A few years ago I attended the Psychotherapist Networker Symposium in Washington D.C., hosted by Richard Simon. This convention gathers around 3,500 professionals from around the country every March and offers about 175 different workshops. If I expected to be surrounded by stiff white collars and tie scholars and intellectuals, I was gladly disappointed. Presenters linked poetry, meditation, tango, and love to physical and mental health topics.
One of the presentations I vowed to attend was “The Psychology of the Awe-Full Life: Tapping the Wisdom and Creativity of the Heart” by Dr. Paul Pearsall. In his book The Heart’s Code, he had talked about the new field of Contextual Cardiology.
We believe it’s the heart that loves and feels. Pearsall and fellow researchers went further to find out that the heart also thinks, remembers, communicates with other hearts, helps regulate immunity, and stores information that constantly makes waves through our body. In other words, researchers found it’s love that leads to physical and mental health.
One less dancer
It was only when I entered the room that I realized the 90-minute session was going to be a video presentation. A bit disappointed, I anticipated an unexciting event. But once Pearsall appeared on the screen, he startled us with breathtaking images and music from his native Hawaii and then invited us to relax while sharing the wisdom of the islands and islanders.
I didn’t know Pearsall had died from cancer two years before and they were re-running a videotaped lecture he had offered a little before he passed.
I still remember this presentation as if he had been there in person. That’s how strong his presence was. He smiled, danced and joked; he spoke about legends, kindness and love stories from his dear Hawaii and explained Aloha.
“Alo is to share, ha is the breath; share the secret breath of life,” he said. Even from the inert screen, Pearsall’s heart managed to connect with his audience’s heart.
“So sacred is this concept of Aloha to Hawaiians,” Pearsall said, “that when one in our family dies, the family gathers around the death bed and we all place our nostrils next to the dying person – one at a time – and breathe in the last breaths, symbolic of connection. The belief is that the only difference between a Hawaiian wedding and a Hawaiian funeral is that there’s one less dancer.”
A cellular symphony played by the heart
As a psychologist, Pearsall was a member of the heart transplant study team at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.
He received several awards for his work in ‘Contextual Cardiology’ that focuses on the relationship between the brain, the heart and the immune system. Pearsall’s groundbreaking research was on heart-transplant recipients, which led to the creation of the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart-Mind Program.
During the presentation in D.C. Dr. Pearsall made reference to Daniel Siegel’s interpersonal neurobiology that states that the brain reacts and develops in response to a flow of information and energy.
“The heart develops in response to the same,” Pearsall said, emphasizing our interconnectedness. Beyond being a pump, the heart plays a ‘cellular symphony’ that we would all very clearly listen if we were tuned in.
Pearsall shared extraordinary stories of transplant recipients having memories belonging to the donors. One was of this mother visiting a young recipient of his son’s heart. While applying her ear to his heart, the recipient whispered: “How’s Diggie?” But, how did this boy find out the name of the woman’s son’s dog?
Code of the brain v. Code of the heart
Most of Dr. Pearsell’s presentation focused on the differences between the Code of the Heart and the Code of the Mind.
The brain is impatient, selfish, disagreeable, arrogant and unkind, explained Pearsall. Thus, the brain kills the heart.
On the other hand, the heart displays persistent patience, harmonious unity, agreeable pleasantness, humble modesty and tender kindness.
“If we could only unlock the heart code and live by it,” Dr Pearsall said, we could discover new ways of understanding ‘mysterious healing,’ increase our consciousness, and even create a way of living in joy and health.
After giving us some food for thought and made us laugh from the core for the health of our hearts, Pearsall made all of us, mind workers, stand up and sway to Hawaiian music, honoring and thanking our ancestors, while symbolically purging negativity away and restoring the shinning light we were born with, a requisite to be able to live happily.
Only recently I realized that this remarkable psychologist spoke four languages and authored more than 18 profound books. Pearsall was one of the most requested speakers in the world, having given over 6,000 keynote addresses among them to multinational corporations, professional associations, the 50 Governors of the United States, and the U.S. Army.