In the recent Disney hit movie “Frozen,” a young woman’s heart is accidentally frozen by her sister’s superpowers during an argument. If the antidote is not found quickly, then she will die, pronounces the wise troll to whom they go to for help. And the race is on to find the antidote!
Society has long used the word “heart” spiritually and metaphorically, as well as literally. We talk about a kind and loving heart; a generous heart; following our heart, and so on. Poets and playwrights, such as Shakespeare, have used the word to indicate love. The traditional image of love is a heart. Major religions have used the word to indicate the soul of man – as when the Jewish King David wrote in one of his Psalms, “My heart [soul] is glad.”
We also use it to describe grief, sadness, stress, anger and revenge. The problem is however that we often do not make the connection between how we think about our heart and what we are experiencing physically. Studies show, for example, that there is such a thing as “broken heart syndrome.” People who experience a grievous loss, such as the young woman in the movie was experiencing in the argument with her sister, can have a heart attack.
Hospital Emergency Room physician Dr. Edwin Leap sees chest pains every day in the course of his work. He recently wrote a thoughtful analysis on this in an article on KevinMD.com. He suggests that:
“… the reason I see so much chest pain is due to the fact that we, as a people, take every emotional or social dilemma and transform it into chest pain. Broken hearts, broken homes, stressful jobs, stressful school, legal problems, arrest, guilt, anger, frustration, fear, all of it becomes chest pain, and the chest pain filters down to younger and younger individuals until even young children, in their distress, develop chest pain; possibly having seen and heard their families do the same thing.”
He goes on to add,
“We twist emotion, spirit and anatomy into a knot when we use the term “heart” to describe both the centre of our thoughts and feelings, as well as using it to describe an amazing, electrically driven muscle that sustains our lives.”
Physicians do valuable work in saving the lives of people who have had heart attacks. Yet, we also now know that many of these heart attacks are preventable with lifestyle changes involving diet, exercise and taking steps to reduce mental pressures.
A reading of the Heart and Stroke Foundation website yields some interesting ideas on managing stress: “There’s always going to be stress in life,” states Foundation-funded psychiatrist Dr. Brian Baker. “But if it starts to get to you, then you have to have techniques to deal with it.” The site goes on to give ideas on meditation that studies show are helpful in relieving stress and thereby reducing blood pressure.
But, is this really enough? Taking time out to meditate and be quiet is valuable; but if we go back to the same environment of emotional reactions as before, then our thought about the situations we are facing has not changed. What is needed amid these many lifestyle changes is an actual reframing of perspective about the life we lead to actually change our health for the better.
For example, over a decade ago my uncle was undergoing major heart surgery. After the surgery, my aunt was told that he was not expected to survive the operation. She was devastated and suffered a heart attack on the spot, dying only hours later – having succumbed to broken-heart syndrome. Then, my uncle survived the operation. Deeply saddened by the loss of his wife, he devoted his life to change. He felt that since he had been given another chance at life, he needed to live it for others. He had always been a kind man, but now he deepened that kindness into becoming one of the most compassionate, loving and generous-hearted men I have ever known. He blessed our family and many others with his steadfast love, wise counsel, Christianity and humour. When he finally passed away ten years later, it was not from heart problems.
It was my uncle’s changed perspective on love that he felt was the key to his health. My uncle was an engineer and scientist, involved in healthcare. He had not been a deeply spiritual man, but after his health challenges he began to see love as having a divine rather than a human source. So, he began to embrace that origin rather than skating on the surface of an ephemeral human love – or a big muscle called heart, which can at any moment break and betray us. He told me that he saw heart as spiritual love, and that is how he wanted to express his heart.
Understanding the role consciousness plays can bring a sense of life that is more spiritually, rather than emotionally centred. This enables us to take charge of our thoughts so that we do not fearfully end up in the hospital with confusing chest pains. Like the movie “Frozen,” we can find the antidote for the human stresses, betrayals and griefs of life, and we can welcome the deeply spiritual origin of that answer.
This article was published in the Vancouver Sun HERE