Matters of the Heart

I spent the first weekend of December with my sweetheart and his parents in Pennsylvania. The visit with them did my heart good—both my physical heart and my poetic heart, the one that speaks for my soul. The weekend was an opportunity for me on so many levels. First, to simply pause, sink into my body, rest, and reflect. I had just learned a few days earlier that there’s a problem with my ticker. An annual physical exam revealed an irregular heartbeat. An EKG confirmed tachycardia. Because my doctor is not a cardiologist, she can’t tell me anything beyond that. I’m scheduled for an appointment with a specialist at the end of this month. Being a former medical reporter, I could not sit idly by for three weeks without doing something. So I did some research. Basically, my heart is beating too fast. I was and have been symptom-free, the doctor explains, because I have a naturally low resting heart rate. Now it’s up to the specialist to determine in what part of the heart the electrical problem originates. That will dictate treatment, which could be 1) do nothing—let’s watch it, 2) oral medication, 3) intravenous medication, 4) some kind of surgery which could include a pacemaker, or 5) the most extreme—heart transplant. I choose and intend option #1, thankyouverymuch!

The days immediately following this news were filled with a flurry of fear, concern and questions. How could this happen? Will I be okay? Do I have enough life insurance? What do I tell the children? What do I do now? In my business as a personal development and executive coach, we say that life is a series of events, people and circumstances. What gives us our quality and experience of life is who we choose to BE in the face of those events, people and circumstances. So I have myself a circumstance or event. Who will I BE? I will be calm, trusting and powerful in the face of the unknown. I will be transparent and authentic about my feelings. I will ask for and allow support. I will ask for what I need. (In fact, I just asked a girlfriend to come to my cardiologist appointment with me to advocate on my behalf.) I will get plenty of rest, exercise moderately, eat healthy, and de-stress.

And that brings me to my visit with my sweetheart’s parents. Scarlett and Bill are 90 and 91 years old, respectively. When you get to be that age, you don’t sweat the small stuff. What’s important is this moment right now. And now. And now. You cherish every moment. You relish every song, every conversation, every breath. You drink in the moon and salute the sun. You move slowly, deliberately, intentionally. You love deeply and with all your heart. And so that’s what I did, too…and continue to do. Because really, what guarantee do any of us have that we will be here tomorrow? We do not. We have right now.

My visit with Scarlett and Bill was like salve for my soul—and my heart. With my own parents gone now for years, I am so grateful to once again have parents to love and be loved by. In my book, there is no better prescription for a healthy heart.

 

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 12/2011

 

You Can Make a Life or Death Difference

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A name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. And each day, 18 people on that list die because compatible organs can’t be found in time. As I write this, a San Diego woman—Katrina Bischoff-Howell—is on that waiting list and hospitalized on a ventilator. (To the left is a photo of her taken during a somewhat “healthier” time, when she was on oxygen, but not yet on a ventilator.) Cystic Fibrosis has wasted her lungs and she now has a very small window in which she can receive a transplant…or never be transplanted. Her husband tells me that after two weeks on a ventilator, the body deteriorates and is weakened. He would know: He has CF, too, and received a lung transplant six years ago. Now it’s his wife who is in desperate need of one. You can read and watch her story here:
http://www.10news.com/news/28115787/detail.html

But rather than only read or watch her story, will you act to possibly save a life? Here’s a letter written by Katrina’s mother, which I share with her family’s permission:

Hello Friends and Family:

Yesterday, my daughter, Katie was moved to ICU at Thornton and was put on a ventilator. This means bluntly that we have only two weeks to discover two donated and fully vetted and qualified transplantable lung lobes or to have a cadaveric transplant and to successfully transplant those lungs. After two weeks on the ventilator there is no more opportunity for transplant. Moreover it is extremely tough for a CF patient to be able to live after being on life support for that length of time.

Here is exactly what you can do to help.

·· If you are under 55, have type A or O blood and are at least 5’ 9” and are willing to give up one of your five lung lobes to Katie, call my husband at (760) 579-8275 and we will get you tested to be a cross-match. Katrina is a very difficult match because of being transfused years ago and therefore her blood chemistry changed. The test to see if you are a suitable cross match is simple and painless. If you are a match, USC will take it from there.

·· Post the need for transplant donors to every friend and Facebook contact right now! Please ask them to consider giving one lobe to her IF they qualify. Please make certain that they understand how critical it is to act now.

·· Please ask your friends, family and congregations to pray for Katie now.

·· Because of the length of time it takes to find a donor…and now we have only two weeks to accomplish this…we can only identify potential donors for testing through this first week. Please understand that there is absolutely no time to waste.

Please I implore you to act now, right now. Please do not hesitate.

Thank you for your consideration in lovingly and prayerfully considering this massively bold request immediately. Please help me save my daughter’s life.

