“Broken hearted often leads to broken open. And broken open is the perfect environment for finding out who you are and why you’re here. Break and grow.”
– Michele Woodward
Six years ago, on September 16, 2007, emergency open heart surgery saved my life.
I didn’t have clogged arteries or heart disease or a heart attack. I had a myxoma, a very rare benign tumor that was almost completely blocking the blood flow through my left atrium.
They discovered it after I had an episode of angina, that sharp ice pick stabbing in the back and chest and the inability to breathe. And yes, jaw pain and arm pain too. But I didn’t go to the ER or call 911. I breathed through it and kept myself calm and then went to Urgent Care the next afternoon. That’s where they saw an abnormality in my blood work, indicative of a clot, and sent me to the Heart Hospital down the street for further tests.
A client recently asked me if I experienced a white light epiphany during the surgery, if that was when I decided to change how I lived my life.
The answer is no.
It was everything that happened after the surgery that got me started on the path of this new way of being.
When you are recovering from open heart surgery, you can’t busy yourself with too much doing or distract yourself with a lot of meaningless activities or mindless chatter.
When you are recovering, at first, all you can do is sit. And breathe. And even THAT is so painful. Maybe it was that painfulness that made me so aware of my breathing. It kept me in the present moment.
I wasn’t interested in TV. I didn’t have the concentration to read or watch a movie. Everything in my world slowed down. And I rejoiced in the simplest of things, like being able to open the refrigerator, walk a full circle around the pool, reach the shower massage so that I could take a shower by myself.
Friends called and came to visit. My parents brought me my favorite foods. I was so utterly aware of the love and support in my life.
And, while I never thought I would die in the surgery, it suddenly struck me that I could have died any number of times in the days and weeks and months before because the tumor could have easily broken off and caused a major stroke.
And so, in the weeks and months that followed, as I regained my physical strength, I began to take a close look at how I was living my life. I started asking myself what did I really want to do, what did I want most in my life, and how could I best give back.
I had no answers. Only questions.
Slowing down to notice and appreciate these kinds of things is what brings us back to what matters, what’s important.
Slowing down creates the space for us to begin to ask the deeper questions.
This is what I teach and share in the groups that I lead. This is how I am living my life – listening, opening, following the energy of my heart.
We have to learn how to listen inside, to appreciate the simpler things, to trust ourselves enough to ask the bigger questions.
Only then can we be ready to hear the answers.
How do you slow down and listen to your heart? Please share by clicking on the comments below.