Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Reading: The Heart Speaks

Summer is a good time to catch up on your reading, well, at least for schoolteachers on vacation.

I thought I'd share the reading I'm doing over the summer. The first one is here:

Heart disease took her mom’s life

Mimi Guarneri is a cardiologist who’s written a riveting book about her life’s journey towards compassionate medicine. In it, with the skills of a person who majored in English literature as an undergrad, she tells her own story.

Heart disease took her mom’s life when Guarneri was only eight years old and heart disease killed her dad, too, less than 10 years later. Yes, she connects the obvious dots–she became a heart doctor in an unconscious effort to heal her mom and dad.

But The Heart Speaks is more than a story about the author. She also relates the stories of the many patients she’s treated as a top cardiologist. Guarneri is the founder and medical director of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California. (Full disclosure: Guarneri completed her training in cardiology at NYU medical school where my daughter is a med student.)

Guarneri’s journey takes us far beyond the limited view of the heart you learned in school, you know, the familiar myth that the heart is only a simple organ, basically a tough muscle, a mechanical pump at the center of the circulatory system.

Guarneri compares the heart to a complex flower in the center of our chest that is intelligent, sensitive to emotional and social nuance, and is multidimensional in a spiritual sense. Through stories of her patients, many of whom receive state-of-the-art stent and/or bypass procedures, she explores the language of the heart in chapters on stress, anger, depression, grief, and, yes, angelic revelation.

She relates, for example, the remarkable recovery of a church organist, Milly, who suffered severe atrial fibrillation that doctors couldn’t cure. Milly visited a faith healer and her condition improved so dramatically that Guarneri hardly recognized Milly a week later. She relates other stories of heart transplant recipients whose musical and gustatory preferences change to resemble those of the heart donors.

In the final section of the book she explores the heart in a larger context, as a little brain, the intuitive intelligence that connects us to all other life and to the universe itself.

I read the The Heart Speaks, my first summer reading, in one sitting—with just a break for lunch—and recommend it to anyone interested the human organism works.


Culmom37 said...

Sounds like a very interesting book. Although my brother does not have a hear issue, he has sparked my attention to reading more about the human body and how it works, internally.

With two kids running around I do not think I would have the same luxury of reading a whole book in one (two with a break) sitting! Keep the recommendations coming.

What is your daughter majoring in?

Lindsay said...

The last book you recommended, I read cover to cover.That one was the Geography of Happiness. I'm looking forward to this one. I have one to pass on to you also: The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron. Wonderful stuff. Thanks for the recommendation.

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Culmom, I've got a GREAT book to recommend to you in regard to your brother's illness: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Taylor. It's fantastic. I read it and will review it in a few days. Meanwhile, I recommend you get it.

Lindsay, I've read The Places That Scare You and it sits on my bookshelf alongside a bunch of other books by Pema. I LOVE her stuff. My favorite of Pema's books is Comfortable with Uncertainty which is a "best of" collection of 108 short passages from her work.

Lindsay said...

Thanks Dan. I'll try that book too. Do you know about pod casts at "speaking of faith"? It's a public radio show that you can download in itunes.

Anonymous said...

I think my summer reading is going to be backtracking through your amazing and uplifting blog, which I just discovered via a link from CKA.
I recently left the kinder classroom to venture into administration. I hope to influence more early childhood classrooms to follow the philosophies you describe here in your blog. Sadly even pre-K has moved away from a focus of social development towards an emphasis on academics.

Thank you for posting your thoughts, ideas, and insights : )

Have you written a book? I also love your homework sheets. Are they available for downloading?

Thanks for making my day
-Krista Murphy

Anonymous said...

I too have been inspired by your website. I teach kindergarten and feel as you do that it is truly a journey of the heart. I so would encourage you to put all your musings into a book. It would be a book I would want to read!

On another note- do we have your permission to use some of your wonderful ideas in our own classroom?

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Krista, schools that have former kindergarten teachers are very fortunate! My own school has one, and we are the better for it. I have not written a book and have no intention of doing one. Yes, you may use anything you find helpful. An important purpose of this blog is to share ideas.

Anonymous, yes! Please help yourself freely to any ideas you may find useful in your room. As I say, the whole idea here is SHARING.