Rumi Calendar – Response to the April Question: Health and Healing

Avicenna Qanun

Why is there sickness and weakness at all?  Are physical and mental health interrelated? I sense much ambiguity and confusion both in mainstream and alternative medicine areas; please enlighten me.  

dr-roozbeh-malekzadehThis month’s response is contributed by Dr Roozbeh Malekzadeh. Roozbeh is a GP, counsellor, and psychosomatic practitioner based in Melbourne. He is also the author of a new book titled “Illness a Window to Wisdom”,(in press).

Why is there sickness and weakness at all?

Cry out! Don’t’ be stolid and silent with your pain
Lament! And let milk of loving flow into you.
The hard rain and wind are ways the cloud has to take care of us!
Be patient! Respond to every call that excites your spirit!    ~Rumi [1]

We come into this world seemingly with no instructions as to what we should do, where to go or how to respond to issues we encounter. This raises the question of how a child of this world with an iota of knowledge and oceans of unknowns can sustain life and find the way. Do we have a barometer to warn us against any problems in our body or mind? Can weakness lead us? Can illness help us?

What does a weakness or a sickness signify? Doesn’t it tell us that an area of our perspective or body is in a compromised state and in need of repair, adjustment, advancement or even change?  If we didn’t have any pain receptors, wouldn’t many young and old people die before our eyes without any prior warning; leaving us helpless?

Certainly pain is not pleasant but I cannot imagine we would address our problems if life was always smooth and silky like a soothing caress! Just like a smoke alarm pain awakens us to deal with issues. While unpleasant there is a caring essence within for those who can see. Just like that cloud with the harsh thunder roar yet gives birth to a blessing of rain.

We have come here as heroes to challenge the diversities and in that pursuit earn the spiritual surge and contentment. Hafiz , the great 14th century mystic poet says:

Knocking on this door, not looking for riches and glory, we have come;
ill-fortune befallen us, in refuge here we have come.

We; wayfarers of the station of love, journeying from the realm of potential;
all this way to the kingdom of existence, we have come.

One glimpse of your beauty; in search of that love potion;
all the way down from the garden of paradise, we have come.    ~Hafiz [2]

 Or as Rumi himself tells us:

Yes, He is dragging you up and down, right and left;
but do not turn your back on Him.
His hurts are ultimately delicious,
His flames are ultimately water.

It’s His job to dwell in your soul,
to make promises and keep breaking them time and again.
Oh, of His abundant tricks;
tiny hearts tremble!   ~Rumi [3]

So let us not shy away from seemingly harsh and unpleasant discoveries about ourselves as they are pregnant with revelations about us, be it our body, mind or soul.

The core of masculinity does not derive
from being male,
nor friendliness from those who console.

Your old grandmother says, “Maybe you shouldn’t
go to school. You look a little pale.”

Run when you hear that.
A father’s stern slaps are better.

Your bodily soul wants comforting.
The severe father wants spiritual clarity.

He scolds but eventually
leads you into the open.

Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you.

We have been busy accumulating solace.
Make us afraid of how we were.  ~Rumi [1]

 Are physical and mental health interrelated?

Oh brother, your being and your thoughts are one;
as for the rest of you, that’s all flesh, blood and bones.

When your thoughts are rose like, you would be a rose garden;
when your thoughts are thorn like, you would be firewood in a furnace. ~Rumi [4]

Today most health modalities; if not all; agree that stress can have ill effects upon the body.  We can find numerous articles supporting this connection in well-known international books and journals. [5]  However, not all stress develops into a physical ailment and if it occurs once, it may not necessarily occur a second time.  Also, people stressed in the same situation will often be affected differently.

I once witnessed three people working together on the same project, under pressure, with a tight deadline.  When the project was completed, one person went home and collapsed with a migraine, the second suddenly noticed relief from hay fever symptoms that had been draining him throughout the project, and the third person booked herself in to a two hour massage to rid herself of the tight muscle spasm in her upper back.

When worry and concern occupy a place in our thoughts for a steady period of time, or when we worry about an issue that has its root in the foundation of our belief system, it can then present itself openly as an illness in our body.

Our beliefs, assumptions, prejudgments and thoughts determine how we look at life scenarios; creating a background that, hand in hand with the other factors, can become the source of our illnesses.

In the above example, because each of the three people involved in the project viewed their situation and their role differently, the stress they were feeling manifested itself in their bodies differently.

