The Heart has many Languages

The heart speaks, and if we listen, gently calls us to love.  The wisdom in our scars reminds us of a life that once was. It empowers us to live with empathy and compassion for ourselves and for others.  The journey informs me of the importance of self-care and self-love as I dive deeply into the meaning of the trauma, embodying the wisdom of an examined journey.

This is a Story of Healing My Heart 

Heart symbol for healing retreat

Thursday Night Football and I sat alone in the basement to watch the game by myself.  It was a rare evening, the kids were asleep and my wife was upstairs in bed.  It was quiet, except for the television commentators that filled the air with their pontifications.  A short reprieve before another tomorrow, a tomorrow filled with obligations, deadlines, meetings, pressure, and stress.

At 40 years old, I was the owner of an Organic Foods Company and had been working in the Agriculture business since I was 18 years old.  My career began as an 18-year-old, working manual labor in grain elevators throughout the Twin Cities.  It wasn’t my intended occupation, however, it is where I was planted after high school, following in my father’s footsteps. 

How it All Began

It was October 11th, 2012 and the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing.  I sat down on the floor, with a beverage in my hand, and recall feeling a little uncomfortable.  I often like to sit on the floor, opting to sprawl out instead of sinking into a sofa.  The uncomfortable feeling grew, and thoughts began to enter my mind about what I’d eaten that evening.  At first, I felt as if it were indigestion. 

Indigestion changed and became shortness of breath and an intensifying pain in my chest.  With every breath, the pain was intensifying and I suddenly had a new sensation … a searing pain between my shoulder blades.  A pain that felt like a sword had impaled my heart through my back, it was excruciating to breathe and I began the long and arduous trek upstairs to tell my wife.

depressed man looking for healing retreat


Quiet Desperation – The Heart Speaks

To be honest, our relationship was not healthy.  Nights were spent going to bed in quiet desperation, wondering what it was like to feel loved by someone.  We had grown familiar with a lifestyle that was filled with vacations and stuff.  We did not get along, and most days were spent walking on eggshells.  I was the sole breadwinner and providing a lifestyle for my family was expected of me.

There were 55 steps to the bedroom, each one a challenge, exhausted and standing at the doorway I explained what I was feeling.  As I was attempting to speak, my knees buckled, and I dropped to the floor.  My limbs were weakening as the blood that was needed began to move to my chest.  We collected some belongings and drove to the hospital.

Headed to the Hospital

The drive to our small local hospital was 10 minutes, and within that timeframe, my limbs had grown cold.  From shivering to shaking violently, my life was ending and I was dying.  Within a few minutes, I was being wheeled to a room for questioning.  Dr. McGwire ordered a couple of tests, and the results revealed severe complications that they were not equipped to handle.  Explaining the pain between my shoulder blades, his words rang loudly in my ears, “You need emergency open-heart surgery to repair your heart.”

I remember asking him of my options, always inquisitive and curious, the thought of opening my chest was not appealing.  His reply was stern and direct, “If you do not go, you will die.”  The helicopter arrived and I was put into what the medics called a “blood bag.”  The flight was uneventful as the sounds were muffled as the morphine took effect.

Writing My Goodbyes

We arrived at the University of Minnesota and were immediately met by a team waiting for us.  Transported from the pad to a room for preparation, everything was moving extremely fast.  Lying on the gurney, in the prep room, I talked with the nurses and surgeons that were to be my lifesavers.  The conversations were not easy, as it was apparent that the severity of my condition caused them grave concern.

hand on broken glass needing healingLying on the gurney, someone handed me a pad of paper and a pen and asked if I would like to write goodbyes to my loved ones.  Letting go of loved ones is one of the hardest things we will ever do in our lives.  My children are the loves of my life and my pen scribbled messages of love and hope for their lives.  Thinking of each of them as I wrote feverishly, my heart broke as feelings of loss came over me. 

Surrendering to the Divine Plan

I love God and was surrendering to a Divine plan, a plan that while I didn’t understand, was willing to faithfully follow until the end.  Making peace with my life, accepting my fate, and surrendering to Divine Will in my life brought a sense of calm and clarity.  I was not in control and was required to relax into the unfolding.

