HEALING CONGENITAL HEART DEFECT SYMPTOMS
USING TRANSFORMING EMBODIMENT
by H. Elizabeth Burke MA
Published in the journal of
Exceptional Human Experience
volume 16 #2 2000 Rhea White editor
I created Transforming Embodiment in 1991 in response to my clients' and students' questions and from a passionate desire to discover a way to help people release mental, emotional and physical symptoms at their roots. In 1983 I realized that each of us can use the imagery, memories and emotions stored within our bodies, organs and energy centers to discover the history that lies deep within us. This history affects us every day and often causes us to react in ways that no longer serve us. We all have a unique opportunity with this human incarnation to dispel the veils of our fear, pain and suffering. By becoming aware and explorers of our inner world, we can break the bonds that bind us to our ancient histories.
This work has been shaped by Buddhist meditation, Taoist energy practices, and my work since the 1980's as a H'sien channel and bodyworker. Every phase of TE is taken from my own deep personal experiences, study and exploration. For over twenty years I have investigated the nature of mind, embodiment, energy, spirit. and the body. I have studied with Taoist and Buddhist monks, gifted body workers, and Hawaiian shamans, but my most profound experiences have always come from within. As I connected to Source and my body, with deep questions echoing in my mind, I have been taught about time, the mind, the body, its energy, and how symptoms, relationships, emotions, and healing, are all interconnected. I have learned directly how to heal repetitive patterns of karma and trauma.
I was fortunate to find meditation early in life. Sitting practice taught me how to quiet my thoughts and to let go of the incessant chatter of my mind as I cultivated a spacious stillness. As I sat in meditation, a quiet, enduring and transformative voice arose to teach me and later to help others who wished to understand their lives.
I have repeatedly descended into my deepest self to access my body's and spirit's wisdom as I worked with this new energy that flowed through my body. Illnesses, shamanic deaths and spontaneous memories of past lives have lead me only deeper. My fascination with the body as a vessel of spirit never wavered even when I was close to death. I knew in my bones that the sum of our experience, memories and history could be found within our physical and energetic bodies and that it was here that we could answer our most perplexing questions. Transforming Embodiment is the result of that quest.
The following case demonstrates how the practices of Transforming Embodiment helped a 39 year old woman change her ever increasing irregular heart beat, by bringing to consciousness the embodied memories stored deep within her heart. Lynn's experience took place during the first class in a 12 week course that I was teaching. The focus of this class was to learn how to merge with the different organs in the body to gain information about the memories, emotions or experiences that were held within the various organs systems. Students learned how to connect and follow the deep imagery 1 within their bodies as the origins of physical anomalies and emotional difficulties were sought and traced. Body sensations and feelings were also explored and served as another doorway into embodied and cellular memories.
Students experienced other lifetimes quite spontaneously, as well as current life memories and events while searching for the origins of current problems. Simple visualizations were used to help identify the origins of symptoms and the underlying belief systems surrounding one's symptoms, emotions, habitual behaviors, and reactions.
In this class, students also identified and reorganized the belief systems associated with their habitual reactions so new ways of responding to current life triggers could be learned and integrated into their psyches. By identifying, reliving and remembering the original events that created their reactive patterns students were able to transform their beliefs, emotions and experiences. Deep healing and release naturally took place as the original root cause of fears, phobias, relationship difficulties and even physical symptoms were understood and laid to rest.
Lynn's father had a number of heart attacks throughout his life without knowing it. Being a Christian Scientist he had not sought medical help until deep into his illness. By the time he saw a doctor his heart was only working at 30% of it's full capacity. The doctor 's said it was too late. They were able to monitor some of his symptoms through medication but Lynn's father died within a year. Knowing of her father's history Lynn was worried when her heart began to bother her but she felt that her diet and exercise program would help her stay healthy.
However, as a massage student in 1990 Lynn suddenly began experiencing an erratic heartbeat. "My heart would just race and scare me to death, and at other times it would just jump-like it was going to come out of my chest. It was extremely alarming."
I never noticed the symptom until I started doing massage. My symptoms became especially intense while I was studying cranial sacral work. We were learning how to initiate massage work from our hearts, and were discovering how to let our hearts and intuitions direct our hands. This technique required that our hearts be relaxed and open, so the energy from our hearts could flow into and out of our hands. My heart just went crazy when I tried to do this work. It fluttered and jumped all over the place. I told my teachers about my feelings and they congratulated me. They said my heart was waking up. I had my doubts 2. I felt there was another reason beyond the holistic explanations my teachers gave me. I sensed that something else may have been causing my symptoms.