Our body is a complete replica of how we view life

My observation and research of over two decades indicate that there is a direct relationship between our way of viewing life and our body.  Every organ plays a certain role in the body and has a particular function.  These functions give the body the ability to accomplish tasks, which in turn allows it to continue functioning, growing and living.  In life we also have many different abilities, hence we are able to function, grow and live.  Abilities such as solving problems, coping with difficulties, planning for future, parenting, assessing how to spend our time and energy and changing our life directions.


Based upon years of scientific research, it has been shown that different parts of our brain are activated when we think about different issues.  We also know that different parts of the brain are responsible for actions of different organs of our body.  Does it not also make sense that the particular parts of the brain resonate with topics or issues, and these also are represented in different organs of the body?

These days there are more scientific revelations about connections not even in one person but between people in general. An example is the Empathic Neurons. When there is let’s say an incident and you may feel compassion towards another person it has been seen that certain cells in your brain activate in harmony with each other.  That can be the reason for having many feelings and experiences for which we do not see a physical connections to understand. [6]

What do these findings tell us?  Let’s think for a moment.

If every thought we have is connected to a specific part of the brain, and every part of the brain is responsible for particular body organs and functions, then each of us has a good and reliable monitor so tightly connected to us that we can pinpoint where our health problems are.

These findings suggest a new way of thinking about our health; that our thoughts are represented in our body and the illness in our body can subsequently show us what and how we think about issues.


Your intelligence is always with you,
Overseeing your body, even you may not be aware of its work.

If you start doing something against your health
Your intelligence eventually scolds you.

If it hadn’t been so lovingly close by,
And so constantly monitoring, how could it rebuke?

You and your intelligence are like the beauty and the precision of an astrolabe,
Together you calculate how near existence is to the sun!     ~Rumi [1]


Parenting and high blood pressure, an example

Blood-pressureHeart has the ability to transfer blood that contains food and oxygen to different parts of our body to help them stay alive and do their jobs. Every organ represents an ability to provide us with continuity of life. The amount of blood that is allocated to each organ is proportionate to the level of activity the organ provides so every organ in normal situation gets exactly as much as its need. This action happens automatically and adjusts itself automatically as demands change. When you hear the reading of your blood pressure like 120/80 the first one (120) is the pressure of pumping of the heart through our arteries which sends the red, oxygenated blood full of nutrient to different organs and the second reading (80) the leftover of that pressure which carries darker blood containing the byproducts of metabolism of different organs through our veins back to the heart. As it can be concluded the blood in arteries are desirable for the body and what our veins contain is more undesirable and need to be refined and cleared to be used again.

Similarly, in life we also put different amount of time and energy into our different abilities. Parents put certain amount of time and energy to help their children grow and develop. More often than not when the children grow they might have different attitude or approach to life which might be interpreted differently by their parents or they might find them undesirable.

Now imagine a parent believes that they have put so much (or even more than their ability!) to raise their kids and now look at all these unpleasant responses they receive for their lifetime effort (“I have done so much for my kids, now I receive all these nonsense from them”).

If they think they have put too much time and energy in then we can expect the correspondent body ability which is the first reading (Systolic blood pressure) to go up. When they think they receive a lot of unpleasant returns then the second reading (the diastolic blood pressure) may go up. So they may develop Hypertension (high blood pressure).

It needs to be mentioned that even if the parent thinks when this child grows up he will give me grief, she might develop the sickness right there and then.

The lesson is to realise we always put effort into an ability based upon our belief of how much it needs and it is never more or less. A more holistic and spiritual lesson is to give away automatically and continuously like the heart that beats spontaneously and automatically until the end. This can be translated as unconditional love!

Love turns pain into clarity,
Love turns pain into a healer. ~Rumi [7]


Mainstream or alternative medicine–which one? please enlighten me

It appears that day and night are enemies,
But in fact both are facets of the same truth.

Each eager for the other as relatives,
Hand in hand to accomplish the deeds.   ~Rumi [8]

To recover from our problems and sicknesses we need to use all available sources, and as long as they do not contradict one another we can employ the values of all of them.  Rumi’s poem expresses the same notion, different healing modalities may appear to be enemies, however each reflect facets of our health, and all are able to work together to assist our wellbeing.  The mere fact that different modalities exist is because each has a particular role to play. Our responses to different health modalities are based upon our beliefs, experiences, and different exposures as well as enquiring through these professions to ensure we are obtaining advice from appropriately trained professionals.  Non-professional practitioners exist across all modalities.

