September 29 is World Heart Day, but this year there may be new meaning to it.
Not just because it continues as the leading cause of death in the US.
Not just because Rosie O’Donnell reportedly sustained a minor heart attack, from which she thankfully recovered.
Or because of Sen. Paul Ryan’s family history of heart disease. No, I mean that in addition to the steps to prevent heart disease, beyond the latest medical treatments, there may be greater coverage of a new approach: a thought-based approach.
But is it possible to address something as physical as heart disease without physical drugs? Without surgery or other physical or medical interventions? Some are finding startling answers to that question.
One of them is Dr. Peter Coventry, co-theme leader for the CLARHC (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care) Practitioner program in Manchester, England. Patients with heart disease and/or diabetes were offered two meditation sessions for six weeks each in 2012.
Meditation, a mindfulness practice intended to bring about change in worry and other intrusive thoughts, proved both popular and effective. Participants reported both psychological and physical benefits from their sessions and “welcomed meditation as an alternative to other therapies they had tried.”
Dr. Coventry concluded, “Early results point towards mindfulness-meditation being a well-tolerated and effective intervention to improve the way people with long-term conditions self-manage their health problems.”
Meditation and prayer, two similar thought-based approaches to health, are gaining support from all kinds of people interested in finding alternative ways to feel better.
One of them is my mother-in-law. One night her heart periodically stopped beating, and she was afraid it would stop again permanently. Although she had sought medical solutions to many of her problems, this time she turned to a thought-based approach. This time she called my husband for help in prayer because she was familiar with this approach, and she knew that he’d relied on it his whole life.
Across the miles and states that separated them, she asked him to help relieve her fearful thought. She asked him to read comforting passages about healing from the Bible where recoveries from epilepsy, deafness, leprosy, crippled limbs and other ailments occur regularly through a change of thought.
Supporting her with his own prayers, my husband read words like this: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart,” and “Your heart shall live forever.”(Psalms 27 and 34). After about an hour of his gentle encouragement my mother-in-law’s fear of death was gone. Her thoughts were calm, and she went to sleep with no more trouble with her heart. She lived for many years after that.
Are these touching testimonies, plus others I know about, just mere anecdotes? Simply exceptions to the rule that health must be drug-maintained? Experts think not.
Dr. Larry Dossey first discovered the effective power of prayer alone to heal coronary patients when he came across scientific studies done by San Francisco General Hospital. As a practitioner of internal medicine, he was a doubter at first, but he’s since found similar findings about prayer in 140 other studies.
Some of these studies are “admirable” he says, adding that it now seemed “dishonest not to focus on [the good outcomes of prayer]” and even recommending that other doctors should consider bringing prayer into their practices.
Getting to the heart of heart disease may mean radically different things these days. To some, like Dr. Dossey and my mother-in-law, changing thought through prayer, appealing to the great heart of Love, or God as some call it, may have a lot to do with our own healthy hearts.
(Cynthia Barnett is the Media/Legislative Representative for the The Christian Science Committee on Publication, NC.)