Seemingly fit and active, the warning signs had been subtle and the surgery had no guarantee of survival, but it wasn’t as simple as being told he needed an operation and bowing to the greater knowledge of his surgeon. Along with it came the added complication of a choice between the type of valve he could have, a choice which would impact the rest of his life, however long that may be, and for which he sought help by turning to meditation.
Two years later and Guy is fit, healthy and living life to the full… in fact he’s the fittest he has ever been. He has written his story Free to Choose and published it online with the aim of helping other people come to terms with personal choices and circumstances…
I was training for a White Collar boxing match and noticed my health was deteriorating instead of improving. I wanted to blackout, felt very tired and had the odd sharp pain in my chest. I had been training in boxing gyms for about five years previously so was fit and active, the increase in exercise during the build up to the fight was very intense and I put my body through some extremes which it seemed to not recover from.
I was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve, which means I was missing a part of the aortic valve in the heart and so it wasn’t functioning properly. Blood was re-entering the heart the wrong way and the heart had grown to an unsafe size. The only treatment available was to replace the faulty valve with another one.
Confused, at times scared and very alone.
Removing the whole valve and replacing it with another one, which in my case was with a tissue valve from another living animal/being/species and mine was from a cow. So I now have a cow’s heart valve keeping me alive.
It was a very hard time and one of the main reasons I feel I managed to deal with it all was with daily meditations. I would be up early in the morning to read and then meditate for 20-30 minutes, depending on how I felt. Ensuring I started the day with stillness brought in a peaceful presence that carried on throughout the day. I am certain this helped without me knowing, being able to accept what was going on with a clear mind, even if that clarity was in the background at times, it was still there.
I was 25 and started to question a lot of what was going on in my life, what I’d been told and taught previously. I realised that none of it made sense and that I was going through the motions with no real meaning, so I reached out to see what else was out there. After gently discovering one book after another and hearing various talks online from people like Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, I found what felt like my true self buried beneath the chaos and fuss. With meditation this slowly came through more and more and became a wonderful feeling to lock into.
There wasn’t one clear difficult moment, it would be the whole process and all it entailed. Prior to the operation it was coming to terms with the diagnosis and then having to decide on the type of valve replacement I would have. The operation wasn’t a straight forward ‘we need to fix you’. I had to decide on the type of valve fitted in my heart, and this brought about a lot of questions which were all dependant on what life would be like after the surgery, and of course how would I know? During and shortly afterwards it was the constant wiped out feeling, even moving a few paces felt too much at times and I could never get comfortable which then added to the unpleasant exhaustion. Emotionally, it was understanding myself and also others around me, how we all coped in our own ways, some to the detriment of relationships, it became too much.
How incredible life is and especially us human beings! Going through everything that happens during the procedure I find it truly awe inspiring to be here. It has reminded me to be more mindful of others and take on board that you don’t always know what someone is going through so give them an extra bit of rope just incase. Also remaining clear mentally and not dwelling on anything helps tremendously. Total acceptance for me was key.
Yes definitely. I bring it more into my daily activities and focus on the presence I feel at any given moment, so it is not just a morning activity in that sense. The main benefit is simply how I feel, by being aware of myself and the surroundings brings a wonderful sense of pleasure. Stopping and looking around, mainly up I have to say. It might sound odd, but realising that everything is working with the body is a wonderful feeling. Coming from a place of complete despair and being solely reliant on everyone else, to wash, get dressed etc, when you can do these simple things, breathing for example, and be aware that you can, then even just sitting without being in pain is a beautiful realisation on its own.
I recommend mediation to anyone who wants to explore it. That’s the first and most important thing, you have to want to do it, with all things in life it can’t be forced on anyone. To ‘start’ I would suggest stopping what you’re doing at any moment and pausing the train of thought by looking around and focusing on the surroundings without identifying. As an example look out the window and just see what’s there, don’t give it a name. i.e. ‘that’s a car, a road, light’ etc., just observe as a whole picture. Be a witness to what’s going on. See as a picture not as words and notice how you feel. Also I often find reading helps, when you stop reading after being very involved in the text and there is a pause in thought, feel it. In terms of being strange, it’s knowing that you don’t have to think all the time and that’s ok. Contrary to popular belief we are better not constantly thinking, the body works perfectly well without being told mentally how to do things, it’s a naturally occurring and growing organism on its own and it’s about removing yourself, thoughts, from the obstruction of this process. It’s more a feeling than a thinking state.
Take and make the time to stop and understand the choices. It’s to easy to bounce from one thing to the next and get swept away by what’s going on around you, especially at difficult times. It’s important to be ok with how you feel and this can only come from reflection and understanding on the scenario. Research and actively seek out opinions, even those that are against your view and be open to them. It’s about getting as much information as you can to be clear on your choice. Ultimately you’re the only who can choose how you feel about any given moment. So take the time to.
I have set up a blog, wearefreetochoose.com which details the events and choices that occurred from the initial signs I had to making it through the operation and recovering to be in the best health of my life. I want to share this with as many people as I can so they can learn from my experience and use this to help make choices in life. There are many things I learnt about life that I was never taught before, the ability to think for yourself and taking confidence in a decision even if it’s against popular belief. I want to share this story as an example how you can be more than ok with coming to terms with a decision on your own and living this out.
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