Women Living Mindfully with Heart Disease

Leave the first response November 1, 2007 / Posted in Mindfulness

Several weeks ago, two dear friends, Suzanne Weeks and Sandy Levin, who has suffered heart attacks were invited to attend a program sponsored by the Minninger Clinic to become spokeswomen for an organization called: WomenHeart. The website is a repository of a wealth of knowledge, information, and most of all a community. Sixty-Four women of all ages and from all over the country gathered together to learn and to share their stories.

I wanted to share a short story written by Sandy after a return from a Yoga Retreat:

Last month I attended a yoga retreat in the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California. Everyone was asked to bring something that represented themselves. My choice was a seashell.

I am a channeled whelk shell. This seashell fits in the palm of my hand and reveals so much of me. Fair in color, mottled in tones of white and brown. The surface is smooth, grooved and scarred. As I look at my body, gone are the days of tight, smooth, flawless skin. It has been replaced by veined hands, wrinkles, and scars. Seeing my scars helps me remember different times in my life. Twelve stitches on my left elbow when I fell on my empty milk glass because I forgot to unwrap my feet from around the legs of the chair. Dozens of stitches in my forearm from when I stood on a chair to change a light bulb and I fell onto a terrarium. The scar in my abdomen from giving birth to my beautiful daughter. The scars extend to the interior of my being as well. Those scars represent years of struggle. Denial. Anger. Depression. Ego. Yes, this channeled whelk shell is me.

There is more to this shell if you take the time to look closer. At the tip is a spiral with a center. When I was born, that center was a new life, spiraling outward, experiencing the world. For many years, my life spiraled out of control.

There are so many demands and pressures forced upon us as women. We are expected to be obedient daughters, loving wives and caring mothers. We’ve fought for our seat in the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. In the process, we’ve become fragmented, with too many activities and responsibilities. We take care of our families, have a career, and have little or no time for ourselves. We go about our lives seeking perfection, seeking wealth, seeking happiness by pleasing others, acquiring possessions, gaining status in the eyes of others.

But this magnificent shell also reflects a different life. Its spiral circles inward toward my heart. It has found the true essence of me. The essence of creativity and love.

A great portion of this retreat was spent in silence. Silence surrounded by majestic pines, sturdy oaks, and massive boulders strewn across the mountainside. In the mountains, I needed few possessions – a water bottle, sun hat, a few clothes, my journal, a yoga mat, and my breath.

The air was sweet, the sky a brilliant blue dotted with white clouds. Blue jays squawked in nearby trees and swooped close to steal a morsel of bread. The light breeze rustled the leaves and offered up the song of nature.

On the mat, I meditated and practiced yoga. So still, I felt my heart valves opening and closing. I sensed an electromagnetic energy pulsing through my body.

Out in the wilderness, there was such peace, tranquility and oneness. Everything around me was as it was meant to be. I was only a visitor, yet I took the peace and tranquility down the mountain with me. I gave my sea shell away, but I have another. I’ve set it upon my altar. A reminder of life, beauty, nature and love. This seashell reminds me to be quiet for times throughout the day. It reminds me to live each moment as it unfolds and not to think about past mistakes or future worries. It reminds me to be. Just be.

It took a heart attack for me to wake up to this beautiful world. I don’t regret my past. The scars and wrinkles of my life are badges of courage. They have brought me to this place, this moment. They have brought me back to who I truly am. And like the opening in the channeled whelk shell, they welcomed me home with outstretched arms and a loving smile.

You can read more from Sandy at her blog or go to her website.

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