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Is Your Heart Capable of This?

The Capable Heart

If you think phrases like “a broken heart,” “I felt it in my heart,” or “my heart jumped,” are just clichés… There may be more to it than you think.

Did you know as a fetus your heart develops before your brain? Did you know that more information is sent from your heart to your brain than vice versa? And, did you know that your heart is believed to hold memory much like your hippocampus which stores memory in the brain?

Many people who have received heart transplants have reported having various degrees of changes that paralleled the personalities of their donors.   Heart recipients have experienced everything from new cravings for food, changes in music preferences, talents, and habits; to vivid memories that have echoed the last seconds of the donor’s life. This experience is called Cellular Memory Theory or Cell Memory Phenomenon. The scientific world does not agree on the fact of its existence. However, Claire Sylvia, author of “A Change of Heart,” would say that for her, it’s true. After receiving a heart from an 18 year-old male who died in a motorcycle accident, she reported having a craving for beer and chicken nuggets in recovery after surgery. Yes, they found chicken nuggets in the coat pocket of the donor at the accident, and she didn’t like beer before.   This story and many more can be found from heart recipients.

Some of these stories go far beyond food cravings. A 17 year-old, black male was killed in a drive-by shooting while walking with his violin. His music teacher said, “I think he would have played Carnegie Hall someday.” The recipient of his heart was a 47 year-old, blue-collar, white male. The recipient said after the transplant, “I can tell you one thing. I used to hate classical music, but now I love it. I play it all the time.” Even his wife commented that “He’s driving me nuts with this classical music. He sits for hours and listens.”

Another startling case involved a 19 year-old woman killed in an automobile accident. She was a committed vegetarian who owned and operated her own health food restaurant. As she lay dying in the hospital, she was able to write notes to her mother of how she could ‘feel the impact of the car hitting her, like it was going through her body.’ The recipient of her heart, a 29 year-old woman reported,” I know this will sound crazy, but two things happened to me. First, almost every night I feel the accident my donor had. I can feel the impact in my chest. Secondly, I hate meat now. I can’t stand it. Actually, when I even smell it, my heart starts to race. Before, I was the biggest money maker for McDonald’s!”

Heart surgeon, Dr. Jeff Punch, M.D. says, “There are other explanations for these mind-body changes.” He suggests they can be the side effects of transplant medications, pure coincidence or the profound experience of the transplant itself. He believes that anything more is just fantasy.

What do you think? Is this beyond our current scientific capability to understand?  Is it how God made us – in his likeness – far more complicated than we can comprehend? Or, is it simply what Dr. Punch says, “Just fantasy.”

If your life ended right now and someone received your heart, what traits, likes, dislikes, behaviors, and passions would you want passed on?

For me, I want to believe cellular memory to be true. It adds to the mystery of life (as if we need more…). I enjoy believing in these types of theories, miracles, and the unlimited power of the human spirit. It has heart!

P.S.  Be an organ donor!

DEATH, THE GREAT MOTIVATOR

 

Life is Short

“Some people die at age 25 & aren’t buried until 75.”  Benjamin Franklin

Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be…..for two reasons: 1.) I write about ideas like this; 2.) You ARE going to die.

Why don’t we use death more as a motivator? It’s the ultimate energizer. It’s the one thing that is for sure. You can’t rely on any other aspect of life that is a 100% guarantee beside death.

Don’t deny it. Use it to your advantage. If you believe in God, you’re good, and you ask for your sins to be forgiven, then you have heaven waiting after you die. But, once again – NO GUARANTEES you’ll get in!! Let’s say you do get the green light, and God is standing next to you watching a replay of your life. Do you think you’ll see a few missed opportunities? Could you have had more laughs, enjoyed family and friends more, played with your kids, your dog or cat, a little more? Could you have gotten a little crazier at times (not in sinful ways), just wilder. Could you have helped more people, especially those you didn’t know? God loves that!

