“Where suffering lies is right where non-suffering will arise, it ceases at the place where it arises.” ~ Ajahn Chah
Buddha asks us to use the challenges in our lives to move forward and gain valuable lessons.
This rests on how we decide to receive the experience. When we look for a way to turn the challenge into a gift, we always find value in the circumstance that lessens any pain it has caused.
What do we do with a gift? We receive it. Acknowledge it. Look for the bigger purpose it has in our lives. Consider how this can become an opportunity.
With these simple twists of perspective, we get that moment of clarity. That which was a problem, and upsetting, provides knowledge. As we live it—it becomes wisdom.
It has been a thing in my life, having a chronically broken heart. I have caused myself much suffering by clinging to people only meant to be with me for a short amount of time. I have spent far too much time begging people to accept me and trying to earn love from those who would not understand me or accept my truths.
Many times, I have doubted myself and shrunk from opportunities to avoid the humiliation of failure, my ego too frail to take a leap of faith, or put myself in a position of having to work harder.
Now in my forties, I decided it was time to make a change. The discomfort of staying stuck in that place was no longer tolerable. I had to take a hard look in the mirror and see all the things that were keeping me small and afraid. It has taken a lot of self-work and clearing of old habits and beliefs.
Recognizing and releasing past traumas and poor coping mechanisms has allowed me to start believing in myself and taking chances. It has given me the internal fortitude to put myself out into the world. My life has gone from a shell of existence, where I never fulfilled my heart’s desires, to overflowing with creative manifestation and attracting people who consistently fill me up with such reassurance and acceptance. Now I can pour my heart out without self-doubt.
Just as I felt my wounds had stopped bleeding and the healing was allowing me to go deeper into my purpose in life, it was ironic to find out I was born with a broken heart.
The first time I noticed the fluttering in my chest was in my twenties. It wasn’t overwhelming or even terribly noticeable. Every now and then my pulse would begin to race.
By the time I had reached my thirties, it had progressed a bit. Very noticeable by this time, my heart would suddenly start beating so hard and fast it would physically shake my body. I began to feel light-headed, dizzy, and sometimes even a little faint and nauseated. I could see my hair on my skin jolt with each beat.
I learned that laying down on my left side and taking deep breaths helped it return to normal. I was alarmed and spoke to several of my doctors about it. I was sent for an electrocardiogram (EKG) of my heart and told that everything looked perfect. I had no blood pressure issues or any other complicating factors, so we assumed they were panic attacks.
A few weeks ago, during a yoga class, my Apple watch’s alarm started going off. When I looked down to silence it, the screen was asking if I would like to dial 911.
I was perplexed. What on earth was this thing doing? I thought the watch was glitching and took it off. After I got out of class and looked a little closer, I could see it was the app I had recently downloaded for monitoring pulse rate.
It seemed like a good reason to have things checked out again, so my doctor and I decided I should have another EKG just to be safe. My first EKG had shown something a bit abnormal, so on Friday, I was sent in for a second.
It was confirmed that I have an extra electrical pathway in my heart, creating a much faster pulse rate than the main one. It becomes inadvertently activated by a stimulation of the vagus nerve and sends my pulse soaring. In my case, that translates to going from a normal 60 beats per minute to an alarming 258 beats per minute.
It was alarming to walk into a doctor’s office a healthy yoga teacher—only to find out I needed heart surgery. Despite my shock and upset, I put my emotions aside so I could continue with my day.
My husband and I had plans with our sons that evening. Over dinner, I skimmed the surface of what I was told—leaving out the treatment part. My oldest son commented that his doctor had mentioned that he thought he heard a murmur during his exam as well. The word “hereditary” popped into my mind.
I was still riding my denial train as we headed to the movies to see “Kong,” and from there to pick up my 3-year-old granddaughter for a sleepover. I was functioning like a champ, but all the while I worried about the surgery and struggled to come up with the words for the scary truth I had to face later.
That night, while my granddaughter joyfully splashed in the bathtub, I turned to my laptop to research my condition. I almost felt like I would find out it is was all a sham. After a few minutes of reading, I was facing reality.
I made mention of my doctor’s visit, and my husband sighed heavily. At that very moment, I had a sinking feeling that should have been a tell-tale marker of a broken place that needed fixing, but I am not that quick at noticing them.
This avoidance of the issue was our old familiar disconnect—the problem we had suffered for many years just surfacing again.
My husband and I are a perfect pair because my denial of feelings pairs with his wanting to pretend nothing is wrong. Our coping strategy seems to read: “If we don’t notice it, maybe it will just go away.”
For so many years, I felt unsupported as we played this denial game. High school sweethearts, plus 18 years of marriage, and we still don’t understand each other’s reactions at all. When fear presents itself, our communication abruptly ends. Both of us alone and suffering—we’ve never had the tools to resolve the hurt between us in these situations.
True to our well-worn ways of past, I said nothing and went on reading silently—but I was hurt.
I slept terribly that night with nightmares plaguing me. When I woke, I thought of the dreams as I began my morning meditation.
Within the quiet of my focused breathing, I integrated the message of using challenges to grow. Checking in with my emotions, I felt shocked and scared but, more surprisingly, as I dug through, I realized that I felt alone and abandoned. I began resolving myself to solitude and the thought that I must suffer this on my own, as if I was the only one strong enough to face it head-on. That was a painful realization, and tears began to flow.
It has taken a lot of yoga, meditation, and therapy, but I dug up my truth in that morning’s meditation. I had been given the perfect experience to bring more enlightenment and healing into my life.
“This pattern changes now,” I thought and I moved closer to my husband on the bed. I said the words that had been stuck in my throat since the morning at the doctor’s office, “I am terrified.”
With my vulnerability out on the table, he looked visibly shaken, but he stayed with me and held my hand. As his eyes began to well with tears, his words of love came, “If something happens to you, I think I might be unsalvageable.”
Pattern broken. We found and heard each other’s needs. In that second, the isolation was transformed into support and, at least the emotionally broken part of my heart, healed.
What a blessing in disguise this broken heart has turned out to be. It is just another experience, a gift from life, to save our marriage.
Author: Tracy Burnam
Image: Goya Rose/Instagram
Editor: Lieselle Davidson