Maybe five years ago, I attended a lecture at a local university given by Dr. Ronald Mallett, a theoretical physicist, whose talk changed my perspective on the possibilities of “someday is today” because Dr. Mallett is very interested in time travel. The way he explained it that night was that it is possible for us to travel forward in time but never backward. He’s currently the most prominent spokesperson re: constructing a real, live time machine, and he’s even garnered the attention of Spike Lee because of his personal story that led him to become a scientist.

But the one line that stood out more than any other that night was, “The heart is a clock.”

I was amazed and thrilled at this deceptively simple observation. It makes too much sense—of course the overall health of a living body is generally measured by a pulse. And given that 1 in 4 deaths can be attributed to heart disease in the U.S., I argue that heart health isn’t just about keeping one’s physical arteries clear but keeping one’s heart-well as pure as possible too. In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is called “Anahata” and translates to something like “unhurt” or “unstruck.” The color associated with the heart chakra is green, as in grass green. And regardless of how healing the body through sound can come off like pseudoscience, and there’s plenty out there that disproves the theory that a certain frequency can heal, all I’m saying is I’ve been incorporating a tuning fork tuned to 528 hz (the “miracle tone”) for a few years now ever since a lady “tuned” me up during a mystical arts fair one time. I give tuning forks away all the time, usually to fire signs, lol, but without any prior knowledge of tuning forks, when this little birdlike woman held one over the center of my chest, I felt a surge of tears and then burst out giggling. It was weird and awesome. But after I started using the tuning fork regularly in addition to cultivating a mindfulness breathing practice and carrying around rose quartz and aventurine all the time (excellent stones to promote a healthy Anahata), something strange happened.

For one, I didn’t feel so hopeless or helpless about events occurring in my own life at the hands of others. I stopped taking other folks’ words and actions so personally. I stopped giving people that much power over my joy. I realized that my love language was changing from verbal to action oriented. And not everyone in my life was thrilled that I didn’t want to compromise my values anymore for their sake. I stopped letting other peoples’ needs supersede my own for peace of mind (helluva drug, that). I was standing up for myself and my voice in new ways in my personal life, which I’ve always struggled with. I didn’t feel like I resonated with certain pathological thought patterns and behaviors anymore. I didn’t recognize myself in certain people any longer, and I couldn’t identify with their worldview which we used to share—a lot of this worldview had to do with talking about how everything was going wrong and there was never enough time. The thing is, we’re all issued about the same amount of time as anyone else. How we choose to spend or squander it is our choice. This essay by the late Brian Doyle, btw, which compares the heartbeat of a hummingbird to a whale, expresses the poeticism behind time as it relates to one’s heartbeat, way more eloquently than I ever could.

When we think about the shamanic concept of soul-retrieval, which is no different really than a stint with a psychoanalyst, just different methodology, I can point to usually one of three core areas where a person is most wounded. It’s either in their imagination, their solar plexus, and/or their heart. The people I’m most familiar with are super brilliant and gifted, tireless workers, team players when it comes to others, but they’re not so good at maintaining stable one-on-one relationships. A lot of this has to do with core wounding from childhood reinforced by self-fulfilling cycles of seeking out partners that mimic the pathological devices of parents and/or mentors. Sometimes, when we say someone has a broken heart, psychologists argue that an injured person’s True Self becomes severed and tucked back in the subconscious somewhere which can manifest in feeling numb or hollow as a person moves through the world, like just not completely able to show up for life. Or at its worst, manifest in a codependent dynamic where someone feels like they have to carry all of the emotional labor in a partnership, so if they just do enough to prove to someone else they are loved, the love-object will reciprocate. Or a person believes they are entitled to love and validation from others but there’s never enough to go around. In both of these cases, the wounding is the same—it’s the perception that love cannot be disassociated from struggle/pain—love is conditional, love must be earned. The former tends to keep someone in a victim mentality (someone is doing something to them which paradoxically keeps them in survival mode so they don’t recognize their own identity without the survivor label). The latter places someone on the sociopathic spectrum because they are unable to feel true empathy, seeing themselves as pretty much the star of everyone’s show. They’re like automatons and the least likely to seek help for their wounding because they’d have to admit they have a problem first.

So think about these traits and how not just in families and immediate communities this dysfunctional pattern can manifest, but whole cultures and countries too. Oddly enough, we live in a culture that glorifies weddings and romantic unions with fairytale endings as entertainment, beginning in childhood where most of our emotions are collectively stunted—in other words, part of most of us never really grows up no matter how well we appear to adult. The empath has a much better chance of resolving this issue but it takes time and practice to cultivate trust and not revert to Stockholm syndrome tendencies with new people who are reminiscent of the old.

I think, as a bleeding heart type myself, establishing boundaries with others has been the biggest hurdle. Because even if my friends and loved ones aren’t purposefully setting out to take advantage of my weenie-ness, it can happen if I enable defeatist behavior. If I continue to endorse someone else’s suffering as justified when we’re having the same conversations year in and year out about how others are causing them to suffer, I’m able now to recognize the signs of a wounded heart. Only ‘cause it takes one to know one. It’s taken me long time to get my own ticker out the shop and open back up to folks after my trust has been violated by former friends and loved ones, so I tend to backpedal out of a dynamic when I feel myself starting to slip. Only because I know how far and deep I go for the people I care about. I’m still trying to get the measurements right there. I almost never know who and when to trust. But I’m working on it. Slow going sometimes, though.

Another issue I’ve had recently is learning when to walk away—when I can’t do any more for someone. That’s been the most painful process, I think, whatever the relationship. Change agents aren’t so much trying to affect change—they’ve been changed and want others to feel good too to know positive, progressive change can be done—you can reincarnate in this life. But not everyone cares to because growth spurts like that are messy and blurry and undefined—it’s terra infirma. And if I feel someone’s interest in expansion dwindling, or their becoming resentful about my hard-won independence, or pouting because I’m not as available anymore to commiserate about what’s going wrong, or it becomes clear there’s no pleasing someone no matter what I do or how far I bend to accommodate them, I’m becoming better about learning how to accept people not for who they/we used to be, but who they are presenting themselves to me as now. I also have learned to become more observant when it comes to people who say they want to grow but we’re literally having the same conversations on loop over the years. Inevitably, I start finding other things to occupy my time that are expansive or productive.

But life isn’t always so cut and dry. My learning curve is always unfurling like a fern. I just know that when I regularly attend to my own personal miracle tone, and become intentional about de-cluttering my heart from past exchanges that stifled or suffocated my ability to expand, I feel better. Literally and figuratively. Increasingly, I seek out others who are vigilant about repairing their own fractures—people who make me long for the future, for the kind of pulse that isn’t going to kill me by lagging behind.