Let’s say you don’t believe in God, and there’s no afterlife – nothing. You believe life is a one-shot deal. One and done. Painful, like March Madness. You atheists should really be living it up. I don’t mean in a nasty, mean way like robbing a bank, stealing a car, or running people over, because your one and done will be spent in prison. I mean going ballistic with adventure!

Buddhists, you get to come back.

All of us can use death as a motivator to be more spontaneous, more fabulous, more out there. To remind each other of how precious life is, we can change our parting words such as: “See you later,” or “Take care,” or “Nice seeing you.” Why don’t we enhance and motivate by reminding each other that life is short. Our parting words could be, “Remember you could be dead soon,” or “Death is forever,” or maybe “I hope you have a peaceful death.” “Thanks, good seeing you too, and thanks for the reminder.”

In the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie says, “Our Culture doesn’t encourage us to think about such things (death) until you’re about to die. We’re wrapped up in egotistical things: career, money, cars, trillions of little high-jacks. When do you take time to stand back and really look at your life? Ask – Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing? Who knows, maybe you will begin to live your life – the one you want. Maybe you’ll become happier, healthier, more…what?” Motivated.

P.S. No fish were injured or mistreated in this post.

I Dare You to Give This Gift

Sharing Love

Sharing Love

I love “Funeral Talk.”   You know, those lovely words we share about the person we care enough of to show up at their funeral and say: He was so great. She always had a smile. He was so fun to be around. She would do anything for you.

Here’s the ‘DARE’ gift – tell the person that you appreciate what they mean to you while they’re still ALIVE! Not only are you giving them a gift of purpose, meaning, and significance; you’re also incorporating what Viktor Frankl’s calls “logotherapy.”

In “Man’s search for Meaning in Life,” Viktor Frankl says, “It’s inherently human to crave knowing we’ve made a difference. By telling those in your life the difference they’ve made, you’ve fed one of the most essential needs of the human spirit.” Not only does this benefit those you share with, but you’re strengthening your own emotional capability.

A few days ago, I held the hand of my neighbor, Julie, who has been a blessing to me and my family for 17 years. I knew she was close to death, so I spoke to her from my heart. I told her, “If I straighten up my act, we’ll be neighbors again sometime.” She smiled, and left earth the next day. I’m still here with my memories, knowing I told her the difference she made in my life. I dared myself to tell her, so I could live without regrets.

Brené Brown is in the Top 10 TED talks with over 17 million hits. Why? Because Brené touches a very sensitive nerve when she broaches the topic of shame and vulnerability. She would say that we struggle with vulnerability because our shame of being vulnerable inhibits us from telling those in our life what they mean to us.

Instead, Brené says, “We numb those emotions with food, material goods, drugs – anything to avoid being emotionally vulnerable.”

So I DARE YOU this holiday season (or any season) to give a priceless gift, one of ultimate vulnerability and meaning. Tell the people in your life the difference they’ve made. Tell them their importance to you, and the role they play in your life. By doing so, you’re giving two gifts: one to them and one to yourself.

Pass this post on to someone, if you think it would help you say the words you need to say.

Renée Zellweger and Dysmorphia

old young face side by side

Last week if someone had said to you, “Go into a room of a hundred people and find Renée Zellweger.”  Could you do it?  I’m not sure I could.  The first thought I had when I saw Renée’s new look was, “That’s not her….is it?”  Then I thought, “Will she act differently?  Talk differently?  Be less pouty?”  The biggest question is why?  A personal crisis, something to do?  Or is it about holding on to youth and beauty?

These thoughts were caused by dysmorphia, a deformity or abnormality in the shape or size of a specific part of the body.  In this case her face.

What freaks me out (just a little) is knowing that her old face is still behind the new one.  Full disclosure:  I’ve fantasized about how I would change my face – nose job, eye lift and a little lip enlargement, costing roughly $30,000 worth.  I could easily change my face by driving a new car worth that much!  It would be much less painful and a lot faster, and folks could recognize ‘Tim’ driving that new car.

