A Letter to My Heart

 “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller 

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It was a remarkable experience to observe my heart on the echocardiographer’s screen. A tiny benefit of having a sudden onset of heart palpitations and the myriad of tests that accompany this complaint. I listed to my heart as he turned the sound up – pumping in a regular rhythm like it has for fifty-one years. Life really is phenomenal.

Aristotle described the heart as the most important organ in the body. Ancient civilisations identified the heart as the seat of intelligence, spirituality and emotion. All over the world, the heart shape is synonymous with romantic love and affection. It grew particularly popular through the Renaissance when it was used in the religious arts, depicting the Sacred Heart of Christ. Today the heart symbol dominates our social media feed – like the ancient Romans, we use the heart as a symbol of love and life.

Mystics of every faith tradition have had a connection to the heart and the Way of Love. Mystics speak to the heart. They see the journey of the heart as a cosmic love song. The prayer of the mystic is one of the heart, of deepening love and finding inner peace and solace. This prayer begins by listening to the heart …

“My heart, aflame in love, set afire every heart that came in touch with it.
My heart has been rent and joined again;
My heart has been broken and again made whole;
My heart has been wounded and healed again,” writes Hazrat Inayat Khan (The Dance of the Soul)

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” Rumi

“Happy the heart where love has come to birth.” Teresa of Avila

“The seasons of my heart change like the seasons of the fields. There are seasons of wonder and hope, seasons of suffering and love, seasons of healing. There are seasons of dying and rising, seasons of faith.” Macrina Wiederkehr (Seasons of Your Heart)

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So as I lay there, looking at my hard working heart, I was overcome with gratitude. My heart and I have been through the storms and sunshine of life. Together we have loved deeply, raged bitterly, grieved quietly and laughed outrageously. So I write this note of gratitude to my heart:

Dear Heart,

Seldom do I stop to express my gratitude to you. Thank you for being there through the many seasons of my life. As a young child, travelling the world and continents, anxiously trying to adapt to new people and new surroundings, you were there, your rhythm brought me comfort.

In moments of my greatest joy, like meeting the love of my life, or holding my three precious babies in my arms, you beat a little faster to remind me of the wonder of love.

When I walked through the storm and fire, when I had to say goodbye and I thought you would break, you remained steadfast.

I don’t always heed your warnings: slow down, listen, come sit for awhile. Rather, I often charge through life like a tornado that has lost its way. Yet you do not give up on me, your remain faithful as the tides of the sea.

So, dear heart, as I walk through this second half of life, I choose to listen to you. I realise that love is what makes this world go round and that all my endeavours are in vain unless I have you filled with love. Love for those around me, love for my enemies, love for our fragile planet, love for myself … which probably is the hardest of all. I choose to listen and I choose love. I choose the path of gratitude. I choose the journey of the heart.”

Now, dear friend, it’s your turn. Take a moment to listen to your heart. What does it want to say to you? Draw a picture, write a poem and remember that you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” – Oscar Wilde

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Laughter: Tonic for the Soul

 

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common
denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.

— W. H. Auden

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A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my car at the traffic lights, deep in thought and paying very little attention to the world around me.
Suddenly I began to awake from my mindless stupor and noticed that the couple in the car next to me were having a rather animated
conversation, possibly a family feud or a heated disagreement. The
elderly female passenger turned her head my way, threw up her hands, rolled her eyes and uttered a rather choice expletive, one that even my limited lip reading skills could decipher without any difficulty. We then caught each other’s eyes and began to laugh. Two strangers, no language to connect, just a moment of hilarity and laughter that stayed with me through to my destination. Laughter truly is a tonic for the soul.

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Laughter cleans the soul. It has the ability to create an effervescent transformation that is tangible. The pursuit of laughter can dramatically change our lives. Laughter reduces pain, strengthens the immune
function, decreases stress, and triggers creativity. Laughing at ourselves prevents us from becoming serious, intolerable, and very self-important pains in the arse. Did you know that laughter contributes to the lowering of blood pressure, reduces stress hormone levels, improves cardiac health, boosts T cells, triggers the release of endorphins and produces a general sense of well-being? The author of Proverbs suggests that a ‘cheerful or merry’ heart is fabulous medicine (17:22).

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Meaningful relationships are far too important to be taken seriously. Laughter improves communication and builds relationship because everyone laughs in the same language. Children are more receptive when they are having fun. Laughter improves all of our memories,
because we tend to remember what we laughed about. Laughter makes us approachable, removes barriers and smoothes over differences.
Humour is vital in delicate circumstances and provides fantastic cover for shooting sacred cows, like Oscar Wilde drily remarked, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” Of course, humour that is used to intimidate, manipulate, silence or embarrass another person is not really humour, it’s being a jerk.

So, with countless evidence on the benefits of laughter, how can we
introduce more of it into our lives?

– Learn to laugh in the dark and serious times. This is a ‘skill’ I learnt from my parents. They managed to find humour even in the darkest
moments. We found ourselves laughing even at the most inappropriate times, not to be inappropriate, but to cope with life. It is a ‘skill’ now developed in my children. An ‘evil’ sense of humour is one of the great weapons against stress.

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– Learn to laugh at yourself. To my religious friends out there – please don’t become a serious, pious pain in the bum, so that people think that’s what your faith does to you. It’s not meant to do that. Laughter is a choice. Learning to not take
ourselves seriously is tonic for the soul. Serious self-importance really is one of those major relationship killers.

– Watch the kind of comedy shows that make you laugh.

– Tell your face it drastically improves it’s appearance when it smiles. Smiling is so underrated. A smile can literally make someone’s day. It
really is an instant makeover for our skull surface.

PIC BY THOMAS MARENT / ARDEA / CATERS NEWS - (PICTURED: A juvenile Borneo Orangutan in, Tanjung Puting National Park, Indonesia laughing) - These comical creatures are clearly up FUR a laugh in these sidesplitting images which show a variety of ecstatic animals enjoying a good old chuckle. The hilarious snaps, taken by a whole host of photographers from around the globe, prove life in the jungle is most definitely jolly, as creatures from an orangutan to a elephant seal are pictured mid-laugh. A cheery chimpanzee can be seen sporting a toothy grin as he enjoys life at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia. And a pot-bellied pig is clearly tickled pink at his home in Lower Saxony, Germany. In another image an Icelandic horse appears to crack up when he spots a photographers camera, while a chuckling cheetah creases up in Kenya. SEE CATERS COPY
PIC BY THOMAS MARENT
Friend, I wish you much laughter. Life is not always easy. There are many times when we find ourselves trudging through the valley of tears. Even in those sacred moments, may you notice something ridiculous, throw your head back and laugh in the face of your opposition!

“Laughter is poison to fear.”

– George R.R. Martin

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