Last Friday while in the midst of attending an on-line spiritual retreat, my heart started beating irregularly, I felt hot and sweaty then cool off and on for a few hours. Every time I got up, I felt dizzy. I noticed a huge black bruise the size of a baseball on my arm. I know I'm bruising easily because of the blood thinners.
So, I went over to the cardiologist's office, and he happened to be in so he did an EKG on the spot. The EKG showed some irregular beats but I was not in trial fibrillation. He assessed that my heart meds were off and asked me to return next day for tests.
I know this may seem a little dramatic, but it is how my mind works. The purpose in sharing this personal information is that I want to give you, the reader, permission to witness your mind when it is in upset. This is our human condition, it's just part of us and wants to be seen and welcomed. Since it is happening while I am on retreat, I can assume it's for my benefit.
The second layer, for me, is shame. The thought that I did something “wrong” to cause the heart episodes and if I did it “right” then I wouldn't have heart trouble. These self blaming thoughts give me the illusion that I have
control, which I really don't. I have good health, I exercise 5-6 days a week,blood pressure and cholesterol are low, I'm a normal weight... The things I can do, I am doing. This shame layer is like a tsunami, a familiar storm, I have experienced thousands of times in this life. It feels so real, so true and for awhile it becomes my entire reference point, my identity. “Hi, I'm Patricia,and I have a heart condition!” You may be familiar with this place on your own path where your story dominates everything else for a time. The story starts feeling like as obsession.
This is not a linear process. Fear and shame circle around and fall into each other over and over and over again. And, just because I may be able to integrate this particular heart event, does not mean that I won't experience many more processes as I learn to take care of myself with a heart condition.
Layer three unfolds as I begin to “get curious”. I start asking questions like “what is this all about right now?” “Is my heart sending a message?” “What if I were truly kind to myself right in the midst of all of it, the heart weakness itself, the fear, the shame – the entire humanity of what's occurring right now? What if I let my heart break, let the feelings flow, and let the judgments float on by, like tiny birds? If a member of my tribe were in exactly this position, how would I love them? The answer is “without hesitation, completely.” What if I don't have to do this alone and I can call on
the Holy Ones for help? What if I don't have to hurry through this episode and its aftermath? Along with curiosity, compassion returns and deepens.I befriend myself and my illness.
Now I notice I am most definitely dying(as we each are), whether my time is sooner or later. I can see how this little brush with mortality is a gift. It brings me to my knees. On my knees, I reach for guidance, help, comfort. Any truly challenging emotional or physical issue teaches me to become way more resourceful. I've heard said that the two simplest and most powerful prayers are “help” and “thank you.”
It's about 24 hours later (though it could be weeks or even months) when I remember that while my body is dying, my soul is eternal. My sweet old soul is actually watching the body have its heart issues and its reactions and encourages me to notice yet go on living and loving.
I believe that mortality is an impetus for spiritual connectedness, a call for coming home! I see now that the heart episode, the fear and the shame and even the control issues, are a part of God. Even though I don't always believe this or know it for sure, the thought that all things are part of God, that nothing, absolutely nothing is amiss, makes me feel so much more whole.
I love this short poem by Rabindranath Tagore...
And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well. The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away to find in the very next moment its consolation in the left one.
Thanks you for listening sweet reader,