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Healing with Heart.

Byline: Thomas Moore

Care of the Soul / By Thomas Moore

Healing with Heart

A beautiful piece of English crystal now sits on my desk, a gift a few weeks ago from organizers of a London conference called the World Congress on Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Andrology. Andrology is the study and care of men's sexual and reproductive issues. I was present at the congress for only a few hours, as part of a speaking tour in Ireland and England, and yet I feel that something important in me has changed forever.

For years now I have visited medical centers and schools advocating a more human approach to medicine, but at the London conference I suddenly saw what the future could be. I heard talks by doctors on how they bring their own personal history to their practice, and I observed doctors with tears in their eyes as they watched images of births in water, births where husbands and children were involved, and a few where extraordinary medical procedures were necessary. I saw highly skilled professionals who hadn't surrendered their humanity.

My focus on medicine is a response to the medical world's inviting me in. Many surgeons and internists and nurses have a new vision of what medicine could be, a viewpoint that amounts to a return of medicine's heart and soul.

But I'm equally concerned about education. My daughter is 19. She spent 10 years in a nurturing Waldorf school, and then I home-schooled her for high school. Now she is at a university where she is discovering the hollow, cool, and technical demands on her.

She wants to study psychology and is forced to take several courses where she learns to quantify human experience. She sees that she is being led immediately into a soulless understanding of this most human of the professions. She is discovering teachers who are transmitting to their students the frustration and anger built up in their own heartless education. She is finding sadism in place of nurturance. Among her fellow students, she finds deep frustration and a lot of drinking and drugs, and yet she knows that they yearn for spiritual guidance and challenge.

In the media, daily I hear people explaining their tender experiences in the language of neuroscience, the brain, genes, and hormones. I have a special appreciation for science, but when it jealously offers itself as the only explanation for human experience, I pack my bags and go out to counter it. All this reductive language dehumanizes us and makes our institutions, including medicine and education, cold and robotic.

The mood at the London conference was both professional and warm. It involved both the appreciation of technical competence and the deep joy of offering human service. I thought it was significant that the meeting was held across the street from Westminster Abbey, an overwhelmingly beautiful and awe-inspiring embodiment of spiritual and soulful values. All medical and educational meetings should be so close to a source of spiritual and soulful power.

My best hope for a change in direction is the individual man or woman who wakes up and sees that a cool, quantified society is not the way to go. Each of us can, in our own lives and with our children, take a different approach. We can bring soul and spirit to everything we do. We can speak for deep human sensibilities and challenge any language that turns our tender experiences into numbers and objects. We can insist that in medicine and education, we and our families are treated as persons and not as objects. We can teach our children how to have rich relationships and how to make a deeply satisfying life. We can opt out of this world of statistics and labels, become eccentric and troublesome, and sneak in a different sort of sensibility.

If an international group of gynecologists can invite me, a soul specialist, to their meeting and give me a strong feeling of belonging, why can't all of medicine, education, and our other cultural institutions open themselves up to the human dimension in their work? You might learn from this experience of mine to include matters of soul and spirit in the most secular and most technical areas of your life. Eventually, we might restore our humanity where it has become lost and alien. Then our children would have a more optimistic future.

Thomas Moore's newest book is Care of the Soul in Medicine (Hay House). See
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Author:Moore, Thomas
Publication:Spirituality & Health Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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