My uncle had open-heart surgery last week.
In my good-sized extended family our reunions tend to take place at hospitals instead of at holidays. It’s an interesting dynamic trying to stretch my heart open wide enough to hold both the joy at seeing my family and the sadness or stress because of why we’re at the hospital.
It feels scary to do that—to stretch my heart wide open.
It makes me feel vulnerable which makes me feel protective and afraid I won’t be able to handle it. But mostly it makes me feel open. And when I’m open love can not only flow in, it can also flow out.
I did a little research on open-heart surgery and here’s what my non-med-school mind gathered: It’s a big deal.
It can vary from procedure to procedure but in many cases the chest is opened. While the surgeon works on the stopped heart, a heart-lung machine continues to send blood to the brain and other organs.
Healing happens in phases, the first of which lasts six to eight weeks.
The medical advances and science that are required to accomplish this is amazing. What’s equally amazing to me is the findings of the HeartMath Research Center, an institute devoted to decoding the heart-mind connection physiologically and how that affects our quality of life.
Without going into too much detail, some of what they’ve found is this:
“The heart affects mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance and personal effectiveness. Our research and that of others indicate that the heart is far more than a simple pump. The heart is, in fact, a highly complex, self-organized information processing center with its own functional ‘brain’ that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences profoundly affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs, and ultimately determine the quality of life.”
This gives us a major incentive to take care of our hearts both figuratively and literally.
When was the last time we had a heart-to-heart with our heart?
These aren’t always easy conversations. I find the only time I can truly enter my heart is when I am completely present, which requires radical attention and focus. Otherwise I’m not entering my heart. I’m entering my mind. I’m entering my mind’s representation of what my heart holds, but not my actual heart itself.
My mind likes to tell me a lot about my heart, kind of like a know-it-all friend likes to give us the low-down on everyone else. But that is often not the truth of the matter.
We find what’s really going on in our hearts by stepping into our bodies (quite literally into our body and out of our mind) and thus into our present moment.
Here is where the heart-to-heart happens. Like any authentic conversation, expect some powerful clearing to come from it.
What I know about my heart is that it’s a muscle. Physically and emotionally it’s a muscle. It needs to pump to work and it needs to love to work. Not just once or twice but every moment of every day for my entire life.
Life will perform open-heart surgery on all of us many times over in our lifetime.
It will feel like our chest is being ripped open.
It will feel like our heart has stopped beating.
It will take us time to heal. When we heal, our heart will beat better than ever and it will love better than ever.
Over and over again our hearts will get broken. When they heal we will find they can hold a little more love than they could before. When we can hold a little more love, we can give a little more love.
And that’s what makes the world go round.