The Heart of Listening

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I invite you to watch this powerful talk by Abraham Verghese, a physician and writer, who, in an age of high-tech diagnostics, points out his concern about the shortcutting of the physical examination.  He asserts that as the medical standard for diagnostics becomes more and more hands-off,  “Modern medicine is in danger of losing a powerful, old-fashioned tool: human touch.”    He describes the traditional one-on-one physical exam as an important ritual for transformation.  In such an exam, the patient is heard, attended to, and trusts that his physician is there for him.

The by-product of modern advances in diagnostics and examinations, according to Verghese, is that patients are reduced to data on a screen: they become “ipatients.”  And while the “ipatients” get excellent care, the human patients are left feeling ignored. The most important tool of modern medicine, he urges, is the power of the human hand.

Inherent to massage therapy is the power of human touch through an intuitive, therapeutic hand.  In a massage, connection is valued; treatment sessions afford the time to slow down, observe, and listen.  Care such as this comes from the heart.  As “Hugh Milne” points out in his book The Heart of Listening, the word “heart” has in it the four words: ear, hear, heat and art.  He goes on to describe hands-on therapy as requiring us to “have more than just an ear,  but to hear with our whole being: it is energy work, and the heat in a healer’s hands is a potent form of energy.  Working with real, whole human beings is…above all things else, an art.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.

To Your Health,

Theresa Zink, LMT

Leave a Reply