Notes were written, and we emerged from the prep room.  Wheels turning, my children ran to be at my side, they had found a way to be with me.  We cried together and began to pray.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who we have trespassed against ….

8 Hours of Surgery

There was no more time, Dr. Ward whispered in my ear, “I am going to take care of you like you’re my own son,” We began moving down the corridor to the operating room.  Voices all around me, bright lights above, the anesthesia was administered, and then … nothing. 

The surgery lasted over 8 hours and addressed an Aortic artery that had expanded to 6.9 cm, 3x the size of a normal human.  The odds of survival from an Aortic Dissection are unknown because I’ve been told that most who experience this event die before making it to the table.  An Aortic Dissection occurs when a layer of the Aorta dissects and enters the bloodstream, causing a pooling of blood that eventually leads to rupture and death.

new spout for new beginnings - heart speaks



Waking up a day and a half later, it felt as if an elephant was sitting on my chest.  I could barely breathe and felt as if I had been caught in a spider’s web of IV lines, unable to move.  I could feel the chest tubes deep within as if I were being held in place. Fluids were being removed from the sac around my heart.  Having the tubes removed felt like I was like having plates of weight removed.  I could finally breathe without pain.

The next week I spent learning to get into and out of bed, while clutching my pillow against my chest, and trying not to sneeze, laugh, or cry.  My chest had been opened and my life had changed, it was never going to be the same.  I was 40 years old and had no idea what had just happened or what it all meant for my life.

The Meaning of Our Lives

I am reflective and introspective.  The meaning of our lives is the meaning we give them.  Do we choose to build our life on a foundation of love or do we opt for a life of striving for power, wealth, and fame?  There were so many questions and feelings.  How would I make meaning out of what had happened? What meaning could I embody, and could I find the wisdom in my heart?

The journey to healing my heart took longer than I had hoped.  I struggled with depression and feelings of great loss.  Within 6-8 weeks I had physically healed and was able to get back to work.  Work had changed, and my attitude toward work changed.  Additionally, I accomplished everything I had dreamed of accomplishing in the Organic Industry and in my career.  We had all the money we needed and yet the meaning of work was lost.  I had lost my ambition to continue.

doorway for healing retreats


Recovering from the heart event was much more difficult to handle mentally and emotionally.  I had to make meaning for my life, other than managing stress, eating a proper diet, and exercising … there was a deeper root to what had occurred.  There was an emotional, mental, and spiritual meaning to what had happened, and I needed for it to make sense.

Yearning for Love

Our hearts yearn for love, to give and receive love.  I did not feel for months, stuck and numb, life felt empty.  Was it the medication?  Dr. Ward had explained that he was going to take me from a type A to a C personality.  The man who was committed to building an empire just a few months ago, now had little ambition to get himself out of bed, to his office, and to work … my ambition to create had changed.  In fact, my ambition for much of anything had changed, it felt hopeless and helpless. 

For months I sank deeper into depression.  As each day passed, legs put atop one over the other on my desk, I sat motionless staring mindlessly out of my window … asking myself if this was all there was in life.  I had accomplished what I wanted. Why was I still here?  What is the purpose of this?

Feeling Stuck

Months passed and the joy and flow in life were non-existent, I had stopped moving.  To heal, we must move, we must feel again in order to live.  If we do not move spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically we will die … or at least a part of us will.  My lack of movement, as a result,  led to a blood clot in my lung, a major warning and a telling sign that my life had stopped moving.  I was stuck, trapped, with little awareness of how to feel joy again and see my way out of despair.

Often, when recovering from heart surgery, we hunch our shoulders in towards our chest to protect our hearts.  Physically we are protecting our hearts, while emotionally and mentally we are preventing our hearts from experiencing joy again.  Make a practice of intentionally opening up your shoulders, while telling yourself “I am Joy” in the process, and begin training your mind to experience joy again.  This simple and easy task can act as a catalyst to begin moving again.