As my massage training continued my symptoms worsened, and were so acute that I was rushed to the hospital on several occasions. The doctors in the ER hooked me up to an EKG and discovered that I had an irregular heartbeat. At that time they sent me home with a mobile heart monitor to track what was happening to my heart and suggested that I see a cardiologist. After a series of tests mitral valve prolaspe was ruled out. I went back to my doctor and was diagnosed instead with an irregular heart beat that was caused by a thickening of the mitral valve in my heart. This defect I was told had been present when I was born, and according to my doctor it may have been due to a magnesium deficiency during my mother's pregnancy. The doctor told me that this thickening caused a slight regurgitation in my heart and this was what I felt when my heart beat irregularly. He explained that this extra beat was providing additional blood flow to my system. He also assured me that this condition was not life threatening and he recommended that I begin taking magnesium supplements. After my visits to the ER and a cardiologist I understood the physical nature of my symptoms, but I still felt something was missing.
I continued to work with my cranial sacral teacher to find out why I was experiencing these symptoms. I learned to appreciate the rhythm and the exceptional beat of my heart, but I knew I did not have the whole story. What was the symptom trying to tell me?
During a massage with my instructor the image of a sword in a stone came into his mind. He told me he felt that the sword was my anger and that the stone would not be healed until the sword was removed. We worked together with this Arthurian imagery but I continued to have this nagging feeling that there was something more. When he had referred to the stone something resonated deep within me but I couldn't tap into the meaning or the experience associated with the stone at that time.
OUR FIRST CONTACT
I saw Lynn once before she joined the second course in a year long training I was teaching. During that session we did a review and I taught her the preliminary practices 3 she would need and I examined her chakras. We noted which chakras might interest her during the upcoming classes. Lynn said very little about her heart symptoms and seemed more concerned about her throat chakra. I mentioned that there were issues in her heart chakra that might need to be addressed but we went no further at that time. We practiced some of the meditation and visualization techniques and met for class a few days later. Visualization practices are used to help create a space or environment that it conducive to inner exploration and healing, and so students can begin to experience their " body of experience" 4 and inner world.
| When you and I first started working together I was still quite aware of my irregular beat. I would notice it and it would always cause me a little bit of fear, even though I knew what it was physically. I knew what it was called and how to manage it but still there was this deep-seated fear that I had not been able to access. This fear became more intense when I moved to New Mexico and moved in with my boyfriend. His voice was a voice that I recognized but I couldn't tap the memory 5. I knew the voice, I just didn't know from where. It's funny because the first time he spoke to me I lost my balance. I was standing on solid ground and yet I fell off the curb of the sidewalk and almost fell into the street. My body was remembering something but I couldn't consciously get what it was. It wasn't until class with you that the stone image and my feelings about my boyfriend became clear to me.
INSTRUCTIONS TO LYNN'S CLASS: THE PRELIMINARY PRACTICES
Take a few deep breaths and let your mind and body just relax. Take a few moments and pay attention to your breath, just experience the rise and fall of the breathe. Now, take a deep breath and on the exhale let go of any physical tension in your body. (Long Pause.) When you are ready take another deep breath and as you exhale let go of any emotional or mental cares or concerns from your day and come fully into the moment. (Long Pause.) Take a third deep breath and this time as you exhale imagine or see a golden ray of light coming in through the top of your head. (Pause) See and feel this warm, golden light gently moving down through your head, and neck, flowing over your shoulders, washing down your arms, and moving through your chest, (pause) upper back (pause) and into your belly. (Pause.) Continue to see and feel this golden light move down into your pelvis, (pause). Feel and see this light split into two branches as it moves down your legs, flowing through your thighs, (pause) knees (pause) calves and ankles until it finally comes to rest at your feet. (Pause.) Let this light pool at your feet and see it moving gently into the earth like water easily and effortlessly. Imagine the light moving into the earth as deeply as is comfortable for you and until it naturally comes to rest. I want you to dip into the earth's energy, like you would dip into a basin. Now bring this energy back up through the layers of the earth to the base of your spine and place the energy there.
Take a few breaths and gently connect with your own inner wisdom. You may feel this energy at the center of your chest, ask this aspect of your being to guide you and be with you tonight. Then I want you to imagine a ribbon of golden light around you. See this band of light above you, below you, to your left, and right, in front of you, and behind you. You are gently surrounded by this light in all six directions and it forms an oval perimeter all around you. The golden band creates a space and protects you at a psychic level.
