How to keep your heart from stopping

heart clip art

Tonight we went to see The Shack. There were many things I liked about the film, and some things I didn’t care for—but this is not a movie review.

I’ve been working the Heart Math techniques I mentioned in my last post pretty regularly lately, and it feels like the space in my heart is getting larger. But one of the things I am also realizing is that my heart has always been a bit oversized. I think somewhere around upper high school I figured out how to shut it down a bit so life didn’t hurt quite so much. Books, people, bullies, war, starvation—it all used to devastate me.

It isn’t something I did consciously—it was just too painful to try going through each day seeing so much heartbreak both around me and in the world. It feels a little how a photographer would close a lens if it was letting too much light in. I have a shutter in my heart, and I narrowed the filter to let in less.

I’d like to think that we can be “open-hearted” without personal emotional injury. The heart math book doesn’t talk much about that—except that we should recognize the difference between caring and overcaring.

At one point during the movie tonight I was sitting between my husband and my sister who recently lost her husband. The movie had some tough emotional movements. I was already holding Milt’s hand, but I reached out and took my sister’s hand. She and I are only about a year apart so we’ve always been as close as twins. We feel each other’s insides. It felt good to hold her hand. At some point I felt the pulse points begin to beat with one rhythm. I realized that perhaps this is the only way we can continue to be open-hearted and to survive—if we hold on to one another in a good way.

There is a real benefit to once again allowing the lens of my heart to open. It may hurt more, but I’m also feeling more gratitude, appreciation, and love.  I’m not sure you can have it one way or the other. Either close your heart and be safe (and empty) or open your heart and feel all of it.

I choose to keep widening that lens.  Going for more.

The other movie thing I’ve been binging on is Call the Midwife.  I’ve watched the series once and am plucking my way through it again. The other night I had another “heart aha.” If you don’t know the series there are a bunch of nurse midwifes working side by side with a bunch of nuns. All are serving the community—especially the moms. My “aha” was that if I had not been so slammed by my early church experiences, I may actually have chosen a life of service. It would have suited me in many ways to spend my days serving others, serving the creator, and serving the heart. No regrets, mind you. I love having children and grandchildren and would not have it any other way.  I also love having found a soul mate and sharing a life with him. But sometimes I long for solitude and reflection in massive doses. It kind of makes me smile a bit—my mother would have loved it if I had become a nun instead of a hippie.

The one thing that offers a bit of protection to my oversized heart is perspective. It may sound strange, but I’ve come to see the human race as just another species–here for an eon or two and then gone again just as fast. Our beautiful Mother Earth will endure beyond us. This helps me keep some distance—that and a good sense of humor.

So, what is your “heart aha?” How do you “compost” all that the world throws at you and still stay standing? It is a real question, and I’d love to hear your answer.


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How to keep your heart from stopping — 3 Comments

  1. Hmmmmm. Somehow became unsubscribed while trying to comment. I’m back! Just wanted to say thanks for this. I suffer from what I call a debilitating empathy.You have written beautifully about my constant struggle.

  2. Hi Jamie,
    Thank you for writing and sharing this post. Your words touch my heart. . . especially the part about you reaching over to hold your sister’s hand.

    Concerning your question at the end: “So, what is your “heart aha?” How do you “compost” all that the world throws at you and still stay standing?”

    I find that the perspective I get from writing about my experiences in my journal and then choosing to share parts of what I write with others helps me to see and hold things with a “broadened perspective” and “deepened understanding”. In this way, I am sometimes able to perceive the inter-relatedness of my life and experience with that others. (Does this make sense?)

    Wishing you and your family a beautiful spring. –Keith

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