Heart shows in the light of a healing retreat


Creating Meaning in My Life

My suffering endured for another 7 years, experiencing neck and digestive tract surgeries, as well as syndromes and unnamed maladies.  The meaning of life eluded me as it felt like a noose around my neck, blocking my head and heart from connecting.  Finally, I decided to reach out for help.

The importance of surrounding ourselves with support groups is extremely important.  The meaning you make will be deeply personal, as the meaning another makes may be completely different, and every bit as powerful.  Thus, telling our story enables us to process what has happened, where we are today, and to feel inspired by those who have healed.  We are our own healers, and it is our responsibility to heal ourselves. It is our choice to heal.  We each heal through relationship, looking back, I was equipped with the resources to reach out for help. 

For 25 years I studied and practiced the Human Validation Process with my guide, a wounded healer himself. I have come to realize the place from which I had been working for the past 20 years of my life, and it was love.  

Am I Loveable?

Our greatest fears in life are whether we are lovable and if we will be dropped.  We are born with these fears. Likewise, we spend a great deal of time in our lives running from what we don’t want. Working to earn love and respect from those who surround us, we don’t realize this place is within us. We cover it with words of title, prestige, and bravado.  It is from this space, deep inside, that when I courageously faced my fears, I was able to transmute the poison in my life into the healing that I experienced. Read Allowing Happiness Now

I Refuse to Die for My Work

Next, realizing that I was willing to work myself to death to earn love and respect from others, I decided that my second life would be different from my first.  For the next couple of years, I set out on a personal mission to remove the weight in my life that was no longer mine to carry. The work, people, ideas, and beliefs no longer reflected the peace, harmony,  joy, and love that I yearned to experience. I decided to take several important steps to heal my heart.

Step 1:  Sell the Company, let go of identity and 30-year career. 

Step 2:  Move to the Sun, no more Minnesota grey skies

Step 3:  Divorce, letting go of all unhealthy relationships and money

Step 4:  Become Nobody and live in the Forest.  Get in touch with my essence and true nature. 

The drastic decisions in my life reflected my desire to respect and love myself and to make decisions for myself that were in my best interest.  A great adventure was to begin again, and would one day reflect the same self-respect and self-love that I was committed to living every day.  The process involves setting boundaries, enforcing boundaries, and teaching the world the way I deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion. My first step was to treat myself with the same love and respect as I had treated others.

Embodying Wisdom

We do not live in a vacuum.  When we let go of what we consciously understand is not in our best interest to continue carrying, acknowledging a necessary ending, we let God know that we are ready to begin filling our lives with a renewed sense of ourselves. This is reflected in new people and experiences that reflect our newfound meaning.  It can be a difficult process, and sometimes painful, yet releasing the old patterning is essential to gaining embodied wisdom.  Releasing the old version of ourselves requires courage, perseverance, and commitment. 

My heart was broken and it has been healed, and the scar that remains is a reminder of a life lived faithfully & virtuously with perseverance and courage. I now am embodying a miraculous life full of hope and love.

What Path Will You Choose?

You already possess the courage needed to transform your life, heal, and become a brighter light in the world.  Transform your life and become who you are capable of becoming, by diving deeply into your scars and uncovering their wisdom.  What you do with the wisdom becomes embodied and a beacon for those following in your footsteps.

red hearts healing by retreating


The lessons and experiences of healing from the moment I made the decision to heal were God-sent.  We are never alone.  We are loved.  We matter.  Our lives are not insignificant, they are meaningful and inspiring.  We are Spirit in flesh, growing in our connection with ourselves and others.

The Heart Speaks of My Greatest Gift

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.  My first life was beautiful for many reasons and I am grateful for it.  I have also grown to know that my greatest gift was this heart event … it woke me up to realize the power of love that is within me and my desire to share this love with others. We are but reflections of one another, and if my story resonates with you, know that you are loved and the world is a better place with you in it. Read about Mindfulness Based Healing.

Blog written by Troy DeSmet

Troy facilitates the Men’s Group Retreat for Self-Esteem