JOURNEYING INTO THE HEART
We are going to be working in the area of the heart tonight. I want you to begin by 'going into' 6 the area of your heart, enter into your physical heart, feel and hear your heart's beat. If you need to you can put your hand on your chest to help you connect with your heart. I want you to notice your heart chakra but focus on the energy of your physical heart. As you connect to your heart investigate your heart's nature. This is a bit different than our earlier work, now I want you to see, feel and sense the organ itself as it beats and pumps blood through your cardiovascular system. Notice if there are any areas of tension or holding. (Pause). Is there anything that draws your attention, (pause) any dark areas, (pause) spots, (pause) heat, or cold (pause)? Notice any images or memories as well, just scan your heart and see what you find. (Long Pause). Now, I want you to investigate the thing that drew your attention the most. Follow whatever arises, and see where your experience takes you. If your mind wanders just refocus on the question, what is my heart holding, and what does it wish to share with me at this moment? Keep breathing regularly let the images and feeling just float into your attention, and if things get intense, bring your attention back to your breath. Know that you can watch your experiences like a movie or participate in them. Just gather any information about your heart you can. (Long Pause). Now I want you to take a few deep breaths and this time I want you ask to see your heart of 10 years ago, 20 years ago and so on moving back in 10 year intervals. Explore what your heart was experiencing and feeling at different times in your life. Ask and receive any messages and see if there are any old patterns of holding, old beliefs or emotions that need to be understood or released. Ask your inner self and heart if any healing needs to occur. Just listen to your heart and communicate with your heart.
|LYNN SHARES HER EXPERIENCE
The night of the class I remember noticing my heart jumping and beating wildly as I walked up your steps and into your house. It went ba boom ba boom ba boom very loudly. I thought what is this? As I asked that question, I sensed I was going to be touching the illusive fear I had been feeling for years and learn more about it. As I sat down I felt a deep calm radiating from you. I experienced again your comfort and ease with deep emotions and fearful experiences that I had felt during our review and this made me feel safe and I was able to relax a bit.
As you lead the exercise that night I swept through the ages of my heart very quickly and almost immediately felt the cold of a stone under my back. It was the most eerie feeling, I felt myself literally lying on a stone slab, but I knew with one part of my mind that I was sitting on your couch. The sensation of the stone though was overwhelming. I felt the coldness of it on my back and I was no longer in class.
I looked up and saw a canopy of trees above me. I knew I was in the rain forest somewhere in South America. Simultaneously voices outside of me, from what seemed like the ethereal plane, told me I was a gift to the gods and that this was a great honor. I realized that I was nearly thirteen years old and very close to beginning menses. All of this happened in a flash. Knowing was instantaneous. I felt the cold of the stone underneath my body again and I knew I was awaiting sacrifice. I realized this ritual had to be performed before I started menstruating. Suddenly I knew I would never grow up, have a lover or a family. I felt I was being cut off at the brink of really understanding things. I felt I was being completely silenced. I did not feel any of this was an honor. All around me I saw the faces of my people, people I had known all my life and I was very afraid.
I was experiencing this lifetime so clearly that I opened my eyes to reassure myself that I really wasn't there, but I couldn't see your living room and I couldn't see the other students. All I could see was the faces of my people standing around my body in a circle. Your tranquillity was still a tactile experience for me. If it weren't for your calming presence, openness and acceptance I don't think I could have gone through what happened next. Suddenly I felt a knife being plunged into my chest with great force. It tore through me. It was so extreme, even now, I can feel the knife being driven into my chest through my sternum. Next my ribs were separated and my chest opened. My heart lay exposed to the heavens. I remember seeing a silver bracelet on the man's arm who was holding the knife and as I looked into his face I knew that vacant expression. It was the same look that my boyfriend gets.
The physical sensations at this point were very difficult. It felt like a heart attack. 7 and I kept thinking this can't be happening.
I had such a strong feeling that I would be saved, that somehow this man couldn't possibly do this. It was all kind of unreal, not the feelings, or the memory-they were very real-but I kept thinking that someone was going to stop this. As it was happening I thought, they're not going to do this-not to me. This won't happen to me. I'm too special (she laughs). They've told me since birth I'm special, they won't-they can't let this happen. Something's going to change, something or someone is going to intervene-even if it isn't him. I really thought divine grace or something would stop this but that didn't happen, not at all.
I was afraid to admit at the time that the man holding the knife and offering my heart to the gods was somehow my current boyfriend. It was hard to comprehend that they were one and the same but I felt sure this was true. Dan wears the same type of bracelet and the expression was all too familiar. Dan has this knack of no expression. It's a very peaceful kind of blankness and that's what I saw. That's how I knew it was him. I despised that face there's just nothing there, no awareness, no recognition, just blankness.
