It’s February. Hearts are everywhere. At this time of year many express their love for someone, or for everyone, in heart-shaped gifts. And who doesn’t recall being in primary school, giving or receiving the small heart sweets that had messages like “I LOVE YOU”, “BE MINE”, or simply “LOVE”, stamped on them?
These, coupled with a valentine placed in a decorated shoebox, made for a happy day. Why? Because of what accompanied the sweets and the cards – the sentiment of being appreciated and loved by classmates. That kind of thought lifts us. The trek home on Valentine’s Day was filled with joyful chatter, partly because we felt good about receiving gifts but perhaps even more so for having given them.
Could there be lessons to learn from that? February is National Heart Month in the US. There are many articles about exercise, diet, and healthy habits that focus on the heart as an organ of the body, which we should take care of. That goes without saying. From a standpoint of physique we think of the heart as central to life, indispensable to longevity or even activity. It is vital. But could there be something more to heart health – something found in that primary school experience?
I think there is. Beyond physique, “heart” is understood to mean the center of a person’s thoughts and feelings, the innermost part of our being. It also points to qualities such as courage, sincerity and the cherishing of someone or something. Those are true expressions of the heart. What is common in all of these connotations of “heart” is the focus of thought on others, not just oneself. As a child, this sort of focus brought us jubilation and energy, enriching the heart, and it can do so as adults, too, because it is precisely opposite to the self- absorption and fear which stress the heart, mentally and physically.
I felt this when I was driving home from my office one evening in heavy traffic, weighed down by various pressures at work. I suddenly began to experience pains in my chest and found it difficult to breathe. While seriously disturbed by this, I knew I had a caring family waiting for me at home, ready to greet me and appreciate what I was doing. I felt their love and looked forward to returning the same to them when I saw them. And, more importantly, I had a heartfelt awareness of God’s always-present love, divine Love, embracing us all. As a result, the stress left my thought and my physical condition also normalized.
Such cause and effect is indicated in a statement written by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, who over a century ago surmounted an oft broken heart to found a church based on Christian healing.
Referring to the divine Mind, God, she wrote that “…there must be a change from the belief that the heart is matter and sustains life, to the understanding that God is our Life, that we exist in Mind, live thereby, and have being.”
She continued: “This change of heart would deliver man from heart- disease, and advance Christianity a hundredfold. The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man. This change of heart is essential to Christianity, and will have its effect physically as well as spiritually, healing disease.” [Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, pp. 50-51]
We can all express a generous and happy heart and, undoubtedly, a healthier heart, from as simple an act as placing a card in a decorated shoebox – or whatever the equivalent would be today – blessing both giver and receiver.
This article was published February 13, 2015 in the following newspapers:
Sedona Red Rock News
Lake Havasu City News-Herald
and will be published February 18, 2015 in the Globe Arizona Silver Belt