Coping, Mental Health, Treatment

Living From the Heart

Since yoga class yesterday, I have been in a terrific mood, even when my pain was bad. I’m loving the warmth of the shining sun, listening to music so loud that I can’t hear myself sing, admiring the pure happiness of the neighborhood kids.

My yoga teacher talks about living from the heart rather than always being led by your mind. We are guided to surrender our thoughts to the “heart center” (essentially your spirit or soul). While I agree with this idea in theory, believing in it is different than feeling it.

I spend too much time in my head. I’m a thinker who obsesses easily and am extraordinarily self-critical. The life changes of having a chronic illness have intensified and increased the frequency of all these thoughts.

Being in my head is not only in my mind, but in my brain. It literally directs one of the most prominent aspects of my life—chronic daily headaches and migraines. Living from the heart means thinking and obsessing less, but also keeping my illness from controlling my life. [insert raucous laughter here]

When I’m guided to send kind, supportive messages to myself, I give demands couched as encouragement: “Be nice to yourself,” “Worry less about if you’re a good person,” “Approach everyone with love.” Yesterday I unwittingly replaced these judgments with “Honey, honey, come and dance with me.”*

I got it. My heart invited my mind to celebrate with it. Love widely, be compassionate to yourself and others, care for others without neglecting yourself, accept who you are. It was an incredible feeling. The message was so clear that I haven’t thought about it much; I have simply lived from the heart.

*Maybe I should be concerned that lyrics from a Dave Matthews Band
song popped to mind while meditating. The song, Everyday, was originally written about the 1993 assassination of Chris Hani, the leader of the South African Communist Party who fought against the apartheid government. It’s all about love. I’m good with that.

News & Research

Worldwide Initiative to Better Understand the Brain

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Global Science Forum has launched a project to promote international collaboration among scientists to better understand how the human brain works. Such cooperation would lay the foundation for research into the treatment and prevention of neurological and mental health diseases.

Read more in OECD’s press release: Global Scientific Research Project Launched to Improve Understanding of the Human Brain

For those of you who, like me, have no idea what the OECD is, it’s a collection of “…30 market democracies [that] work together to address the economic, social, environmental and governance challenges of the globalizing world economy.”

Wouldn’t it be great to know the neurological intricacies of headache?

News & Research

Brain Scans Show Nerve Activation with Pain

Pain researchers at Stanford experimenting with a type of MRI that shows where pain occurs in the brain and how to control it. The scans indicate where pain is activated, how it is being processed and how it comes about. Researchers hope that eventually such imaging can be used to test pain medications and see the effects in real-time. Since patients can sit in the brain scanner and see the areas of the brain that are activated by pain, it could also be used in meditation or mental imaging. This technology has many potential uses and may one day be used for all types of pain patients; but it is years away from being available to patients.

The story, Tracking and Controlling Pain by Sight, is available on the NPR website. Written media reports of it don’t seem to be available yet, but you can read the researchers’ abstract from the American Pain Society’s 2004 annual meeting.

Thanks to koober1 on the Brain Talk migraine forum for sharing this story.

Note added 12/14/05: The researchers’ abstract is no longer available, but the NPR piece is.