They say if you don’t learn the lesson, it keeps returning until you do. Returns are a mixed blessing. I am having one of them as I write from the Cleveland Clinic.

For those of you who were not following my blog a year ago, my husband, Paul, had a Mitral Valve repair here. While ultimately successful, it nearly cost him his life – twice. Thanks to his excellent surgeon, today he is having his one-year post-surgical check-up.

While I feel optimistic, I’m having déjà vu around every corner: The 6-hour wait when everyone else had already been called to their loved ones before I heard from his medical team; Paul’s shaky start in recovery with heart fibrillations, then his predictable exhaustion after both robotic surgery and then a Sternotomy; resistance to getting out of bed and walking and almost fainting when he did; his starched white face, a midnight visit to the emergency room, etc.  These and other memories rush back. Yet he—and I – survived! Returning here both revives and releases some of these memories.

Life gives us many chances to heal. The Cleveland Clinic is dedicated to premium care for every individual, from the sickest patients and their families, to the doctors, nurses, and support staff. This is best indicated by the name tags worn by every employee, that say “Patients First”, and/or “Caregiver.” Reike and chair massages are standard offerings to patients and their families. Religious counsel is also available. Mind, body and spirit are all included, as they should be in any hospital. Wholeness includes all three. Many hospitals talk about these things but from what I’ve heard, few live up to the standards of the Cleveland Clinic in embedding these practices into their culture.






In 1983 I founded the Institute for the Advancement of Health to promote scientific understanding of mind/body interactions in health and disease, which back then was a radical concept. Thankfully, today it’s become almost universally accepted. I was fortunate to recruit a science advisory board including many pioneers in what became known as the mind/body/health field. We published its first journal, called “Advances.”

I am inspired by the visionary leadership of the Cleveland Clinic’s CEO, Toby Cosgrove, MD, and by how far health care has come since the 1980s. Even with medical insurance still in flux, we have made great strides in awareness of what contributes to healing.

Returning to the Cleveland Clinic, I see broad evidence of the extraordinary advances in medical treatment, and of human caring and compassion. Today we know that both are necessary for the best outcomes. Returning here provided proof of Paul’s recovery and an opportunity for me, as his caregiver, to heal as well.

P.S. He got a clean bill of health!






What places have you returned to that helped you heal, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually?

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32 Responses to Returning

  1. joaneee says:

    Eileen and Paul . . . your wonderful news from Cleveland Clinic makes me also want to leap with joy!! I too know that relief floods over you . . . and only now can you so fully move on with life.
    In my own family life with its life traumas, the short run provided its own series of life scares that made the word “uneasy” just not covering the feelings we had.

    Now — in a looking back, more than once as it turned out, it has enabled our family to realize that we must LIVE LIFE to the fullest NOW. The hospital experience, the life experience, have made us far wiser, far sharper, and far more compassionate and helpful to others — others who too are going through parallel courses in the physical surprises in life that we thought just could not happen to US.

    With TIME itself, the knowledge that we did have the very best in all services needed to allow us to move forward has been the best blessing. Without planning to, we have become educated in the health field in ways that we did not know existed earlier. As the wisest of us know — we know – that there will be other times in the future that such services will no doubt be needed, we will be able to move faster, with more confidence, and perhaps lives then will be saved.

    In the meantime, we will be able to help others on their own health journeys. But – for now — it is once again time for us, time for you two to look to the sun whose rays you see shining over the next hill. . and it is now that you once again can follow your own life’s dreams.

    I am beyond happy for you both — and also praise Cleveland Clinic to the skies!

    fondly, joan

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Thank you so much Joan. I admire how you take the positive from life’s challenges. A great way to live. May the sun rise in you every day! Warmly, Eileen

  2. Kerry Crofton says:

    Good news, dear Eileen, about your husband’s healing.

    Many years ago I worked in cardiac clinics providing health education, counselling and stress management. Had the good fortune to work with forward-thinking, open-minded cardiologists.

    In those days the mind/body connection – and the power of love in healing – were viewed with skepticism, especially by the medical community who most needed to be aware of this inherent nature of human beings.

    “A radical concept”, oh yes!

