Life Transitions Mindfulness Nourishment Paying Attention

Matters of the heart.

April 4, 2016

On Tuesday, March 29th at exactly 8:32am I was nominated by my friend Dina to post to Facebook “7 nature pictures in 7 days and to nominate someone each day to do the same”.  Those of you who know me well, know that I am pretty much a Facebook stalker.  I do very little posting but love to see what is going on in others lives.  But I like nature and I have lots of photos…

As I set off on my morning walk with Chloe, I thought I may be able to take a photo to post and mollify Dina.  Our walk is pretty much determined by Chole, my untrained (my fault) 100 pound Bernese Mountain dog, and we almost always walk the same route.  When we entered the woods, nature photos were not looking good.  On this morning of spring everything still looked kind of dormant, gray.  Of course there were little shoots of green here and there but spring didn’t seem to have sprung.  I gave up my nature photo quest and started a walking meditation. It was then I noticed a heart rock.  You may have already read in my post, Heart Rocks, that I am a bit obsessed with heart rocks and their message to me.  I decided to take a photo, noting that the finding of one was always significant even if the photo wasn’t spectacular like the nature photos Dina had been posting.  Continuing on, I looked down and saw another heart rock!  Did I mention that I walk this same path almost every day?  I have no recollection of noticing these heart rocks before.  And then, yes you guessed already, another heart rock!  Clearly from the photos below they didn’t just land there, they are embedded into the earth.  My findings began to change my day.  Such magical signs to me indicate there is grace all around me and this feeling always grounds me.  Well, needless to say at this point I was giddy.  I even began talking aloud to Chloe asking her “Have you ever seen these here before?”.  She did not answer.  Seriously, the rocks were right in the middle of the path!  You will not believe this but this is the honest truth, I saw two more during this walk – for a total of FIVE!!  Now perhaps after the first two I began searching more earnestly than I normally would during my daily walk.  Or perhaps because I was more mindful I was actually searching for them.  No matter, my finds had me almost dancing with delight.  I was looking forward to posting the photos that evening and sharing with Dina the signs of grace that her mission for me invoked.

Heart Rock 4 Heart Rock 3 Heart Rock 5 Heart Rock 6 Heart Rock 1

That night, right after dinner we received a text from a dear friend that we were supposed to be having dinner with the coming weekend.  He wanted to let us know that he would be unable to make it as he was having heart surgery the following day. (WTF!) I could not text back fast enough, “Do you have time to talk?”.   Now this person is incredibly private.  He is also one of the most humble, giving and kind human beings I know.  We knew that he was dealt the genetic cardiovascular disease card.  We were also aware it was something he feared as well as struggled with.  However, we had no idea it had reached such a point.  After a few back and forth texts he said he was unable to talk and we would hear from his sister the following day.  Both Andrew and I knew the situation was more than serious.

My plan for posting photos and working on my blog were no longer a priority.  Andrew and I were both shocked and struggling with many feelings – sadness, anger, guilt and a deep sense of faith and hope that all would go well.  I truly do believe in the power of prayer.

Here we are, five days later, and I can report he remains in critical but stable condition.  All prayers are welcome.  I do not believe it is his time to exit this world.  Once he is out of the woods he has a long road to recovery in front of him.   The other side of his “tribulation” (I spoke about these, which we all face eventually, in my post titled “Hello from the other side.”) will be a road filled with traffic of those who love him and wish to help him on his journey back to health.

It blows my mind that on Thursday of last week I sat and listened to the surgeon tell us exactly what transpired during the 8-hour surgery.  I was completely awestruck by two things.  First, the wisdom, knowledge and abilities this doctor and the members of his team encompassed was astonishing.  Secondly, these bodies that we live in are absolutely, stunningly, remarkable.

And oddly enough, earlier this afternoon I was reviewing my lesson plan for a yoga class I will be teaching on Tuesday.  The class will be the 3rd in a four series workshop on Yoga for Graceful Transitions.  I smiled when I pulled up my notes for the class.  Notes by the way that were written ages ago.   This week’s class is titled “Matters of the Heart – Self Love”.  I really could not make this s*&# up!

How ironic that in the moments I was harvesting my heart rocks, my friend of over 27 years was likely sitting on a hospital bed hearing the news that his heart was in need of bypass surgery to replace the coronary arteries that have become blocked or damaged.  He was most certainly contemplating the benefits of the surgery – all parts of his heart muscle would begin to receive the oxygen-rich blood it so desperately needs; and the risks – he may not make it through the surgery.  I know that hindsight is 20/20 and it is very easy for me to have this thought after the event has happened – but I believe my finding those heart rocks that same morning was a good sign.  Even if I had no idea why at the time.