Do you want to know the amazing story of how I learned about Katrina’s situation? From my friend Sharlie Ross Kaltenbach—also living with Cystic Fibrosis. Here is a woman who is in need of a transplant herself, asking others to support her friend. I am not the least bit surprised that Sharlie is reaching out on behalf of her friend—that’s the kind of giving, loving and compassionate person I know her to be. Make no mistake, Sharlie is also in need—her lung function is at a mere 18%. That’s why those of us who love her have mounted a fundraising campaign to help cover the expenses associated with her needed lung transplant.

Here’s how you can help Sharlie: Buy a product from this website and personally ask three friends to do the same:

http://breathlessmom.com/products?r=4551

We believe in the power of three! Do you remember the movie Pay It Forward? The main character helped three people and asked them to “pay it forward” to three more people, so nine people would be helped. Then those people would multiply into 27. Then it would spread to 81. Then 243. Then 729. Then 2,187. And on and on. That’s the model on which we’ve based this fundraiser. We ask you to buy one product for $27 and ask three people to do the same and “give forward.” In a very short period of time, hundreds of thousands of dollars could be raised to fund Sharlie’s transplant and associated costs, with any excess going to others living with CF and to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for ongoing research for a cure.

All of the products offered will enhance your life, too! Please check them out here:  http://breathlessmom.com/products?r=4551, buy a product and ask three friends to do the same, to continue “giving forward.” Simple way to make a difference.

Another way to get involved is to sign up for the donor registry. You can do that here: https://www.donatelifecalifornia.org/ Will you join me? I’ve been on the registry since I first met Sharlie and her family about 20 years ago.

If you live in another state, go to the US donor registry site and search for your state: http://www.organdonor.gov

YOU can make a life-or-death difference. Will you?

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 6/2011

 

Smiling is Good Medicine

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“Smile. It’s the second best thing you can do with your lips.” ~Author Unknown

Okay, I’m going to give your mind a few seconds to wander where I know it naturally will after reading that quotation…

Now, back to the business at hand:  Smiling!  I highly recommend it because it’s good for you!

Here are just three great reasons to smile:

  1. It can give more pleasure than chocolate or money. According to The British Dental Health Foundation, a smile has the same effect as eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving $25,000 in cash—but without the calories or tax ramifications! Yes, there is actual research that measured brain and heart activity in volunteers as they were being shown pictures of smiling people, and while being given money and chocolate that proves this. (Of course, as you would expect, the BDHF strongly urges people to keep their smiles and teeth looking good for the best results!) The bottom line is that smiling can make you feel better because it releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. They’re the “feel good” hormones.
  2. Smiling is the hallmark of optimistic people. Research shows that optimists have more robust immune systems than pessimists. Christopher Peterson, Ph.D, a professor at the University of Michigan, says, “We have found that optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different.” In fact, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry bears this out: It says elderly optimistic people are 55 percent less likely to die from all causes than the most pessimistic people.
  3. Smiling makes you more attractive. Want conclusive evidence? Look in the mirror as you smile!

If you’re feeling down in the mouth, upturn the corners of your mouth! It can truly make a difference.

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 4/2011

The Peace of Forgiveness

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“As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy rent-free space in your mind.” ~Isabelle Holland

This can be a tough one. Is there someone you’ve been holding a grudge against? Someone you’ve simply been unwilling to forgive? Consider that you might be the only one suffering as a result of that. I tell my clients that to hold anger and animosity against another is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It usually doesn’t turn out that way.

For just a moment, think about the offending person. What feelings arise in you? They are likely all negative—that’s the poison. Now check in with your body. What do you notice about where those negative feelings are stored? How are they impacting you physically through tension or heaviness? Next, take an inventory of your thoughts. What shows up? Likely more poison.

So this is a choice point. You can choose to forgive. It is possible to forgive, even if you don’t forget. I’m not suggesting that it’s necessarily easy or done quickly—especially if the hurt is recent. I’m also not suggesting that forgiveness necessarily means a reconciliation, although that can result. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone the behavior that hurt in the first place. What you’re after is a sense of peace and understanding…and that is my wish for you.

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 3/2011

Body Language of the Soul

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“Body symptoms present information of which we’re unconscious. They are one of the languages the soul uses to get across to us something about itself…. We can trust the body to bring us into alignment, and we can trust the soul to speak to us through the body.” ~Gregg Levoy

Stop for a moment and check in with your body. What sensations do you experience? Are your shoulders or tummy tight? Or does your body have the sensation of humming? Get curious about what you feel, whether it’s pleasure or pain. If your soul is speaking through your body, what is it saying? Will you do what it asks?

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 3/2011

Wear Your Joy

“Taking joy in life is a woman’s best cosmetic.” ~Rosalind Russell

Male OR female: Take a look in the mirror. Is joy written on your face? If yes, congratulations–you look mahvelous! If no, what is standing between you and joy?