    At that time I had to be undercover with my background in mindfulness mediation – the basis for the relaxation training offered to our patients.

    Awareness and appreciation of the mind/body – and heart – connection have blosssomed thanks to pioneers like you.

    May I offer here my appreciation for your ground-breaking work with your Institute and for developing another radical concept – emotional intelligence.

    And here’s to the healing power of love; both of you are an inspiration.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Thank you Kerry. It has been a privilege to be part of this important movement. And so good to know that people like you are part of that momentum. All best, Eileen

  3. Diana Rowan Rockefeller says:

    So glad to hear the good news on Paul’s check- up, Eileen. And great information in your blog. Love to you both, Diana

  4. So glad your husband got a clean bill of health! Travel safely back to Vermont.

  5. eileenrockefeller says:

    Thank you Caroline. So sweet of you to write! We are actually now in New Zealand! More on that in a few weeks. All best, Eileen

  6. Joanie gonsalves says:

    Happy for your good health report
    Love massage being part of treatment
    So glad Eileen that uou share uour life and stories

  7. martin rosen says:

    Thank you for sharing such good news and reminding us that each day is a wondrous gift.
    Cleveland to New Zealand? Not bad…Looking forward to seeing you here inCarmel end of the month. love, marty rosen

  8. Matt S. says:

    Thanks for sharing this news! 🙂

    I have always found that the beauty and power of nature, taken as raw as possible, restores, revitalizes and heals me in all three ways. It’s something I already knew when I got to North Country School, but it sure was indelibly etched in my soul there, as I think it was for you. Whether the forest floor, a rocky, wind-swept peak, a field of new snow, or a long stretch of solitary beach, it’s where I always go first…

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Matt, we are very similar in our choice of place for restoration. But no surprise after being imprinted so early on at NCS and before. I’m enjoying the wilds of New Zealand now! About to take a horse back ride among hills and forests much like Marin, CA.

  9. Lili Ruane says:

    Dear Eileen, I am so happy to hear that Paul is doing well! Yea! That is great news! Have an amazing trip to New Zealand! I hope we can get together sometime when you all return.
    I’m remembering fondly our gathering last Valentine’s Day. May love surround you both and keep you safe.
    All my love to you both,

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Lili, thank you for writing. I owe you a private email and hope to do so soon. I too am remembering our amazing adventure last Valentine’s Day. It’s so great to have Paul on the other side of his surgery. I hope you are well, wherever you are. Sending you much love, Eileen

  10. Steve Kieselstein says:

    Thank you Eileen for sharing this beautiful and inspirational experience.

    A place that I returned to that helped me heal was the very same Cleveland Clinic. My late wife was so moved by the extraordinary care she received there–from the cardiologist who supervised her case, to the janitor who used to converse with her at length every day as she got her daily walking in along the corridor where he worked–that she decided to needlepoint a sign honoring the staff that had supported her. She wasn’t able to complete it before she passed, so I reached out to the needlepoint shop where she had purchased her materials to try to hire someone to finish the sign. I grew somewhat impatient when It took much longer than I expected to receive an estimate. I later found out the reason. The shop had completed the needlepoint at its own expense, and soon the completed work was on its way to its intended recipients. What your post helped me realize, is that there are many different ways to return to a place and be healed by it.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Steve, I’m still wiping tears from my face after finishing reading our response to Paul. There are so many kind people in the world. I’m so glad that your own kindness and caring has been and is being mirrored back to you. And yes, there are so many ways to heal, and one of them is by returning to the place where the suffering occurred. They say when we can return “home” and not be impacted like we used to, we have really healed. In my experience, that happens in stages. Thanks again for your beautiful description.

  11. Hi Eileen, So happy to read that Paul received good news. All in your family must be filled with joy.
    Recently, I have joined the Clevelend Clinic’s health letter which contains wonderful heart healthy
    recipes. Returning to well managed institutions, always, makes me want to work with the people who make such institutions attain quality goods and services! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos every week.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      HI Elaine. I didn’t know that the CC had a health letter with recipes. I’ll look into that. I’m always glad to hear from you, as one of my “regular” responders! The whole process of writing a blog seems to suit my personality and desire to connect with others. So thank you for the confirmation that it is worth continuing.

