Note: A friend of nearly forty years is undergoing some job related stress that has affected his health. I wrote him my thoughts on the matter. Following are some excerpts of that letter.

Dear P.,

I've given a lot of thought to stress and its ill effects. As you know, stress is also touted as a major culprit in folks with my illness and everything I read counsels that I should reduce the amount of stress and worry in my life. But, frankly, with seven kids and a huge financial nut and work and a wife and all the rest, I've not seen too many corners to cut, places to lay back, spaces in which to chill out and reduce the load. It just doesn't seem realistic.

So, I've wondered what, in the face of modern life pressures, is the panacea. And, I've come up with my own version of how to deal with stress.

That version is a simple one: Add more love to your life. Learn to give and accept more love from those around you.

I don't know exactly how to do this. But I do believe that love is the answer to stress. You see it in babies. When they get stressed out, they just want to be held. don't we all? Isn't there something in the warm embrace of someone we love that just melts away the worries? When we spend cozy evenings sitting around a fireplace with our best buddies, don't the cares disappear on undulating waves of security? And, when we're loving, giving love to those around us who we care about - our children, our wives, our friends - doesn't the stress dissolve as we focus on our loving feelings and how to turn them into action for the betterment of our loved ones?

Sure, you say, but when these moments are over the stress returns, the same cares and worries and bills are there.

But, you know P., I'm not sure that this is true. I think that love, like prayer, brings its own answer from the most unexpected places. I'm not talking about some reward system. I'm simply saying that love has power, it is a thing unto itself - a messenger or carrier that stimulates or is a catalyst for miracle-like happenings.

I've been thinking about this for a long time, and, if you don't mind, I'm going to use this letter to you to flesh out those thoughts. So, I'm sorry if I get a bit rambling, here. Bear with me as I think this through.

Something happens when one opens ones heart to be able to give, receive and feel love that causes a reaction or response that brings relief - physical, emotional and spiritual relief. I can't really say that I know exactly how that happens.

But on a simple level, I think the stress is relieved simply by moving outside of your own boundaries to become, in reality, a being larger than yourself. Certainly this is what an infant experiences when nursing at the breast. His or her identity merges with Mom. His or her tensions and worries are now contained within a larger body, a more expansive being, an entity of sufficient resilience to contain and absorb the emotion, in this case worry or fear.

This happens with friends and spouses and our children, as well. As we open to their loving embrace and envelop them in ours, our being enlarges and can better absorb the stress. At the same time, our loved ones bring us hope and faith and purpose in life. They gently rub our heads and affirm that life is and will be okay, and more than okay. Opening ourselves to their love we know that no matter what occurs, we are not alone; that the true joys of our life, the really important things, exist right now in front of the fireplace, sitting in the yard, snuggled up in bed on a cold winter night, in the playground with your daughter, at the computer writing an email to ease the fears of a dear friend who is ill.

Love, P., is how I believe you can contain your illness and keep the pain away.

Yes, go spend time with your best friends who love you and let them tell you why they love you. Let them tell you of the absolutely magnificent man you are. Listen to them and take it all into your heart. And love them back.

Funny, but I've grown to wonder if loving isn't more important than receiving love. I believe that releasing tension through acts of love and kindness is powerful and healing, just as some people believe that releasing pent up anger and rage can bring benefit. And while loving can come in many forms, it can also be as simple as feeling our love so deeply that we experience the swell of heart and the tears in our eyes and the tingling in our arms and the fullness of our breath and the flow of blood through our organs and veins. When we allow love to fill us completely it seems that we actually expand in physical and spiritual form (the energy within and without that makes up the essence of our being). And this expansion then creates a larger being than the one we had before. And this larger being can now contain and cope with the stress, absorb it and transform it without letting the stress overwhelm us and cause damage.

What is stress if not the feeling that life is too much? That the pressures are too great for this one body to withstand, to contain? So, if we can expand our bodies, or if we can share the stress with others, then we will have relieved the burden. I think that this sharing with others is a part of love. I think that through love we experience ourselves as not alone, as larger through the merging with the other or with the Other.

Prayer is like love. We only pray to the Almighty because we believe He loves us. If not, why would we go to Him in times of need? We experience Him and the Universe as benevolent and on our side. Ultimately, we experience Him and the World as an expansive, embracing, loving being that absorbs and contains us. And as we pray or reach out or relax into or turn towards this Oneness, we feel ourselves embraced and enlarged and contained. Then, without anything in the outer world changing at all, we feel less stress. We relax, like a baby in its mother's arms who feels those arms, that bosom, the warmth and softness to be himself. He loses his identity and literally becomes one with the mother and allows his fear and anxiety to flow with the other (the Other) and be contained by its largeness and strength, its wisdom and expanded understanding, its softness and adoration of the tender, unique, precious, irreplaceable being that the infant is.

