Is heartache the same as a damaged heart muscle? No. But can mending a broken heart help heal heart disease? Yes.
This phenomenon shows that our thinking has a direct correlation to our physical health. And it’s one example of how a mental change can bring health benefits to the body.
I listened to Dr. Irv Hinds talk about his book, “Healing the Pain of Heartache: a physician explores broken heart syndrome.” Dr. Hinds is certified in pain management and as a cardiac anesthesiologist, formerly with the Open Heart Team in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His current work is focused on the interrelation of mind, body and spirit and the crucial role of spirituality in breaking the cycle of pain.
He explains how heartache adversely affects heart functions and affirms that healing heartache is vital to healing heart disease. He urges dealing with broken heart syndrome directly and not sweeping it under the rug, allowing its effects on the heart to become chronic. The griefs, grudges, hurts, resentments we carry with us – sometimes for decades – are unhealthy. Dr. Hinds says that if we walk around with a heavy heart, that can become synonymous with heart disease.
And he states that addressing our spiritual needs is indispensable for healing heartache. That really spoke to me. I know people who have experienced the healing of heart trouble through healing the heartache of a broken relationship. Forgiveness plays a big role.
In the recent Oprah Winfrey “Belief” series, one man’s quest for the love he never received while growing up with crack-addicted parents, led him to say, “Forgiveness…cleans out a place in our heart for a new life to spring from.”
A friend of mine was in pain due to his brother’s refusal to forgive him for something he’d done years ago. Emotionally, he felt as though his heart had been frozen for a long time. He was also having physical heart symptoms that restricted his activities.
Many times he’d prayed out of heart-wrenching anguish for this relationship to be made whole again. It was tearing him up inside – literally – and he yearned to be free of the hurt and coldness. He knew from his spiritual practice that to help bring healing to the situation, he needed to humbly align his thinking with God. So, he prayed to know how to do that more. He understood God to be totally good and unconditionally loving.
In answer to this prayer, he had a “change of heart” and felt impelled to forgive his brother for not forgiving him. This gave him a measure of freedom, yet he still felt the pain of estrangement and suffered with heart symptoms.
Fairly soon after that, his brother called and finally forgave him. Upon hanging up the phone, he went out for a winter walk in the mountains where he lived. In the snow-covered stillness, he followed the sound of ice thawing and cracking to the stream where it was melting. Looking down, he saw the nature scene at his feet as a metaphor – his frozen heart was melting and his feelings were starting to flow again. All physical symptoms involving his heart were gone from that day on.
The correlation between our heart-life and the life of our heart is increasingly being recognized by modern science. A new book by Gregg Braden, “Resilience from the Heart: The Power to Thrive in Life’s Extremes,” even asserts there’s a direct link between the heart and the brain. The goal of Braden’s work is always to bridge ancient wisdom with the latest scientific research in a way that people can utilize in their everyday lives for better health and prosperity.
And this cutting edge connection truly isn’t new. Most faith traditions urge us to examine and improve what’s in our hearts – what’s in our thinking – to bring health and harmony to our lives.
About twenty centuries ago, Jesus of Nazareth healed many incurable diseases through an understanding of God’s love. His success in healing would naturally make us want to hear what he had to say. He stressed that in order to experience God’s love and its healing power; we need to express this love to each other.
The Bible records these consecutive sentences from Jesus: “I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours. Whenever you pray, forgive anything you have against anyone.”
Right after exhorting confident trust and faith, Jesus urged forgiveness of the heart. That’s instructive. It says to me that if I’m seeking healing through prayer for a physical ailment, especially anything heart-related, I need to address my emotional baggage. It’s hard to be lifted up in inspiration with hurts and resentments weighing you down.
So, deal with what is tugging at your heartstrings. Finding your peace, forgiving, healing whatever it may be, can become synonymous with a healthy heart.