Denise Yamada © 3/2011

Beyond Guilt

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“Guilt is a worthless energy. If you’ve messed up or failed, grant yourself absolution. Then draw a line in the sand and say, ‘From now on, I’m going to act in a better way. I’m going to act in a more honorable way.’ The important thing is to truncate the emotion of that guilt before it becomes overwhelming. Forgive yourself…” ~Stuart Wilde

The point here is not to give yourself permission to continue some behavior that isn’t serving you, but to move beyond the guilt or judgment you may have about it. Judgment is the glue that keeps undesirable ways of being and behavior in place. What guilt or judgment have you been allowing to sap your vitality and self-worth? Are you willing to practice forgiveness and compassion for yourself? How about starting right now? That would provide some space and energy for new action.

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 4/2011

Tend to Your Vehicle

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“I beat it or praise it, I feed and clean and nurse it when necessary. I urge it on without consulting it and I hold it back against its will. When my body-horse is well-behaved I generally ignore it. But when it gets unruly—which is all too often—I pull out the whip to beat it back into reasonable submission.”  ~Ken Wilbur

Does this sound familiar? How do you treat your body-vehicle? What would be possible if you treated your body like it was an expensive race horse that was worth millions of dollars…rather than an easily replaced work horse? What is one new thing you could take on today that would nourish, nurture and re-source your magnificent body? Will you do that?

Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below. Your participation provides wisdom that all can benefit from. Thank you!

Denise Yamada © 4/2011

The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!” Three of my coaching clients in the past two days have been suffering from this condition. One of them is a healthcare provider who feels so crunched for time that he literally gives himself five minutes for lunch—that’s it—so he can take care of other business while ‘on break.’ The second is another life coach who’d been sick for a week, and now that she’s feeling better, is in danger of running herself right back into the ground while playing catch-up in hyper speed. The third is a contractor who’s transitioning into another line of work and finds herself trying to cram 16 hours of work into an 8-hour day. And let’s ‘fess up—who among us hasn’t experienced that at one time or another? I find the trouble lies in whether we’ve actually made that a way of life, rather than a rare occasion. In two of these three cases, it’s become a way of life…and it’s not working!

Freedom from this hurrier/behinder way of life comes from:

  1. Noticing that you’re doing it
  2. Identifying why you’re doing it
  3. Choosing things that make it an unnecessary mode of operation
  4. Practicing those new choices

Noticing creates self-awareness. Once you’re aware you’re doing it, you become aware of the consequences, which often show up as cut corners, missed steps and sub-standard work and performance. And that’s not to mention the effects all that rushing and stressing have on you physically and psychologically. (Believe it or not, even the slightest increase in stress hormones triggers your body to store fat—and who the heck needs that?!  More on that in a future blog entry.)

Identifying why you’ve fallen into that hurry-hurry-busy-busy lifestyle is trickier, because it requires you to be brutally honest with yourself and some times when you do that, you don’t like what you see. (And frankly, that’s just one good reason to work with a coach: You should be able to count on your coach to ask you uncomfortable-but-ultimately-empowering questions. I call that being a ruthless sanctuary for my clients.)  It seems to me more and more these days, people wear ‘busy’ or ‘swamped’ as badges of honor, like they’re some kind of sign of heroism or sacrifice to be rewarded. Being busy can also be a way to protect yourself from being asked to do anything more because, “Excuse me, can’t you see that I’m already totally swamped doing these other things?”  ‘Busy’ is not a virtue. Certainly, you can think of virtues that are more inspiring!

Choosing things that make ‘busy’ an unnecessary M.O. is essential. Often the simplest and smallest things are overlooked because they’re so obvious. Here are a few that have made a big difference for my clients:

  • Plan for tomorrow today. Each night, create a ‘Top 6’ list for tomorrow. These are the top six things you will accomplish tomorrow. This isn’t stuff like picking up the dry cleaning. I’m talking big-ticket items with the highest value that will have the biggest impact on your life, business and relationships.
  • Look for time stealers and start eliminating them. How much time to you spend in front of the television? Or squander at the computer?
  • Learn to delegate and ask for support. I was delighted with the time I gained when I taught my children to do their own laundry and clean their own rooms! What can you give away to someone else—especially something that would serve them in the long run, too?
  • Do nothing. I know it sounds completely counterintuitive and counterproductive, but some times you really do need to do nothing in order to do more. My client who was only taking a five-minute lunch break is a perfect example of this. It only contributed to his sense of overwhelm to eat his sandwich while paying bills and updating patient files. When your body, mind and soul are recharged and refueled, you can be more present, focused and available—and that’s when time seems to expand. You actually become more effective when you take care of yourself.

Practicing those new choices makes perfect, right? Well, I don’t really agree with that—but I do know that practice makes for progress! And when you practice something enough it becomes an ingrained habit.

What will you practice to create a new positive habit in place of ‘busy’? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below and let others learn from your example.