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Returning to the Heart

Tree branch bent into a heart shape

From a young age, I have always had a deep intuition of what feels right and what does not feel right for me. Spending many hours in solitude as a child, I would follow my heart throughout my day. Often, I was not concerned with ordinary daily activities. I loved to be by myself, playing in my room, imagining, flipping through books, singing and writing. I passed time lying on my back in the garden grass, watching the clouds and making shapes and stories—cloud bathing. As I watched, I was amazed at how the clouds would shift slowly or quickly from one form into another. From my bedroom’s corner window, I would watch the trees sway in the wind, the birds land on branches, listen to the bird songs and, when I squinted and tweaked my head a certain way, I could see the distant ocean, past downtown LA. In solitude, I could hear my heart and understand what I needed right in the moment. I was in presence.

I can recognize now how I was able to pick up the signals from my body and how there would be a slight shift in energy when something felt right for me. I noticed how my chest would open and there would be a lightness throughout my entire body. I felt free and energized and my heart and mind merged as one. There was a pulsing sensation throughout my body, with everything coming into alignment and, without any doubt, I remember everything vibrating with yes, this is it.

Over time, as I attended school and moved throughout the world, I repressed my intuition and the natural trust that lived in my heart. I questioned myself and I found that, most of the time, I shifted to thinking, feeling and acting from, what I would call, my ‘smart mind’. In my smart mind, I was able to get through a list of tasks, and most of the time, do this in a state of getting things done, shifting from anxiety to completion. Under all of it was a desire to fit into a world where I never really felt a sense of belonging. This feeling of not fitting in, generated constant worry that I would be found out. I pushed down my feelings, ways of being, acting and living in hopes to get by and fit into the system but inside, my heart yearned for something true and for me to feel free to be myself.

The first time I went into the doctor with my mother for her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis I was 18. I asked the doctor, “Is there anything we can do to slow the progression? Like diet or exercise? How about sleep?” His response was, “No, it’s a progressive disease. There is nothing you can do.” We were both devastated and, at the same time, in my heart I knew he was wrong. I knew that there were ways we could create regeneration and slow the progression of the disease. That moment dedicated and propelled me into a lifelong pursuit of healing my mother through training in neuroscience.

In this world the use of our smart mind is valued with concrete answers and scientific facts when you want to be taken seriously. Being blonde, green eyed, petite girl—society has a way of missing me and taking me seriously. So, I studied neurobiology, physiology and behavior at UC Davis, UCLA and earned a PhD at Caltech. Serious enough? Three years after her diagnosis, scientists at USC found that exercise proved to be neuroprotective for reducing the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Later years showed there was obvious evidence that diet directly affects health, microbiome, mood and brain function for Parkinson’s patients and in many other brain conditions. At the same time, my mother’s new neurologist also began discovering the relationship with sleep apnea and neurodegeneration.

Being a scientist, I found that my heart flowed with passion to reduce suffering for my mother and all people confined by diseases of the brain. There was another part, there was a piece of me missing in the world of creativity and facts of science, the ache of my heart. My mother’s disease slowly progressed and I was not listening to the suffering of my heart. I repressed it, not even knowing that I was suffering because I was so disconnected. I was running around fixing, clearing, helping and feeling that I was running from one fire to the next. Overtime, my own health began to break down because I was not dealing with my own heart, mind, and bodily suffering. I was living off of adrenaline and continuous cortisol bursts, barely surviving. I was suffering deeply and I was afraid of losing my mother.

This dis-ease in me created a disease in my body, my chest felt like the weight of the world lived there and that is when I found meditation. More than anything in the ancient teachings of meditative practice, I rediscovered listening to my heart. George Mumford, the former meditation teacher and motivational speaker for the Chicago Bulls, says, “One comes to meditation from either great suffering or for excellence.”

As I began to bear witness to my own suffering, I remembered my heart’s inherent intuition and love. I began to know that the weight of the world did not, in fact, live at the center of my chest but, rather, was a story I was telling myself. I began to explore the weight of my heart and hold it like the tender child I once was, the one who loved staring out the corner window watching the clouds and the sway of leaves in the wind. That little girl inside of me began to come alive again and remember the home of her heart.

Slowly, I began to release the smart mind and move into the intuitive heart-mind space. Instead of working for the ways to keep my mother alive in this form or that form and I learned to love the form she was in. I learned to love the grief I experienced in the loss of the previous form and the longing of the form and memory we were together and more-and-more as my mother’s form changed like the clouds in the sky, I found that each form was just as beautiful as the next. I would be with her, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, breath-to-breath, in-and-out we were breathing one another in. We were in it together in the space of reality and dreams, the space that, maybe, does not even have a name.

Slowly, I began to resuscitate my own intuitive heart. My mother passed ten years ago, and still each day I know, she is here with me, in the clouds as they move from one shape to the next, in the sun, in the trees, in the wind moving the leaves, in each breath and exhale, she is with me. From form, to form, to form, to formless. Most of all she lives in my heart. And when the wave of missing her arises, I remember all the forms, all the memories, and I quiet my mind. I come into the space of silence, into the stillness, into spaciousness and in the space is the heartbeat. The heart’s frequency. She lives there, in my heart.


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