Cushion for the Heart

March 27th, 2009

Love is the one treasure that multiplies by division. It is the one gift that grows bigger the more you take from it. It is the one business in which it pays to be an absolute spendthrift. You can give it away, throw it away, empty your pockets, shake the basket, turn the glass upside down, and tomorrow you will have more than ever.

Our breasts cushion our heart. As our hardest working organ, our heart never sleeps, beating over 2 billion times in a life time and circulating 50 million gallons of blood. Impossible to think that one could ever take this organ for granted, but so constant is the heart, we rarely celebrate its function or recognize it’s needs. Hearts perform best that are dosed with generous amounts of love and can bear the thrill of new romance as well as the tragedy of loss with equanimity. They strain under repressed emotion and isolation. Studies show both more stable heart health and increased longevity in the context of sustained loving relationships. Hearts need to be heard.

A couple of days after my last column, I was walking my dogs in the nearby park when I passed another woman walking her dog. We exchanged greetings and decided to let our dogs off leash for a run together. I noticed her cap covering her bald head and asked if she was over the treatments yet. Hers was ovarian, though most people assumed she had breast cancer. More insidious still, with almost no symptoms to alert the victim, she shared her history and illness. ‘Last month was national ovarian cancer month, most people don’t know’ she added.

I talked about my last column and the responses I had just gotten from people I had known over the years of my business who had gotten in touch because they had the illness and wanted me to know how much my writing had touched them. The conversation warmed the brisk morning fog and the dogs ran. Having already revealed my occupation, I asked her if she was having an intimate life, adding that it was perhaps the most life affirming activity she could pursue. She laughed and said her doctor had already prescribed the same at least once per week. Both physically, to remind the tissue how to relax and open, and emotionally, to soak in being deeply loved, we agreed making love was curative.

I offered our organic lubricant solutions and shared how her sense of smell could help to awaken her libido. Giving her a handful of products felt like a privilege. It was a moment when giving felt like receiving, a place that I search for in life. After spending the day fasting yesterday, on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, (the day of reckoning for Jewish people everywhere), I realized that the places which both nourish me and block me have everything to do with generosity. The moments when my giving is automatic and easy feed me. When I want something back for what I give, whether it is recognition or advantage, usually do little to nourish me and probably don’t feel much like giving to the recipient, just ask my kids.

The connection for me between receiving and generosity is crystal. Giving on empty isn’t really giving at all. I was troubled during my introspection to admit to myself how much of my daily doing falls into this category. The spiritual paradox that Mother Theresa embodied and espoused is true: ‘If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.’ Finding this place where generosity is true, without judgment about the receiver’s capacity or intention enriches us even when we give up our time and resources because momentarily it transforms and deepens our connection to what is most human in all of us. Being generous is like weight lifting for the heart. An exercise that keeps us all well.

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