The Heart Makes Life Transitions Easier
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We become very identified with our external roles in life (like a career title or being a parent or a spouse), and so it can be enormously stressful when we lose our identities due to life changes. Career transitions, divorce, empty nest syndrome, retirement, or in Brett's case, described below, a physical challenge that calls us to let go of an activity that has defined us, can be some of the most stressful experiences we go through. The stress does not come from the changes. The stress comes from having over-identifying with any one role we play. To the mind which has held onto a role as who we are, the loss of that role can feel like an emotional death.
The good news is this: over identifying with roles can actually confine the expression of who we are at heart. The opportunity big life transitions present us with is to come deeper into the freedom of who we really are. With tools to access the heart's presence, peace, intelligence, and adaptability to change (tools which we teach in the Beginner HeartMath Webinar) major life transitions like the one Brett describes below can become portals to freedom rather than passages of loss. Letting go of roles and identities can allow our attention to be more fully present in the moment, to partake of new gifts we have to give and to receive. Tune into to tonight's HeartStart call to welcome back (by popular demand!) Brett Askenas, as he shares the powerful gifts his Multiple Sclerosis has provided (even having to give up his profession!) when he takes the experience on through the eyes of his heart.
I grew up in West Nyack, NY, a Rockwellian suburb about 20 miles north of NY City.
It was open and green and quiet and relatively
idyllic. There wasn't much trouble to get into and
the public school system was excellent. It was a
terrific environment in which to grow up. I went to
school and played whatever sport was in season and
generally thrived both academically and athletically.
All I had to worry about was doing well in school and
having fun - my parents saw to that. Growing up in a
Jewish household, the only real question asked of me
was whether I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer.
My father was a chiropractor, so the expectations were
certainly there to be involved in some form of
healthcare, but that was largely unspoken. I just
knew that whatever I did, I was going to be good at
From very early in our lives we assume identities depending on our given circumstances. We
come into the world as infants and play the role of
recipient. We get food and love from our parents, who
play their roles by providing whatever we need - all
we need to do is scream or cry and have them figure it
out. Hopefully sooner than later to keep everyone's
As we age, we play the roles of son or daughter,
student, friend, grandchild, teammate, etc. Sometimes
the identities become more specific, like good
student, bad baseball player, difficult child. Our
behaviors are either reinforced or discouraged and
amended. By the time we reach adulthood, we have a
very clear idea what we think of ourselves in any
given situation and how to fulfill that role. Society
helps us as well in this regard. The phrase "all the
world's a stage" couldn't be more accurate, as we are
all essentially actors in the big theatrical
production called "life". We play the characters that
suit us or that we're expected to play and rarely
depart from the script. We are also different
things to different people, so we really do wear many
hats. For instance, I can't imagine cussing in front
of my mother any more than I could see myself giving
one of my golfing buddies a big hug and a kiss as a
greeting. We play the roles that are expected of us
and more stringently, that we expect of ourselves. I
submit that it can be quite confining and cut us off from the heart of who we really are
I started working part-time at age 14, first as a
Little League umpire, then as a town recreation
basketball referee and clinic instructor, and then as
a lifeguard for several summers. I loved all of the
jobs that I had and wore all of the hats proudly. I
especially loved being a lifeguard - it was great for
my ego, I got to work on my tan all day and most
importantly, do a job that I considered important -
My next "job" was to do well enough in college to get
into the dental school of my choice, as I had chosen
dentistry as my career path. Once in dental school,
my job was to succeed sufficiently, so as to allow me
to specialize in a particular aspect of dentistry. I
chose periodontics, which concerns all of the
supporting structures of the teeth, or for all
practical purposes, "gum surgery".
I was very pleased to specialize in periodontics. It
met my personal criteria for what I wanted to do with
my life. I wanted to help people improve their
health, and do it in a niche where I could really
excel and exercise my perfectionistic tendencies and
make a nice living. I also wanted a relatively
"normal life", meaning being involved in a surgical
specialty where emergencies occurred far less
frequently than 24/7. Being a surgeon also satisfied
my ego. I felt important because I could really help
people like few others could and it would be
appreciated by the general public. I would be held in
esteem much to my great pleasure. It suited me
perfectly and I was very proud of myself. It was
quite an accomplishment. I had reached my personal
mountaintop. Hooray for me!!
I enjoyed practicing immensely. I got to work with
many wonderful staff members and patients and see some
fabulous results of the care we delivered. My goal
was to make the patients as comfortable as possible,
since very few of them actually wanted to be at the
periodontist's office, so I told them stories and
jokes and answered all of their questions in easy to
understand terms. A good time was had by one and all.
It was both rewarding and exhilarating.
I practiced periodically for a few years before having
physical symptoms, which came and went, later to be
diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis. Fortunately, my
symptoms of numbness and tightness in my legs and
fatigue, never really interfered with my ability to
deliver quality dental care over my 17 years in
practice. Then I realized that I needed to stop
working in order to take care of my own health and did
so about 1 1/2 years ago. I had been embarrassed
about walking with a limp and essentially hid my
diagnosis from everyone, since it wasn't effecting my
work, and since I was a responsible individual, I
would intuitively know when to stop.
I could not bear the idea of doing a patient harm, so
I stepped away before it ever got close to that point.
I knew what I had to do, so apprehensively and with some sadness I called the 40-45
different dentists that I worked with closely, since
almost all of my business was referral, and told them
the deal. I had 20-60 minute conversations with every
one of them over a 10 day period. Soon the sadness transformed into exhilaration. Rather than lose my identity, and discovered more of who I really was. I was awestruck by
the outpouring of love and support that I received
from every one of these people. They were far more
than colleagues, they were great friends. Over the
next few weeks, patients and other colleagues came out
of the woodwork to offer support. I experienced a
paradigm shift at that point. I no longer needed the
ego boost of being a respected periodontist. I
received the wonderful gift of being appreciated just
for being who I was by people I held in such high
regard. So i said to myself, "Self, if these people
value you for just being you and don't think less of
you because you are no longer a practicing
periodontist, then there's no reason that you can't
feel the same way about yourself." I was overcome
with emotion and had never felt freer. I could be
anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to
do, as long as I was true to who I really was. Wow,
what a moment that was for me. The weight of the
world was lifted from my shoulders, or so it seemed.
Now, I view myself in very simplistic terms. I can be
whoever I want to be, but now rather than try to be the best me
I can be I simply "be". That's it. The
expectations are gone. I find that I am more present
now that I don't worry as much about keeping up
appearances. If there's something I don't want to do,
I check with my intuition and I just don't do it. I
honor how I feel and don't push myself.
Life is a journey and I am enjoying the "detour" I
have taken and will continue to do so, as I learn new
things and meet new people.
- "I am living from my heart more than I ever have, and life is so much easier. The challenges are actually do-able now. I attribute a lot of this change to your calls and the emwave and of course practice...Thank you Fyera!"
- -Kristin, NC
- "The trouble with being in the public eye as a person known for inspiring and empowering others is, where do you go when you need inspiration and advice? Sheva taught me how to access the wisdom of my own heart for that. When you've graduated from personal growth training and want to find the real power in yourself, go to Sheva. She was there through the most difficult relationship challenge of my life, guiding me to a place of self respect where I am now receiving the love I truly deserve. She is without a doubt a leader to leaders, a coach to coaches, and an inspiration to all! I am so grateful to have met you Sheva, and to continue to work with you and to watch you magic unfold in the world!"
Bonnie St. John
Bonnie St. John Olympic Medalist, Author, Speaker Named by NBC as one of the five most inspiring women in the nation
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