More from and about
Rachel Naomi Remen
(biographical info at bottom of page)


To recognize your capacity to affect life is to know yourself
most intimately and deeply, to recognize your real value and
power, independent of any role that you may have been given
to play or expertise you may have acquired.


The real epidemic in our culture is not just physical heart disease; it's what I call emotional and spiritual heart disease:  the sense of loneliness, isolation, and alienation that is so prevalent in our culture because of the breakdown of the social networks that used to give us a sense of connection and community.

We are all more than we know.  Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten.  Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves; it is more an undoing than a doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to "fix" ourselves to know who we genuinely are.  Even after many years of seeing, thinking, and living one way, we are able to reach past all that to claim our integrity and live in a way we may never have expected to live.
Most of us have been given many more blessings than we have received.  We do not take time to be blessed or make the space for it.  We may have filled our lives so full of other things that we have no room to receive our blessings.  One of my patients once told me that she has an image of us all being circled by our blessings, sometimes for years, like airplanes in a holding pattern at an airport, stacked up with no place to land.  Waiting for a moment of our time, our attention. 

A woman once told me that she did not feel the need to reach out to those around her because she prayed every day.  Surely, this was enough.  But a prayer is about our relationship to God; a blessing is about our relationship to the spark of God in one another.  God may not need our attention as badly as the person next to us on the bus or behind us in line in the supermarket.  Everyone in the world matters, and so do their blessings.  When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.


We have not only lost one another,
we have become isolated from the past as well.


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As I age I am grateful to find that a silence has begun to gather in me,
coexisting with my tempers and my fears, unchanged by my joys
or my pain.  Sanctuary.  Connected to the Silence everywhere.


Life offers its wisdom generously.  Everything teaches.  Not everyone learns.
Life asks of us the same thing we have been asked in every class:  "Stay
awake."  "Pay attention."  But paying attention is no simple matter.  It requires
us not to be distracted by expectations, past experiences, labels, and masks.
It asks that we not jump to early conclusions and that we remain open to surprise.


Few of us are truly free.  Money, fame, power, sexuality, admiration, youth; whatever
we are attached to will enslave us, and often we serve these masters unaware.
Many of the things that enslave us will limit our ability to live fully and deeply. They will cause us
to suffer needlessly.  The promised land may be many things to many people.  For some
it is perfect health and for others freedom from hunger or fear, or discrimination,
or injustice.  But perhaps on the deepest level the promised land is the same for us all,
the capacity to know and live by the innate goodness in us,
to serve and belong to one another and to life. 


I have come to suspect that life itself may be a spiritual practice.  The
process of daily living seems able to refine the quality of our humanity over
time.  There are many people whose awakening to larger realities comes through
the experiences of ordinary life, through parenting, through work, through
friendship, through illness, or just in some elevator somewhere. 

We have not been raised to cultivate a sense of Mystery.  We may even see the unknown
as an insult to our competence, a personal failing.  Seen this way, the unknown becomes
a challenge to action.  But Mystery does not require action; Mystery requires our attention.
Mystery requires that we listen and become open.  When we meet with the unknown
in this way, we can be touched by a wisdom that can transform our lives.

Rachel Naomi Remen is one of the earliest pioneers in the mind/body holistic health movement and the first to recognize the role of the spirit in health and the recovery from illness. She is Co-Founder and Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program featured in the Bill Moyers PBS series, Healing and the Mind and has cared for people with cancer and their families for almost 30 years.

She is also a nationally recognized medical reformer and educator who sees the practice of medicine as a spiritual path. In recognition of her work she has received several honorary degrees and has been invited to teach in medical schools and hospitals throughout the country. Her groundbreaking holistic curricula enable physicians at all levels of training to remember their calling and strengthen their commitment to serve life.

Dr. Remen is Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine and Director of the innovative UCSF course The Healer's Art, which was recently featured in US News & World Report. She is Founder and Director of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness, a ten-year-old professional development program for graduate physicians.

She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, Riverhead Books, 1996. Her newest book, My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging, Riverhead Books, 2000, is a national bestseller. As a master story-teller and public speaker, she has spoken to thousands of people throughout the country, reminding them of the power of their humanity and the ability to use their lives to make a difference. Dr. Remen has a 48-year personal history of Crohn's disease and her work is a unique blend of the viewpoint of physician and patient.

She is a master storyteller and a great observer of life. The wisdom in her books comes from many places, a loving old grandfather and his books of Jewish mysticism, from sick people and dying people and the doctors and nurses who serve them, from children and animals and the people who sit next to you on airplanes or stand behind you in the grocery store. It is the same wisdom you encounter in your own life every day.



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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.


Other people: 

Alan Watts
- Albert Einstein - Albert Schweitzer - Andy Rooney - Anne Frank
Anne Morrow Lindbergh - Anne Wilson Schaef - Annie Dillard - Anthony Robbins
Ari Kiev - Artur Rubenstein - Barbara Johnson - Benjamin Disraeli - Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Hoff - Bernie Siegel - Bertrand Russell - Betty Eadie - Booker T. Washington
Charlotte Davis Kasl
- Cheryl Richardson - Cristina Feldman - C.S. Lewis - the Dalai Lama
Dale Carnegie - Dawna MarkovaDeepak Chopra - Don Miguel Ruiz - Earl Nightingale
Elaine St. James - Eleanor Roosevelt - Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross - Ralph Waldo Emerson Emmet Fox - Frederick Buechner - George Bernard Shaw - George Santayana
George Washington Carver - Gerald Jampolsky - Harold Kushner
Harry Emerson Fosdick - Helen Keller - Henry David Thoreau - Henry James
Henry Van Dyke - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Henry Ward Beecher - Hugh Prather
Immanuel Kant
- Iyanla Vanzant - Jack Canfield - James Allen - Jennifer James - Jim Rohn
Joan Borysenko
- Joan Chittister - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - John Izzo John Ruskin
Joni Eareckson Tada
- Joseph M. Marshall III - Julia Cameron - Kent Nerburn
Khalil Gibran Leo Buscaglia - Leonard Jacobson - Leslie Levine - Lucinda Bassett
Lydia Maria Child - Lynn Grabhorn - Marcus Aurelius - Marianne Williamson
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Maya Angelou - Melody Beattie - Michael Goddart - Mitch Albom
Mohandas Gandhi
- Morrie Schwartz - Mother Teresa - M. Scott Peck - Nathaniel Branden
Nikos Kazantzakis
- Norman Cousins - Norman Vincent Peale - Og Mandino - Oprah Winfrey
- Orison Swett Marden - Pau Casals - Peace Pilgrim - Phillips Brooks
Rabindranath Tagore
- Rachel Carson - Rachel Naomi Remen - Rainer Maria Rilke
Ralph Waldo Trine - Richard Bach - Richard Carlson - Robert Frost - Robert Fulghum
Robert Louis Stevenson
- Russell Baker - Sarah Ban Breathnach - Shakti Gawain
Soren Kierkegaard - Stephen Covey - Stephen C. Paul - Sue Patton Thoele - Susan L. Taylor
Sylvia Boorstein - Thich Nhat Hanh - Thomas Carlyle - Thomas Kinkade - Thomas Merton
Tom Walsh
- Victor Cherbuliez - Wayne Dyer - Wilferd A. Peterson - Willa Cather
William James - William Wordsworth - Zig Ziglar - Rhonda Byrne - Neale Donald Walsch
Carl Jung
- Desmond Tutu - Paulo Coelho - Jon Kabat-Zinn - Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Walt Whitman