“They can be like a sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”
—St. John of the Cross
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Love: The Best Medicine

© 2014 by Jennifer Read Hawthorne


I had just given a presentation for a client company on the Gulf Coast. It was a deeply connecting experience for everyone present, and the audience was still applauding as I walked off the stage to grab a pen, before being whisked to the back of the room to autograph books.

As I turned toward the back of the hall, a woman came up to me and tried several times to speak. Finally, she told me I had really messed up her plans. When I asked her what she meant, she said she had been planning to commit suicide the next night, but now, after the presentation, she was going to have to rethink everything.

I took her hand and looked deeply into her eyes. I knew that far more than what I had said, this woman had felt and received the transmission of love that had been so palpable in the room, generated not only by me, but also by everyone present. This love had healed, as love always does.

But how does love heal exactly? It may be the result of what we call the mind/body/spirit connection. According to psychoneuroimmunology, the area of medicine that studies the mind/body connection, the two are inseparably connected. For example, it’s hard to think clearly if you’re physically tired. And you don’t have much physical energy if you’ve been doing a lot of mental work all day.

Now bring in spirit. The heart, through which spirit is felt and expressed, is a finer level of the mind, and when it is touched or inspired, chemicals responsible for good health and a sense of well-being are released in the body. For example, research has found that when a person is a recipient of an act of kindness, his or her serotonin levels increase, strengthening the immune system. Interestingly, the serotonin level also increases in the person performing the act of kindness, strengthening his or her immune system as well. And amazingly, if someone simply witnesses an act of kindness performed by another, he or she also experiences the same physiological results and benefits!

Dr. Jeremy Geffen knows well the connection between love and healing. Before retiring from clinical practice in 2003, Dr. Geffen ran a remarkable cancer center in Vero Beach, Florida, for ten years. The Geffen Cancer Center and Research Institute was well known for the unusually high survival rate of its patients. It was a place people often went to as a last resort. In many cases they had been refused treatment at other places, told that their cancer could not be cured or even meaningfully treated. Many had been referred to hospice. But at Dr. Geffen’s clinic, in case after case, patients lived longer than their former doctors had predicted, often happily and gratefully.

What made this clinic so effective? For one thing, the waiting room was sunny and graced with orchids, and the chemotherapy suite had soft lounge chairs where patients could sit comfortably to receive their treatments while listening to music through headsets. But what made the experience most different from other medical offices was the clinic’s real specialty: blending high-tech medicine with the healing power of love and kindness.

The waiting room was like a living room, with staff and patients, friends and relatives all connecting with one another. Almost no one read magazines—they were too busy interacting and looking after each another. The feeling of family was strong. Numerous scrapbooks in the waiting room were filled with cards, letters, photos and other expressions of love and gratitude received from hundreds of individuals who had been cared for at the center over the years.

Patients and family alike found the clinic to be a refuge in a difficult time. In one case, a patient’s wife wanted to go shopping, so he asked her if she’d drop him off at the clinic so he could hang out there while waiting for her. In another case, a UPS deliveryman was seen sitting alone in the waiting room after he had finished dropping off a package. After some time, a receptionist approached and asked him if he was okay. “Yes,” he said quietly. “I’ve had a rough day. But it feels so good in here that I just don’t want to leave.”

Why would someone want to hang out at a cancer clinic? Because medicine was in the air! For Dr. Geffen, love was an essential part of the medical protocol, and his staff at the cancer center had been carefully chosen and trained to give love along with other forms of treatment. His high success rate shows the difference it made.

Although we rarely think of our behavior or ourselves as medicine, everyone has the ability to heal others through their own natural gifts. It may be through a fun-loving personality, a loving gesture, a smile, an act of kindness or a special skill like cooking for others. But when offered in love, it will always heal, and it will always make a difference.