At the end of last year, I experienced a health issue which caused me to set in action a New Year’s resolution. An unusually strong, gripping chest pain occurring over two days caused me to rush to the emergency room. After an EKG demonstrated an inverted T-wave, and two troponin blood tests revealed potential damage to my heart, I was rushed in for an angiogram. As dye ran through my arteries to detect where the issue existed, a main artery spasm was discovered that prevented blood from fully reaching my heart. With a little nitroglycerine, the spasm relaxed and returned to normal functioning. All other arteries were squeaky clean with healthy signs overall.

An experience such as this can throw a curve ball to a healthy person.

During and after this experience, I had several profound epiphanies. Initially, the ego denied that there was an issue. Then the mind dealt with the unfolding events displaying denial, shock and humor. Afterward, awareness set in that I am not invincible. When this health issue was over, I felt grateful and promised to be gentle with myself.

As it turns out, my sudden alarming experience with an arterial muscle spasm could have been due to a myriad of things; yet, the most important item doctors cautioned was to control stress exposure.

After a few minor residual spasms as my heart healed, I experienced no other issues. But I’ve made a few significant life adjustments. Taking days off during the midst of the busy desert season is a first step. In addition, I’m beginning to realize that I do not have to carry a heavy burden of responsibility for everything that presents itself. In addition, I now practice gratitude and gentleness with myself: gratitude for the big items such as overall health, and the little things as well. Appreciating the sun on my back, the feeling of human touch, or a runner’s high during exercise are all the little things I now enjoy more. I am gentle with myself, knowing that perfection and impenetrability do not exist. As much as I practice and preach hyper-vigilance with all the indicators of health, there is a subtle yet pervasive facet of health that exists.

We experience stress daily, and it has the potential to alter our lives if we let it. Each and every day, we need to be thankful, reverent and gentle with others and ourselves as we move into each new day of health. We seem to realize this lesson only when we are presented with illness and discomfort. The most beautiful thing about gratitude is that it doesn’t cost anything and it also takes very little time. There are few practices nowadays that can be placed in this same category.

Health setbacks can happen to anyone at any time, and the most important lesson provided is to not take health for granted. Count your blessings each and every day!

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