At the time I thought oh no! No, (she groans) don't let it be him (she laughs now), not the man I adore, not the man I live with. But it was definitely him. There was that look on his face, as he cut my heart out of my chest and raised it over his head. He murmured a blessing or some kind of chant and bite into of my heart. All was lost as he passed my heart around to the tribe.
Since I was a child I've always asked the question, why do I hold myself back? I know the answer to this question now, because a voice inside me said, 'why shoot! They might rip your heart out for it'. At that moment, I understood why I was afraid to connect, touch, write and speak my truth.
It was only when I lifted out of my body that the experience stopped being physical. I started hearing the voices again telling me stories and my chest stopped hurting. I was fine then. I remember I kept rising higher and higher until I saw an aerial view of the rain forest and I thought this is the grace as I spiraled up and out of the forest.
I used to get goose bumps as I remembered this, which is funny because for months I felt quite a chill when I remembered the cold slab underneath my body. I don't get goose bumps any more, I don't feel the chill or the irregular heartbeat. It's as quiet as can be now.
|CHANGES AND HEALING EFFECTS FROM THE EXPERIENCE
I immediately felt a change in my heart. I experienced the biggest exhale I have ever felt in my life. I totally relaxed. I 'll never forget it. It was like a wind blew through me and at that point, my heart slowed down instantly. For the first time, I could feel a root grow from my heart, from the very center of my chest into the earth. I felt so connected.
The first two weeks after my experience in class my symptoms became almost constant. I thought what have I done? What have I opened up? I was very afraid. Fortunately I came to class and was able to work with my feelings each week. The timing was ideal for me because of the support I got during class. I would've run away screaming. (she laughs) if I didn't have the support and help. I'm sure I would have shut the experience out, would still have symptoms and I would not be with my boyfriend. (She laughs.) During that first month more of my experience filled in. I got new pieces of information, glimpses of that lifetime, and I was able to see the connections to my present with your help. As my understanding awareness increased my symptoms lessened.
Over the next five months, my symptoms only occurred two or three times a month. I noticed my heart beating irregularly when a part of me was being asked to die in my relationship, when I was being asked to grow up and let go of my selfishness and also when I saw that blank expression on Dan's face. I also recognized that when conflicts arose between Dan and me during those months that I was better able to communicate and negotiate when our desires were at odds, instead of acting like a spoiled child. As my fear subsided and I established a new way of being in my life, my heart became quieter and quieter and I remember reminding myself that I was fine, even the blank face didn't bother me anymore. (She laughs.)
I think I was really tested at first though. That always happens, when we decide to change, or choose a new path and grow. During that transition the new way of being is challenged. That's how we do our reality check by being challenged. That's how we know something is true.
I was definitely tested over and over again, and every time I would think I'm all right, I'm okay now. My heart is in here (she touches her chest) it's safe. (She laughs.) I still have it, I'm older than 14... I made it. (She laughs again.)
It's like I have been there and done that-I did that. (This is said with great conviction.) It's funny, I don't think I realized what I just said. I DIED there. I died there and I don't feel afraid, now. My heart doesn't jump any more-not a thing Elizabeth, the symptoms are gone and so is the fear.
| I can "work from my heart" now. When I begin a massage I ground and open my awareness from my heart and I feel a grounding cord in my heart move down through all my chakras and into the earth. I had never been able to sense that before. I feel so much more connected, and I know that I'm here. To work from my heart, to stay in my heart, when I try something new and even when my boyfriend and I have differences, is what it's all about for me now. I no longer feel separate, distanced or cut off from people, afraid or needing to control everything to be safe. My heart is open now and I can be me. I can do whatever on a physical level, and my heart stays quiet.
I even think I 'd like to go to South America and travel around the country and go into the rain forest. Plus when I think about this my heart remains calm. That is so amazing to me. I no longer have the feeling that if I went to South America I would never return. Remember when I was sharing my experience in class, and I said I guess I won't be going there (to South America) anytime soon-That's not a good vacation destination for me (she laughs). You chuckled and said not unless you want to come away screaming and laughed. Your laughter just melted my fear .It was a bit disarming but so perfect. It let me relax and not take myself so seriously and it also let me know that I was here in this body and in one piece. My anxiety and all the emotional charge I was feeling just vanished.