According to Nancy Etcoff, an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard and author of “Survival of the Prettiest,” our faces are tightly packed with important biological information.  She reports that “we are face virtuosos.  We can discern one face from thousands, even millions of other faces.”

Our relationship with others is held in the individual’s face.  Our faces communicate our tribe, our emotions, our moods, our essences.  If my wife changed her face as much as Zellweger did, I would feel like I was having an affair at first.  Eventually I would want back the person I married.  A little fixing here and there is cool – as long as I can recognize the face in a room of strangers.

“If age is denied, soul becomes lost in an inappropriate clinging to youth.” Thomas Moore

SIMPLY CARING

boys in prision

Call it a random act of kindness or helping others or making a difference – it’s all CARING.

In December 2012 at a Tim Horton’s drive-through, a customer paid the tab for the car behind in line. That act of caring started a chain reaction that lasted three hours; 226 cars paid for the car behind them. Each customer was so moved by being cared for that they, in turn, cared for someone else.

A mother who lost her 8 year-old daughter to a rare cancer in 2009, created Milan’s Miracle Fund, a nonprofit that supports research on pediatric cancer. This mother didn’t have to create a foundation. Her daughter is gone. She cares about children she doesn’t know who have cancer, as well as their families and all the people affected by their cancer.

Research shows that being witness to an act of caring is a powerful stimulant for our own health and well-being. Recently I watched an elderly woman sit for hours next to her dying friend, holding her hand, feeding her and caring for her. It’s a comforting thought to have someone willing to care for you at the end of life. We will all be there at some point.

Caring may save your life….really?

Is this ‘caring’ stuff that powerful? I interviewed young men, ages 17 to 21, who were serving two years to life in prison for having killed, robbed, led gangs, and sold drugs. During these interviews I asked, “Why did you do this?” The most common answer was “I didn’t care.” I then asked, “When did you stop caring?” The answer, “When I was no longer cared for.” (At $70.7 billion annual cost of incarceration in the U.S. – not caring adds up.)

Yes, caring could save your life. So, the next time you lend a hand, help someone out, or give your time and money, why are you doing it? Because you CARE.

Two Folders

Two Folders with Two Perspectives on Life

Two Folders with Two Perspectives on Life

An observation of living life with two folders:

One folder is filled with information we’ve accumulated to navigate our intellectual and skill-based needs. This folder is filled with facts, theories and data that satisfies our need to be knowledgeable. We have multiple degrees, licenses and certifications to authenticate our ability to perform certain tasks and especially to prove to others that we’re smart. We know lots of information, and we have a bulging folder to prove it!

The other folder contains our meaning in life – all things that we hold dear and close to our hearts and souls. This folder is absent of any institutional, signed documents. It holds our emotional attachments to those we love and to those who are no longer with us. It’s filled with momentary glimpses of tears of joy and sadness. The only documentation of this emotional truth comes from within. There is no formal, external certification. It can’t be purchased, or studied, or graded.

I’ve discovered while working with hospice and those with serious unexpected health issues that the meaning folder is the only one that really matters. Some people can’t find this folder. Perhaps it didn’t seem important. Or, if they do possess it, it’s very meager.

Yet, others possess a folder overflowing with meaningful moments that have been collected, cherished and remembered…forever and ever. Amen.

May your folder of information and intellectual pursuits be filled and organized to meet your needs.

AND,

May your folder of meaning be readily available and easily found when you find yourself in need of your purpose, your greatness and the difference you make in the lives of others.

Do Great Things…..Today

Be Great Today

Do Great Things…. Today

My high school band teacher, Mr. Bennett was the only teacher that saw beyond my dysfunctional exterior. In my junior year, Mr. Bennett told my mother that I would do ‘great things someday.’ A few ‘great things’ happened during this exchange:

  • First, he spoke out loud an expectation of me;
  • Second, my mother related to me that another person had that positive expectation of me;
  • Third, I believed in the possibility of this expectation becoming true.