Somehow when this happens, something else happens, too. At least in my life it does, and my gut tells me that its a universal experience.

That other thing - the inexplicable thing - is that the love begins to attract the resources necessary to actually deal with the physical problem or problems that cause the stress.

(Ooowah, now were entering into the world of magic, hey-what?)

But really, I see it happen all the time. Love somehow transforms into mothers milk, whatever that means for each of us at the various stages and needs of our life.

The act of loving and (even harder) of opening to love, brings with it tangible results that satisfies, or lessens, or resolves the source of stress.

There is something in the act of being with your loved one, feeling an explosion of love for your children, walking along the ocean with your best buddies and allowing their admiration, love and affection for you to sink in -- something that will ultimately bring the money, the new job, the healing, or whatever you seek.

And returning that love - allowing all the pent-up fear and anxiety to transform and be expressed as love emerging from the depths of your being, from your heart and much more than your heart; a love so expansive that it seeks release from all your organs - your eyes tear, your chest expands, your being begins to enliven and expand from the love you feel for your wife, your child, your friends, the ocean, the Universe, the One Above, the One within, the Way, the Whole of it All. And now, in the midst of this intensity, you begin to feel a part of and loved by that All, and you know that without a doubt, you will be provided with whatever is the best for you.

Returning this love, expressing this love is the flow that completes. And it is this completion that eliminates the possibility of the damage and danger of stress. The free, full flow of energy and emotion dissolves and dissipates stress, it disallows its existence, regardless of the obstacles and difficulties life places in our path. In fact, these obstacles transform into opportunity for discovery, a strengthening and intensification of our love and appreciation for the details of our life, for the intimacy that life affords us the opportunity pursue, for the affection that grows from this intimacy, until finally the transformation to love occurs and then to Love and then to prayer and gratitude and the recognition of the vastness of which we are a part, that envelopes and consumes us until...

Hey, where is there now possibly room for stress?

This, my friend, is what I think is the answer to stress, and the only possible answer to stress. It seems to me we are never in control of what happens, only in control of how we respond to it. It seems to me that since we are part of a Universe that appears to be filled with, among other things, goodness (though I must confess that I believe the entire Universe is All Goodness), then the Creator must have given us the tools that we need to cope with what comes our way. The greatest tool, it seems to me, is love. It is the most healing, the most beneficial, the easiest to come by, really, especially for a man as loving and kind and good as you are.

I don't think that G‑d asks us to find the easiest, least stressful, most relaxing, laid back path with the threat that otherwise He will give us colitis or cancer, G‑d forbid. I think we are asked to confront our stresses and stressors, dig within ourselves and discover our hidden, unrevealed resources, and, upon completing the search, arrive at our capacity to love and be loved. And, with the strength and support of that love, to approach the world with confidence, purpose, ease and grace. Then, it doesn't matter what comes our way, we simply love it into submission, or we merge with it, or we open our arms wide and offer the stress as a sacrifice to the One Above and simply give back to the Source that which seems too much for us to endure alone.

We are explorers, my friend. The obstacles and difficulties of life - including illness - become the guideposts to keep us on track until we accomplish the job, discover the resources, flow with the love or Love that is ours to find. Some people, like you, seem destined to discover it. And this destiny means that until you fulfill the journey, there will be signposts along the way - even your colitis - that will keep your nose to the grindstone until you have excavated all the jewels that were hidden, waiting for your discovery - and only your discovery.

And jewels they are, hidden beneath the pain of a wrenching gut; jewels of strength, love and purpose.

This is the ordained purpose of our exploration.

You are a pure person, my old, dear friend. One of the purest I know. Like Yaakov Avinu (the patriarch Jacob), you would be described as an ish tam, a pure man, one who speaks what he feels without guile or deceit, one who places others in the forefront of their concern, one for whom love comes easily and gracefully, one who, as the sages say, seeks good and turns away from evil.

You elevate the world around you by the simple fact of your presence and existence, and this accomplishment is the greatest accomplishment, the true security, the mark of what I and others would consider your greatness.

Be successful in what you know best - being a loving, kind and good person who heals others simply by your presence.

Forgive my rambling.