  12. Maka says:

    Dear Eileen, good to hear that Paul is doing much positive in your writings..

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Thanks Maka. So good to hear from you. I hope your winter is going well. Have you connected with your family in Russia recently?

  13. Michael Boe says:

    This is wonderful news! Please give Paul my best and I hope it all stays the same for many,
    many years! Thank you for including me in your wonderful “Armchair”. I look forward to reading
    it whenever it arrives. I look forward to seeing the two of you in about 6 months, if not sooner if you should
    come to Chicago. Sincerely, Mike

  14. eileenrockefeller says:

    Thanks Mike. I just read your reply to Paul and he says “hi” and looks forward to seeing you in Chicago. Hopefully I’ll be there too. All the best, Eileen

  15. Phyll says:

    WONDERFUL NEWS! So happy to hear that Paul received a clean bill of health! Life leads us to roads unimagined, roads not taken and roads we return to again and again. Thomas Wolfe said: “You can never go home, again.” Yet, the familiar sweetness of returning to places we love, visiting with friends we feel comfortable with and experiencing “deja vu” in situations that touch our souls, the theme of “returning” is a natural occurrence in many avenues of life. Smiles and tears are “old friends” along the journey. Greet them with peace, kindness and a gentle heart.

    I think the Buddhist philosophy of “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” is a wise one. Savor the moment(s) for they are fleeting and all we have. Carpe diem.

    How was horseback riding in New Zealand? Sounds like a beautiful dream. Looking forward to hearing more about it in upcoming blogs.

    P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day this weekend! xxoo

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Phyll. I’m sure all your animals will be giving you an extra kiss of love and appreciation for all your kindness. I’m going to take an all-day ride today through the hills and valleys of New Zealand. I went for 3 hours yesterday and it was so beautiful, except for the rather clunky Clydesdale who was otherwise, sweet!

      • Phyll says:

        Oh my goodness, riding a Clydesdale o’er hill and dale in New Zealand sounds like a blast! Please share details and photos. I love draft horses and feel they’re truly gentle giants of the equestrian world. Even my little “Dancer” who is partially a draft (Daddy was a Shire/Welsh) just keeps trottin’ on (like the Ever Ready Bunny)!
        P.S. Is riding in New Zealand similar to riding in Vermont? The terrain seems similar. What was your horse’s name? Did you canter? Sounds like so much FUN!

        • eileenrockefeller says:

          I knew you’d tune in to that Phyll! I’ll write more for next week’s blog post, but suffice it to say, I just wish I had asked for half chaps so I wasn’t so sore the next day on the Percheron/warm blood when we galloped across the field!

  16. Darrel Huenergardt says:

    Thank you for reminding me of the importance that the atmosphere and attitude of a hospital has on healing. Combine that with good medical care and miracles can happen. I spent a couple of days in a hospital that understood that several months ago. The staff never ceased being positive. And I’m not stretching the truth, even though my son is CEO of that hospital!

  17. eileenrockefeller says:

    Wonderful to hear that you are recovered Darrel. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital, as either the patient or the caregiver, knows how important the staff’s attitude is in their healing. You must be proud of your son, whatever the hospital. Take care. Eileen

  18. Judith A. Meyncke says:

    Praise be to the Lord Jesus! This is wonderful news! Thank you for sharing from your heart the experience you endured at the Cleveland Clinic. I did not realize at the time, when we were praying, just how serious and intense the situation became. What a gift now to be able to visit New Zealand. It is so exciting for me to learn about your travel adventures! Having worked in the Travel Industry for quite a few years. I wish I knew how to ride a horse! To answer your question, where I return to heal? Every morning when I rise quite early in Vermont, I read my Bible. With a green mountain coffee and water in tow. It has become a life changing habit. Whatever challenge may have occurred the day before, it gives me strength, hope, love, understanding and promise. Safe travels always! Many Blessings, Judy

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Thank you Judith for your sharing. I can sense your strong faith and I’m glad it gives you such strength. Blessings, Eileen

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