 
GREAT: adjective, of an extent, amount or intensity considerably above the normal or average

 
I think there’s a gene in all humans that encourages us to go beyond normal or average. We all want to Be Great and do Great Things.

 
We can… everyday: in our communication with others, in our words of encouragement, and in our personal stories of over-coming difficulty. A smile or nod that lets someone know you see them. Telling your child or partner something special about them. Picking up that piece of scrap instead of walking past. Calling or writing someone you’ve been thinking about.
Look for the endless possibilities of being beyond average.

Do a ‘great thing’ today.

Surfing the Waves of Life

Surfing Life

Surfing Life:  Ups and Downs

We humans are mostly water. We can’t live without it. Maybe that’s why we’re drawn to it.

I’m sitting on my surfboard, legs dangling in the water. My eyes are open, looking to find the ideal, oncoming wave to ride back to shore. Every wave is unique, and we all see the them differently according to our distinct perspectives and ability to ride. Unlike other balancing activities, such as snowboarding or skateboarding, surfing is riding on liquid, ever changing, constantly evolving, unpredictable.

A lot like life.

We’re constantly looking for the next wave, evaluating, waiting for the right one, trying to predict if we’re able to ride it, stay on it. We sit, we see the wave coming….our parents aging, our kids growing up. Our jobs ending or new ones beginning. Babies born, loved ones die. Marriages, divorces, successes, failures. Our lives passing with time, rolling by.

The waves of life.

Just like surfing, we sometimes get up and successfully ride a wave of life, fully balanced. It feels so good, so fulfilling. Other times we fall, brutally pummeled by the weight and brute force of the wave. Yet, we lay our bellies back on the board and paddle out, knowing the nature of what we face is ambiguous, challenging, and unpredictable, yet worth the effort, worth the energy and strength to experience a moment of life that feels so good.

My Five Step Commencement Address for All of Us

Diplomas of Life

Diplomas of Life

I know a “commencement address” can be cliche, but if you could find space in your heart to listen to people older than you, you may discover it benefits your soul and your mind.

  1. It’s okay to STOP, and enjoy spontaneous interactions and conversations with people – totally unplanned, unrehearsed and without an agenda. These interactions are some of the most memorable and life enhancing.
  2. Don’t waste mental energy on what others think about you. Most likely no one is talking or thinking about you. People are extremely busy worrying about their own lives and drama.
  3. Try sometime to just listen to someone without judgment or opinion, with good eye contact, head nods and an occasional ‘wow’ or ‘really’ or ‘tell me more about that.” If you listen, you’ll hear the human condition.
  4. Be mindful and have fun. Enjoy each day. Enjoy eating and drinking. Enjoy exercise. Enjoy shopping or whatever it is you’re doing.
  5. It’s natural to think about death. It compels you to think about your current life, what you’re doing with it and where you are going.

Enjoy your musings and wonderment on the meaning of life. You will visit this frequently. Go forth and be good people. If I don’t see you before, I’ll see you on the other side.

Amen,
Tim

“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” Marian Wright Edelman

 

The Ripple Effect of Spontaneous Generosity

PAYING IT FORWARD

We’ve all been witness to someone being nice to a complete stranger, such as opening a door, picking up a dropped item, overhearing a complement such as nice hair, lovely outfit….  And for a moment we feel good inside. However, science is showing it’s much more than warm and fuzzy. In a New York Times article on March 16, 2014 Milena Tsvetkova and Michael Macy, from Cornell University concluded “that observing an act of kindness is likely to play an important role in setting a cascade of generosity in motion.”

In December of 2012 in Winnipeg at a Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop drive-through, a customer paid for her order and picked up the tab for the stranger in the car behind her. Then that customer paid the bill for the following customer, and so on for the next 226 customers!

Spontaneous generosity is not new, however the world of social psychology and the study of positive psychology has brought this type of science to the forefront. It illuminates, reminding us that we’re all capable of starting a positive ripple of good old-fashioned kindness.