Some people may use only Western conventional medicine and not believe in other forms of healing while others may follow the centuries old Ayurveda or herbal medicine.  Some may utilise energy-based practices such as Reiki, colour or light healing, acupuncture and Shiatsu and some follow more physically practical approaches such as diet and nutrition modification. As we have probably all experienced, if you do not believe in a form of healing, it most likely will not have much effect.

Story of an effective combined approach: A woman being treated by her G.P. with conventional Western medicine found her condition stabilised with a pharmaceutical medication but was no longer improving.  Seeking a better quality of life, she consulted a homeopath and found a combined application of homeopathy and naturopathy assisted her improvement.  She then decided to stop taking her conventional medication and relied solely upon the homeopathic and naturopathic medications.  After a period of time she encountered some severe health problems related to her ongoing illness.  It was at this time she realised, that in her case, the conventional medicine was working on a part of her body that the others could not fully address.  It was the combined effect of the three modalities that had helped her the most!

Diversity in race, culture, traditions and healing modalities exists because they represent a specific aspect of the whole existence that others do not. So, let us celebrate the different angles and windows in life presenting everybody the opportunity to perceive life and discover or develop their purpose of being here in his/her own unique way.

We are living in a world of multiplicity, and due to the expansion of the whole being, life presents itself in many shapes and colours.  Yet this life, this being itself is the source of us all. Let us discover and find unity, though we are living in a world of multiplicity.

Don’t the rose and the thorn exist because of each other?
Then what’s all this fighting, all this commotion about?

Or maybe it’s not a real fight after all,
Perhaps there’s wisdom in it!
Just like the crafty quarrels in the bazaar!   ~Rumi [9]


Dr Roozbeh Malekzadeh

Editor: Hamid Homayouni
April  2014


Copyright notice: Content and poem translations by Hamid Homayouni can be used freely for non-commercial use on the condition that they are clearly acknowledged and attributed. Commercial use without written permission is prohibited.

1- Rumi. From Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

2- Hafiz. (Translation, Hamid Homayouni)

ما بدین در نه پی حشمت و جاه آمده‌ایم  //  از بد حادثه این جا به پناه آمده‌ایم

ره رو منزل عشقیم و ز سرحد عدم  //  تا به اقلیم وجود این همه راه آمده‌ایم

سبزه خط تو دیدیم و ز بستان بهشت  //  به طلبکاری این مهرگیاه آمده‌ایم

3- Rumi, Divan Shams. (tr. H. Homayouni).
A note regarding the use of “His” such as in “His hurts are …His flames are…“. In Persian there is no distinction between the masculine and feminine possessive pronouns, the word oo او is used for both. While Rumi did not mean the Divine to be male or female, nevertheless in English translation one has to chose between His and Her. “His” is traditionally used in English spiritual literature and for the sake of consistency I also opted for “His”.

اندر کشاکش‌های او، نوش است ناخوش‌های او  //   آب است آتش‌های او، بر وی مکن رو را گران

در جان نشستن کار او، توبه شکستن کار او  //   از حیله بسیار او، این ذره‌ها لرزان دلان

4-Rumi, Mathnawi Book-II; 277-278

ای برادر! تو همان  اندیشه ای  //  مابقی ، تو استخوان و ریشه ای

گر گل است اندیشه ی تو ، گلشنی  //  ور بود خاری ، تو هیمه گلخنی

5-  Examples of such discussions include: Mayo Clinic Heart and Stress, World Heart foundation about Stress and Acute Myocardial Infarction, Davidson’s Principle and Practice of Medicine in Aetiology of Angina Pectoris.

6- Norman Doidge, “The Brain That Changes Itself.”

7- Rumi, Mathnawi Book-II. (tr. H. Homayouni)

از محبت دردها صافی شود    //   از محبت دردها شافی شود

8- Rumi,  Mathnawi. (tr.  R. Malekzadeh)

روز و شب ظاهر دو ضد و دشمنند   //    لیک هر دو  یک حقیقت می تنند
هر یکی  خواهان دگر را همچو خویش   //    از پی تکمیل فعل و کار خویش

9- Rumi, Mathnawi Book-I. (tr. H. Homayouni)

چون گل از خار است و خار از گل، چرا   //   جمله اندر جنگند و اندر ماجرا؟
یا نه جنگ است این برای حکمت است    //   همچو جنگ خر فروشان صنعت است