Thursday, December 30, 2010

Irregular Heartbeat

When we lead with our head and not our heart, we become imbalanced.

On my 50th birthday I awoke in the cardiac unit of our local hospital. Although I was originally diagnosed as having a heart attack, I, in fact, had two irregular heart rhythms that profiled in a funny way sending the staff at my doctor's office into panic mode and rushing me via an ambulance to the hospital. Irregular heartbeat. I found out sometime later that such a heart rhythm is not uncommon as we women move through menopause and our bodies go through a major chemical restructuring. For my "problem" I was put on drugs, a minimal dose, for 3 years. I hated the drugs so began to workout, eat healthy, take yoga, and learn how to meditate. Over time I was released from my cardiologist's care and set free of medication. But, the meaning (if there was one) of that funky heartbeat was not lost on me.....and it made me reflect on my life...why was I needing to pay attention to my heart? Emotionally, I thought, what does an uneasy heart beat mean to me?

According to Indian philosophy we have 7 energy centers in our bodies, or chakras. The symbol of a chakra is a lotus flower. The heart chakra, or fourth chakra, is associated with compassion, love, friendship, brotherhood, and freedom along with social identity and a sense of self acceptance, right where the heart resides. The lotus flower depicting this chakra is seen above, with 12 petals. It supposedly governs how we are in relationship with others and it's health registers the quality of love in our life. In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is Anahata, depicted in green, meaning "unstuck" or "unhurt". The implication is that deep within and under our personal stories of hurt and misunderstanding and emotional pain lies a wealth of compassion, boundless love, and wholeness.

Just this week (a week full of family time) I decided I would finally get my first tattoo, a lotus flower on my right shoulder. I have also changed my hair color and put two more holes in my ears. Hmmm.....what is THAT all about I wonder? Fraternal influence. Anyway, I have thought about getting a tattoo for some time but just couldn't find the right image. One of my colleagues suggested a rose because it had so much meaning for me in relationship with my mother. My mother, who I had a complicated relationship with, loved roses, particularly the roses my father would cut from his garden and lovingly hand to her to be put into vases all around our childhood home. I sprinkled several handfuls of those pink rose petals on my mother's body as she lay in her pink coffin. Rose tattoo? Nope, didn't feel right for me.

Now, my husband and I have been taking meditation classes for some time at a local Buddhist center. Who knew there were so many different ways to meditate...but there are. During one of our recent meditation training sessions, our Buddhist teacher told us to imagine a ever-unfolding lotus flower. I did that. In my mind I "watched" a large, white lotus flower, perpetually unfolding. That went on for sometime and then, the unfolding stopped. The lotus flower became black and shriveled up. Tears ran down my cheeks. I was struck with the contradiction of the ever-unfolding lotus flower, life and possibility, and the shriveled up black flower... death. My husband, as he told me on our drive home later that evening, just kept thinking how beautiful life was, full of potential as his lotus flower happily unfolded and unfolded. He and I thought that my image and reaction was a little odd (and the tears odder, yet!). However, when I mentioned my experience to my meditation teacher he told me it was wonderful... "You see the impermanence of life, yet embrace the possibilities." I liked this. Very ying and yang I thought.

A balanced heart chakra is related to freedom, growth, and expansion, easy and appropriate love, and an open and trusting state-of-being. An imbalanced heart chakra is related to physical ailments including heart disease (not surprisingly), breathing problems (hmmmm...I had a bout of that in grad school!) and breast disorders (spose this makes sense as we humans receive our most primal nourishment from our mother's breast). Emotionally, if the heart chakra is imbalanced there is a tendency towards either becoming too empathetic and feeling the pain of others too much, too often. Or, a person may feel critical, defensive, suspicious and pretty much closed off from the heart.

I am never sure what I think of all this yoga, Buddhism, meditation, chakra studies I seem to be involved in of late....but it sure is interesting and I do seem more peaceful as each tsunami rolls in :) And, yes, Toto, I think a lotus flower gently "etched" (as I scream with each stab of the needle!) on my shoulder is exactly what I want....and maybe need :)

And that irregular heart beat, you are asking? How am I with that these days? Well, usually I don't feel a thing but sometimes, and it does seem to be very specific emotional times, I do feel a little blip...blip...blip...pause...blip...blip...blip...pause in my heart (which I have been told is completely normal I just "feel" it sometimes and sometimes I don't). But, perhaps more importantly, I have learned that if I stop and reflect on what's going on in my life, my emotional life, as my heart is blipping and pausing, that irregular rhythm goes away (or I just don't feel it anymore).

Yes, a little green lotus flower on my right shoulder will be perfect...reminding me to listen to my heart as much as I listen to my head.


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