’s way of saying “something is not right – please fix it!” Expressions such as those above are more than clichés. When we experience emotional stress, our bodies react automatically and instinctively, in ways we are powerless to control. Emotional pain or stress can cause symptoms such as muscle tightness, increased heart rate, headaches, rapid heart beat, clenched jaw, upset stomach, shallow breathing, shortness of breath and more. Studies have shown that emotional pain involves the same brain regions as physical pain, which suggests the two are connected. Emotional pain actually triggers these physical reactions. So although you might not yet have consciously acknowledged that you are upset, the body will definitely point it out! The physical symptoms don’t go away until the emotional issue is resolved.


So why is it important to treat the body and mind together?

I have two primary reasons. First, it’s not always easy to acknowledge or name the things that cause us emotional pain. We have a marvelous built-in set of defense mechanisms to deny or minimize that pain. But the body can’t hide the symptoms of pain. Our bodies are like a cockpit dashboard that displays information about what is going on inside the mind. A holistic approach allows me to “read” the body, looking for subtle physical signs of emotions that are being suppressed. This is important, because emotion denied does not go away. It simply finds a place in the body to curl up and wait. While it lurks, it waves physical red flags such as headaches or back aches or a clenched jaw. The way to conquer unacknowledged pain is to confront and work through it. I use the clues of the body to help me work back to the emotional cause of the pain and thus resolve it.

Second is the issue of long-term emotional health. My goal is to help patients become more conscious of the emotional difficulties that brought them to me in the first place, and more capable of dealing with them effectively, both now and in the future. Our culture teaches us to suppress many of our feelings. But if suppression is our primary or only way of dealing with feelings, it can be extremely unhealthy for the mind and the body. I help my patients understand how to manage emotions, finding appropriate ways to express or contain them, so that they may live more satisfying lives. One way to teach those skills is to teach awareness of the body and its dashboard. You might not immediately recognize or realize mental pain, but you can’t ignore a chronic headache or upset stomach! I will help you learn to acknowledge these clues and go back to the emotions that cause them before they get out of control.

What kind of results does this integrated approach provide?

sunriseThe most obvious result is a substantial change in your life and in your perceptions, attitudes and openness to the world around you. But you may also see change such as pain relief, reduced dependence on drugs, increased energy, healthier sleeping and eating patterns.

I invite you to contact me, and we can discuss the signals your body and mind might be sending.

You can learn more about how the body and mind are connected by looking at some of the resources I have listed.