Wellness Institute Blog

How My Open Heart Surgery Revealed to Me My Open Heart

Posted by David Hartman  Jun 25, 2019 7:15:00 AM

David_LaughingI had double bypass open heart surgery two weeks ago. Here are some of the lessons I'm learning from this experience.

The deep subtlety of what my heart is telling me. For example, I resisted going to the emergency room when my heart was telling me to go because my experience didn’t match my image of a guy clutching his heart and screaming out in excruciating pain.

My symptoms were more benign, thankfully; light headedness, nausea, pressure in my chest. Fortunately, Diane made the decision to pay attention to my heart’s message and go to the emergency room.

Another example of that deep subtlety is the unconscious yet forceful message I had been receiving for a year or two prior to my event that I needed to change my lifestyle.

I liken the deeply unconscious, almost primordial messaging to what I observed in our farm animals for several hours before Mount St. Helens blew in 1980. They were agitated with no observable irritant, but their deep instinct was tuned in to the imperceptible signals of coming cataclysm. Neither they nor I knew what was coming, just that something bigwas coming.

For the past two years I have been experiencing and acting out of a sense of urgency to make a change. That’s when we bought the farm on which we now live (December 2017), and sold our home in Issaquah (August 2018), and announced to our network of colleagues and students that we were initiating the steps to retire (November 2018).

I was acting out of an irrational urgency, propelled by an unconscious pressure and a very conscious intolerable stress level. Only now with hindsight is it dawning on me that I was instinctively reacting to the urgent message emanating from my heart, just like the animals did before the volcano blew.

Unfortunately I created some degree of chaos, confusion and consternation on others’ part through my irrational sense of urgency. I can look back and see some of those people caught up in my drama, observing my irrationality without understanding what was driving my urgency – just like my confusion as I observed the animals on that morning in 1980.

The only conscious awareness was that something big was coming. My intention is to grow in conscious awareness in real time of the messages my heart and my body are sending me from one moment to the next.

The interchangeability between physical and emotional stress. I now experience the effects of emotional demands or conflict just as clearly and somatically as overdoing physical exertion. My body’s reaction is identical. I guess I knew that intellectually before, but being able to experience it viscerally in real time drives home the impact of knowing it.

A few days ago a verbal conflict began to develop with a visitor, and I observed my body reacting with a higher pulse, labored breathing and physical agitation. Realizing immediately that the situation was jeopardizing my health, I simply said, “I need to discuss this another time” and walked away. That stark realization of the impact of emotional stress is new to me, and makes a profound difference.

Thank you for listening to me as I share these intimate lessons from my open heart.