On June 1st, 2020, my sister committed suicide. She was only 51 years old and the circumstances of her life had proven much too difficult for her to manage. She slipped into a deep depression.
The anti-depressant medications she was prescribed didn’t help, and she continued spiraling down due to financial hardship and emotional trauma from the past few years.
Needless to say, it was a shock for the whole family and a deeply wounding experience for her two sons.
Last year, at a funeral for our childhood friend who died of cancer, my sister confided in me that she didn’t want to be laid out in a funeral home when she died.
Thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown, she got her wish and was NOT laid out in a funeral home.
Instead, a few days after her death, we had a private gathering at her home. We found pictures of her enjoying happier times in her life and laid them out on the dining room table with flowers. We invited close friends and family to join us.
Between 40-50 people (or more) showed up. Some wearing protective face masks, some not.
We hugged each other, we cried with each other, we held hands, we shared stories, we expressed our anger and sadness, our pain and grief, and our love for her and for each other.
Grieving isn’t for the dead – it’s for the living souls that are left behind.
We comforted each other the best way we knew how – by gathering together as a community and compassionately holding each other close, heart to heart.
My father’s best friend, Dennis, attended that gathering as well. He is in his 80’s. He has kidney disease. He smokes cigarettes. And, he is Black. He had almost every risk factor for catching and dying from Covid-19.
He told me that he simply could not live with himself if he did NOT make the journey by bus from Maryland to NYC to gather with us and grieve the loss of my sister.
It is now four weeks later and not one person that attended our intimate gathering of humans, including Dennis, caught or suffered from any symptoms of Covid-19.
Some may say that gathering together was selfish and we could have spread the virus, but I say it was absolutely necessary to help us process the tragedy and heal our hearts. It also boosted our immunity for reasons I’ll explain shortly.
The death of my sister broke open our hearts, and the gathering of family and friends helped to put the pieces back together again.
My heart breaks for ALL of the humans that have suffered the loss of a loved one through this pandemic and were NOT allowed to gather and go through the ritual of grieving.
My heart also breaks for ALL of the humans that died alone, isolated, in hospitals.
When we come into this world we are welcomed by the warmth and comfort of our mother. And, when we exit this world, we should be given the opportunity to be released by our children and loved ones, either at their bedside or in the days following their death.
Connecting with our heart and our ability to love is a BIG part of the healing process. And, it’s an absolute necessity to be able to thrive throughout our human experience.
Modern medical science understands the heart mostly as a mechanical system. It is viewed as a muscle that pumps blood that carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
But, this is a limited perspective, and only encompasses the physical reaction of the heart.
The heart, according to the ancient Greeks, is the true motivator for the human spirit. And, according to ancient healing practices, the energetic charge of the heart is directly connected to our emotional and spiritual experiences.
For the purpose of this article and to help heal our hearts as a community, we are going to look at ancient healing medicine, the 4th chakra, our emotional and spiritual body, and how that relates to the health of the heart, thymus and immune system.
Before I begin, it’s imperative to understand that heart disease is the #1 killer of all people (men and women) around the world. I know that people are deathly afraid of Covid-19 right now, but cardiovascular disease is still #1.
Some quick facts from the World Health Organization about Cardiovascular disease (CVD):
- CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
- An estimated 9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% are due to heart attack and stroke.
The global death rate from Covid-19 as of 7/2/2020 was:
Please look at those numbers again so it can hit home for you – hopefully, in your heart.
Now that you have perspective, let’s look more closely at the heart and thymus gland.
Scientifically, the thymus is a gland located behind the sternum (or the breastbone), between the lungs, and in front of the heart. It derives its name from a resemblance to the bud of the thyme plant (or thymus in Latin).
The thymus is instrumental in the production and maturation of T-lymphocytes or T cells, the white blood cells that protect the body from threats, including viruses and infections. The thymus is directly responsible for the development of our immune system and plays a significant role in our long-term health as an endocrine and lymphatic gland.
According to modern medical science, like the heart, the thymus has a mechanical function. But, from an ancient perspective, this is an incomplete assessment.
We have an emotional and spiritual connection to the heart and the thymus – it’s referred to as our 4th chakra in ancient medicine.
Below are the emotional/spiritual experiences that activate/energize the 4th chakra:
- Hugging someone or reaching out and physically touching someone in a loving way
- Allowing ourselves to love and be loved
- Practicing forgiveness and compassion for other people and for ourselves
- Connecting with our community in a healthy way
- Sharing meals/food with friends and loved ones
- Believing in a loving divinity or a divine plan
Keep in mind, that this healing knowledge is thousands of years old. BUT, there are also many modern scientific studies proving that practicing love and compassion increases both immunity and heart health.
For example, the National Public Library of medicine has studies showing loving-kindness meditation and compassion meditation reduce stress levels and positively impacts our immune system. Loving-kindness meditation focuses on cultivating feelings of goodwill, kindness, and compassion.
“Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) and Compassion Meditation (CM) are associated with an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect. Preliminary findings from neuroendocrine studies indicate that CM may reduce stress-induced subjective distress and immune response.”
And, there’s this to keep in mind.
“Women who hugged the most daily had the highest oxytocin levels, and their systolic blood pressure was 10 mm/Hg lower than women with low oxytocin levels—an improvement similar to the effect of many leading blood pressure medications, says Kathleen Light, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at UNC.”
Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus and secreted from the pituitary gland when a human being feels and/or experiences loving emotions.
So when it comes to preventing and healing any disease, no matter what it is, you’ve got to get into the habit of nourishing your 4th chakra (heart, thymus) with the emotional and spiritual support it needs.
And, guess what?
What is going on in the world right now is NOT supporting our 4th chakra at all:
- Humans are not allowed to reach out and hug or touch each other (keep 6 feet apart!)
- Humans are literally afraid of each other
- Humans are not allowed to sit at restaurants and share meals together
- Humans of all ages are separated from one another and encouraged to connect only via a computer or from a safe distance
This new shift in human reality is not supportive of the development and function of the immune system, and certainly not healthy for our already compromised hearts – as witnessed from the extremely high rate of heart disease.
I was walking in central park and saw two women that had obviously NOT seen each other in many months. One woman held out her arms to hug the other woman – which is a normal human reaction. The other woman stiffened up and kept her hands at her side. The two women just awkwardly stood there looking at each other… from a safe distance.
The emotion of love and the intimate connection at seeing a friend had been replaced by a deep-seated fear and stress that often leads to a state of high anxiety.
My neighbor Vincent said to me this morning, “I just got cursed out by a man on the street! Before coronavirus, people used to say bless you when you sneezed. Now they say F&%k you.”
I don’t know where we are headed as a species, but I do know this. If we do NOT reconnect to our 4th chakra in a healthy way, there will be an increase in mortality from Heart disease, Covid-19, and all other diseases across the board – especially emotional and spiritual diseases.
Including anxiety, which is a deeply disturbing, and chronically worried state of being.
I receive emails every day from people that are feeling high anxiety, especially now. According to ancient medicine, this condition is related to an unsettled heart.
The people that contact me want to know what to eat help them calm down. I can certainly provide a list of foods and herbs to reduce their physical symptoms, but until their emotional and spiritual body gets what it needs – love, compassion, heart to heart relationships with other human beings, and a deeper connection to divinity – the herbs and foods are like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.
It won’t help.
The arm needs to be set properly, fully supported, and held close, and then gently nurtured back to good health.
The same goes for the broken heart of our humanity.
Andrea Beaman is an internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching people how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.
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