It’s no secret that we men have a heart problem. Heart disease is our leading cause of death in the US, a fourth of us die of heart disease. The actual number is slightly over 300,000 per year. Over half a million men have heart attacks every year. The reasons for this are multifaceted and very complex but what isn’t reflected in these statistics is the intimate connection between how we are raised to be men and how our image of manhood makes us prone to heart dis-ease.
Little boys are incredibly vulnerable creatures. Some of the latest research indicates that little boys are more sensitive than girls early on. And we clearly aren’t supported to develop our natural heritage as sensitive loving beings. Instead we are taught to protect our sensitive hearts by acting tough and invulnerable.
Your heart is an absolutely amazing organ. It is the first organ to develop at about five weeks and then beats an average of two billion times until the end of life. The heart is made of a unique type of muscle that is found nowhere else in the body and will do its awesome job for many years before the strain becomes too much.
I’m sure you have walked into a room of people and immediately had the feeling that you could open your heart to some people and should protect your heart around others. That feeling happens almost instantly and without any conscious thought. My word for this amazing sensitivity we all have is “cardiognosis”…. the wisdom of the heart.
As I sat with my men’s group yesterday morning to celebrate my birthday I was so aware of our bonding at the heart level. Being openhearted with other men is so radical and so out of bounds for the vast majority of men locked in the cage of on-guard, competitive, superficially invulnerable manhood.
Taking off that armor we needed to survive our younger years to “man up” is difficult and feels so risky. It often takes something that “breaks our heart” to allow our cardiognosis to shine thru. And yet for the men with whom I’ve worked for the past forty years those heart breaks through relationship failures, health issues, career disappointments, deaths, and a hundred and one other traumas is often the opening to a deeper radical wisdom that is life transforming.
I was taught growing up that love is the source and love is what makes life worth living. I still believe that, but at many points in my life I made other things more important and sometimes I still do. Yet when times get tough and my thoughts get wild and crazy and life seems out of control, I still have the resource of that vulnerable and powerful heart that gives me life every second.
So, how are you taking care of your heart? Are you listening to your heart and letting your heart take care of you? Is today the day to spend a few minutes listening to the wisdom of your heart? What do you really care about? Who could you share a heart-filled moment with, before this day is done?
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For opportunities to deepen your own cardiognosis with other men who want more fulfilling connections with their inner being, their family and friends, and others in their world check out our programs at the Men’s Leadership Alliance.
For one to one coaching and support in working with issues of the heart contact any of our expert guides at MLA.
Consider attending the twice-monthly True North Open Men’s Group.