Let’s give Valentine’s Day a boost and celebrate by taking a deeper look at love.
Whether you prefer John Lennon’s anthem, “All you need is love”, the bold Biblical statement from the Book of John, “God is love.” or perhaps Emma Seppala’s research out of Stanford – showing the scientific connection between love and health – there’s good reason to believe in the extraordinary healing power of love.
My father was a believer in love’s healing power. As he lay dying from a bullet wound in the South Pacific during WWII, that bold Biblical statement, “God is love.” was his only connection to life. As that life was slipping away and his sight was fading all he could see were those three words that had been written on his Sunday School wall back in South Bend, Indiana. As it turned out his younger brother had found him in the army hospital, where he had been given up for dead, and was reading him those exact words from the Bible. My dad survived and lived a long and healthy life as a Christian Scientist.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that I, too, have had a life-long interest in just exactly how love heals. People have known about the power of love to heal since—and I suspect way before—Bible times. One of King David’s psalms in the Bible describes God as one “who healeth all thy diseases”. Accept the premise that God is love and heals all our diseases, and Lennon’s words would have been exactly right: “All you need is love.”
But we live in an age of scientific materialism where most of us have a pretty hard time believing anything that physical science can’t prove. And that’s where Emma Seppala comes in. She has some pretty impressive scientific credentials, including being an Associate Director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, a research scientist and instructor at Stanford, and a published author in Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today and Scientific American Mind.
Some of Seppala’s findings:
- Those who engage in helping and supporting others end up living longer lives–which is not the case for people who were simply recipients of care and support.
- Loving-kindness meditation – a practice that involves generating love and benevolence towards others – shows that people who practice generating love on a regular basis have reduced cellular aging, decreased migraines, less chronic pain, reduced PTSD, and lower stress levels.
- Generating a sense of compassion, volunteering and serving in any way that suits your personality or practicing loving-kindness meditation are all ways that can help you experience greater compassion and love and as a consequence be happier and healthier.
- Our own internal subjective sense of connection, compassion or love suffice to protect our health and well-being.
Our National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world’s foremost medical research centers, ends a study on “The Power of Love” with this summary: “We may not yet fully understand how love and affection develop between people – or how love affects our health – but research is giving us some guidance. Give those you love all the affection you can. It can’t hurt, and it may bring a bounty of health benefits.”
My father’s familiarity with the words “God is Love” came from his attendance at a Christian Science Sunday School. In her groundbreaking book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, thoroughly explores the connection between Biblical truth and physical health. What she proved in her own life, and explains in her book, is well expressed in her own emphatic declaration: “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!”
As we go into Valentine’s weekend and enjoy all the expressions of love it inspires, we can legitimately wonder about, explore and take comfort in the forever fact that love really does have a divine source, and that divine Love really can heal.