Opening Hearts is a book I collaborated on with Lester R. Sauvage, MD in the last eighteen months of his long and fruitful life. The book was generated from Dr. Sauvage desire to leave an enduring healing legacy following an amazing career as a cardiovascular surgeon.
In a series of posts, I have been sharing Chapter 5 of this work. If you share, please always give credit to the book and to Dr. Sauvage.
Healing & Nurturing the Body
There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
It seems reasonable to me that the God who made such a finely tuned universe and a system as miraculous as the human body also created the mechanism to keep both in good working order. Through my years of research I realized that God did exactly that.
Using the insights gained through that research coupled with observations from my work, I came to understand that healing and health are quite often directly related to choices we make. Some injuries and diseases are unavoidable. Yet no matter how ill or well we are currently, we can still always choose optimal health. And it’s a wise choice for two very important reasons, one practical and the other spiritual.
First the practical: choosing optimal health can prevent or reverse many common diseases today, or at the very least alleviate some of the pain associated with them.
On a deeper and more spiritual level, choosing optimal health is part and parcel of Jesus’ command to love others as ourselves. When we properly love ourselves, we respect and care for the life we’ve been given.
Life is an extraordinary gift and there is much more to life than simply existing. To get the most out of it we must embrace the invitation—and responsibility—to live it as joyfully, as compassionately, and as generously as possible.
An initial step in that process is to choose to bring yourself into the best state of health that you can achieve.
Body-Mind-Spirit Are One
Decades of experience performing complex cardiac and vascular operations for high-risk patients has taught me (and my colleagues) that optimal health is much more than statistics like ideal body mass ratios and blood pressure levels. Optimal health involves being all we can be in body, mind, and spirit with the mind bridging the mysterious junction between the physical body and the ethereal soul.
Each aspect of our being affects the others so we, or the healers whom we enlist, have much more than mere bodies to tend. Optimal health and healing cannot ignore the essential oneness of our body-mind-spirit.
A reverence for the sacredness of life that I learned as a part of my faith deepened into awe as I developed as a surgeon. Forty-three years of life-affirming surgery convinced me of the healing power of a spiritual approach. A spiritual approach also assured I could manage the vast responsibilities of my research and surgical practice.
I found that nurturing and exercising the values of compassionate reflection, discerning choice, hard work, and dedicated focus enabled me to grow both spiritually and professionally right to the end of my career. It’s in the spirit of those virtues that I now share the following simple wisdom I’ve gained.
No one likes to be a statistic on a medical chart. Patients want doctors who’ll treat them as real people rather than as body parts that require replacement or repair. People yearn for and appreciate the kind of high quality loving care that thoughtful dedicated physicians provide.
When I met potential new patients, I would first discuss whether or not they actually needed cardiovascular surgery. We talked about options and if it turned out that they actually did require my services, we would begin an integrated body-mind-soul strategy to provide comprehensive effective care. In the process, I encouraged (and sometimes inspired) my patients to view the days ahead of them as opportunities to advance on all fronts—physical, mental, and spiritual. Using this combined approach gave us the freedom to work together to learn the lessons the pain had to teach before we sent the disease packing.
Since optimal health requires our attention on the body-mind-spirit, this section explores each aspect of this vital inter-connectedness within us.
Please note that in creating optimal health I don’t advocate some sort of slavish discipline that imitates the joyless drudgery of “work.” We should approach our task with a playful openness and a reverence for the sacredness of our lives, which often leads to reverence for all life. In this chapter I will focus first on the body and then address the mind and spirit in the chapters to follow.