The Heart and Mind Connection


With my current research studies, I find that my time to sit down and creatively write often loses in competition with higher priorities. After an experience last week I felt compelled to write. I was in LA waiting to catch a flight home. It was an especially busy airport and I stood outside the lounge waiting for a table to open up. As soon as I saw a couple leave I moved toward the table, arriving at the same time as another woman. We laughed and in unison motioned and said: “You go ahead”, and then “Let’s share”. 20130214-063747.jpg

We sat and chatted for the next hour, her waiting to go to Oakland to visit a grandchild and me home to Sacramento. She expressed her appreciation for sharing the table. She tells me that the last table she had asked to share, she was told she could have the chair but she would have to take it somewhere else. When the waitress came to take our order we laughed again as we both had chosen the same Pinot Noir from the wine list.

At the end of the day, we are more alike than we are different.

Her name was Iris. Iris had pretty blue eyes, was perhaps in her late 60’s. She was originally from Switzerland. Although she had immigrated to the United States more than 35 years ago, her accent was still heavy. I ask her how she came to be here. It turns out she moved to and lives in Thousand Oaks, California 35 years ago, the same year I began my nursing studies in the very same town. Although I left more than 20 years ago, we talk about how it has grown. She tells me that the plan was for her boyfriend to come here from Switzerland for a year to study electrical engineering, and she for only three months. One thing led to another… they got married here, had children here, built a fiber optics company that supports windmill generated power here, and now have both retired here. Their company provided jobs for more than 120 local people for many years.

Our conversation then led to the decisions in Washington on immigration and the point system that had been announced only one day before. Iris tells me that based on the point system if it, in fact, were in effect 35 years ago she probably would not be here as her command of the English language at that point was not good.  This perhaps is my point to the story.

Research shows living in perceived threat lowers our bodies immune repsonse.

I had just spent an hour of my life connecting with a delightful individual, fully present, in gratitude as I listened to her story. Studies have shown that not only does living a life filled with healthy relationships improve our immune systems but this too. Research also shows that there is a connection to presence and positive emotions, and the benefits to heart health and the prevention of coronary artery disease. Positive psychological well-being is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease. Additionally, very optimistic people and those that better manage their stress have lower risks of dying from any cause. Living fully present is also associated with lower cortisol levels and healthy aging and a happy heart.

Positive emotions heal the heart

As my flight time neared and I said goodbye to Iris, I felt compelled to pay it forward and grabbed the check. I was richer as a result of meeting her and sharing our stories. She, so impressed by my research and dissertation work on healing health care in America, and me by her rich history and experience as an immigrant to our country. Two women from very different backgrounds, but at the end of the day, more alike than we were different. One thing I am finding myself, as the world gets uglier in many respects, I must become kinder and practice compassion. In doing so I am provided rich and unique experiences that create joy and gratitude which counter the ugly. As I project kindness and compassion and humility, I grow in joy and gratitude. As I grow in joy and gratitude, I heal my heart, support my immune system, and contribute to my own longevity. We too often live in yesterday, worry about tomorrow, and we don’t have a clue on how to appreciate self-nurturing through living and giving right now.

How do you live in the now? The beauty is we each get to choose.

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