Lynn learned that her past life experience was about emotional maturity and overcoming fears and her need to control. She said that in her current relationships with men that she had always been taken care and spoiled like a child. She understood why she had been comfortable with this and yet conflicted at the same time over this kind of treatment. She said that when she was in massage school she consciously recognized her anger at this inequality for the first time. Her lifetime in South America where she had been chosen, which made her feel special, and her experience of sacrifice and of being cut off from knowledge that awaited her as she entered womanhood were keys to understanding her anger and behaviors in relationships. She felt that this was where her original conflicts had been laid out. As these memories resurfaced patterns in her life began to make more sense to her. As the story took shape she understood how and why she responded and reacted in this lifetime and how much this former lifetime still impacted her. She understood how being taken care of related to her being chosen and singled out for sacrifice and how this was a double edged sword. She liked being cared for and the security of that but did not like the limitations. She felt that her immaturity stemmed from having been killed before reaching adulthood, and she knew her anger was associated with this death and not achieving the status of womanhood.
She realized too that this other lifetime had shaped her need to control her experiences and world in the present. She also understood how her fears were linked to this control. Her fear of expression and feeling from her heart, were suppressed in this other lifetime. Her own words, "why shoot, they might rip my heart out for it" was the key to understanding this complex belief system. While she longed to express herself she also was afraid to do so because even if she was told that her sacrifice was an honor she never felt this to be true. Somehow she felt she was being punished, so how could she speak her truth if death loomed over her. But this she felt was the demand of spirit. She was being asked to be more authentic, and true to herself as well as more adult in her relationships. She truly understood how her fears and emotions had limited her work as a massage therapist, and how they had affected her relationships. As we worked together over the months Lynn accepted her death and knew with ever fiber of her being that life was eternal. She was certain that her consciousness or spirit had moved on and her fear of dying, that she felt we all have, had shifted. She remembered how much of a relief it was to finally move into the ethereal realm after reliving her ritual sacrifice and she was no longer afraid of death.
Lynn's case reveals how complex and interwoven our lifetimes can be and how one can shape the other. The moment of death especially when that death is traumatic carries our emotions and beliefs from that moment forward. This created a set of problems for Lynn that included physical symptoms, problems within relationships and a variety of emotional issues and fears, many of which remained unconscious until that night in class.
What I find most interesting and what struck me at the time was that another person other than myself could effectively change her physical symptoms by remembering an ancient past where she had been mortally wounded in the very organ that presented symptoms in this lifetime. Her experience was visual, auditory and deeply kinesthetic like so many of my own experiences of this kind had been, and unlike other clients who watched their experience like an old movie, Lynn relived her experience in the same way I had. She too felt that she was reliving memories. Whether this is truly a case of survival or just a story that filled in the blanks and connected the dots in Lynn's life and mind doesn't matter. What really matters is that her very persistent and difficult symptoms were changed and that they have not recurred eight years later.
This is why I feel Transforming Embodiment may have possible applications in the field of healing and medicine. The practices of TE could possibly explain many inexplicable phenomena, such as symptoms that appear out of nowhere, or symptoms that are not changed by usual treatment guidelines. TE may possibly give healers another option beyond the normal protocols used in traditional medical and psychological therapies.
1 "Imagery is the thought process that invokes and uses the senses: vision, audition, smell, taste, and the senses of movement, position and touch. It is the communication mechanism between perception, emotion and bodily change."(Achterberg, 1985, p.3) Back
2 While this felt right in practice, Lynn's heart and mind were deeply unsettled by putting this technique into use. Later in our work together Lynn's feelings made sense to her. She saw how her present day emotions related to the memories of her life in South America and how they had triggered her heart's erratic behavior. Back
3 Grounding, centering, connecting, and protection are four preliminary practices I use. Grounding helps stabilize the inner environment and gives the client a foundation to rest on when doing inner work. It also creates a sense of connectedness and stability. Back
4 The sum of the individual's inner experience is what I call the " body of experience". The body of experience emcompasses what occurs in the mind, the body, the psyche, and the energy fields of the body. Memories, experiences, emotions, feelings and their arising belief systems from this life and other lifetimes would be included in defining the body of experience. The body of experience naturally includes the spiritual Self, and the innate inner wisdom or a sense of knowing that lies within the being. Back
5 This was another cue that Lynn's consciousness was registering that a part of her knew this man's voice or perhaps his energy even though she had never met him before. Back
6 "Going in" refers to a shift of attention that leads the client into his or her inner experience. It is a merging with one's inner world and inward reality. This can be accomplished by focusing on the breath and allowing the mind to become quiet. Back
7 When I hear people talk about open-heart surgery or see it on TV I know and competely understand each sensation. Back
Achterberg, J. (1985). Imagery in Healing. Boston: Shambhala