How ironic it is that my yoga workshop, Matters of the Heart – Self Love, will focus on ways we can support our heart so that it functions optimally, especially in times of transition.  Now if you have clicked on the link and checked out the workshop you will notice that it was designed with the amazing female in mind, specifically during their magical transitions such as menopause.  As I review my notes it is quite obvious my advice is meant for both men and women.  And the fact cannot be ignored, men have hearts too.  Men also find themselves in the midst of transitions just like women.  Heart disease does not discriminate and the many risk factors can affect either gender.  These risks come in the form of traits, conditions or habits that alone may cause problems but combined can most certainly increase the possibility of heart disease.   I am not going to list the risk factors here but I would highly recommend that you be aware of them, if you are not already.  You can find the risks for heart disease provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  The American Heart Association also has an enormous amount of information and highly regarded as an “OK” site when you are being your own web doctor (stay on trusted sites when you are googling about your health).

Instead I will offer you some little bits of grace that I will also be offering the women who will be attending the yoga workshop on Tuesday.  These are shifts, ideas, things that you have control of – right now, in this moment to assist your miraculous, intelligent human body to function with ease.  I hope these bits empower you to take control, inspire you to read more and educate yourself on what is going on in your temple, and encourage you to take the first step to make changes, RIGHT NOW!

YOU are in control of what enters your body!

  • Reduce or even eliminate sugar, red meat, dairy and refined foods
  • Increase vegetable and fruits
  • Eat organic foods
  • Drink filtered water, and lots of it!

“Food is what you eat as well as that which eats you.” Sri Chinmony, The Body-Humanitys Fotress

Exercise

  • Commit yourself to 5,000 steps and slowly increase to 10,000.
  • Enter your exercise into your calendar, every day
  • Exercise for the mind, body and spirit
  • Commit yourself, carve out the time and show up
  • Find an accountability buddy

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” Edward Stanley

Take a moment and assess where you are and where you want to go.

This comes from The Fresh 20 which is a website I have used for years to help me create healthy menus for my family.  The owner recently started doing a 20-day Mind Body Reset and a 180-day Wellness Program and this list contains Melissa Lanz’ suggested starting points when beginning one of these programs.  It is a valuable exercise when embarking on any new journey.

  • List all of the things you need to STOP doing in order to get the results you want in your life.
  • List what you can START doing to reach your goals. Be detailed!
  • What worked for you in the last 12 months to contribute to your health and happiness?
  • What was not working over the last 12 months?  What habits or activities depleted your health and happiness?

Acknowledge your Emotions

The links between the heart and the mind are harder to measure than those between the heart and the waistline.  I am not sure why we, as a society, continue to ponder the connection between our mental and physical health.  It seems to me the writing is on the wall – we just need to read it!  There is significant evidence that indicates improving psychological function and quality of life can help to reduce the symptoms of dis-ease.  People who are emotionally healthy are more connected and in control of their emotions and their behavior.  They are able to handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks more effectively.  For optimal heart health and well-being, it is important to learn how to manage and balance our emotions, both the negative and positive.

It is really about acknowledging and being aware of your emotions.   Stress and negative emotions will always be part of life.  Once you recognize how your emotions are affecting you, you can counterbalance the good with the bad to find an equiliburium.  This does not mean suppressing negative feelings and replacing them with positive emotions.  Rather it means accepting what you are feeling at that moment and approaching your emotions from a calm and peaceful place to find a balance that works for you.  Again, there are things that you can do to help you get to that equilibrium.

  • Begin a meditation class
  • Sign up for a yoga and/or a qi gong class
  • Start journaling your about your thoughts and emotions.  In her book  “The Artists Way” Julie Cameron suggests writing first thing when you get up in the morning for 20 minutes.  Just a stream of consciousness to clear your mind for the day.
  • Remember- you are in control of what goes into your body.
  • Exercise
  • Assess where you are and where you want to go.

It all starts with YOU.  YOU connecting with the magical temple that you inhabit.  Begin listening to your body and your mind.  You were born with the intelligence to take you to where you need to be.  Finally, if you need help, ASK FOR IT.  You owe it to yourself. The bottom line is truly, all matters are matters of the heart – because it all begins with love.

I just realized how long this post was but there is one more point to make.  This list of things to do may seem daunting, but there most probably is one item that spoke to you louder than the others.  Know that everyone has a different change they need to make.  Listen to your intuition and start with the one that spoke to you.

p.s. The featured photo is artwork by the amazing Hanna Washburn.  Find more of her work at HannaWashburn.com.

 

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