I am clutching grimly to the restraint bar on the Harmony Chairlift at Whistler, like a drowning man grasps at a straw; I am feeling nauseous and I am grappling to stay conscious; I am frozen yet notice what seems to be a cold sweat; I feel lightheaded and dizzy; I hope I make it to the top before passing out. I start to tell my friends Dennis and Lorne how weird I am feeling but my mouth does not want to form the words. “I may be having a stroke.” I slowly articulate to the dismay of my companions. Finally the chair precipitates me forward and I glide thankfully to a halt before sinking down onto the snow. Dennis darts off to the ski patrol shack twenty metres away while I wonder what is happening to me.
The three of us had left Vancouver before dawn. We crossed the Lions Gate Bridge at seven observing the spectacular view of Mount Baker silhouetted against the rising sun. It is a lovely way to start the day: beautiful weather, good company and the prospect of a day’s skiing ahead on one of North America’s finest ski destinations. The drive on the six hundred million dollar improved highway was smooth, quick and spectacular and just after nine we were riding the lift to the alpine. It was cold and crisp, the scenery was exquisite, the skiing looked marvelous and as we reached the alpine Harmony lift opened promising access to Whistler’s amazing high alpine bowls. My first few tracks were tenuous and somewhat disappointing. Off piste there was a rain crust so I shifted back to the groomed run. The last slope was positively hard packed but we hoped that once we got to the higher terrain all would be well. After reaching the top I voted for a run in the sun. I was already feeling chilled. Dennis suggested a short hike into the adjacent Boundary Bowl which was not officially open yet but we knew from experience it was safe and I thought the hike may warm me up. In a few minutes we were positioned above a gentle glistening bowl of untracked powder bathed in sunshine. I push off hesitantly and my worst fears are realized; the rain crust is still present; it is hard to ski particularly when I tense up and am feeling so cold so I fought my way down to face a long traverse back to the lift. The skiing has not warmed me up and my feet feel like a block of ice. I begin to feel a little nauseous and decide that when I get to the top I will ski down to the lodge for coffee. However as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”
While Dennis is seeking help a ski patroller coincidentally arrives on his snowmobile and asks me if I am OK. By now I am starting to feel a little better. I don’t feel on the verge of passing out and longer and I can speak with more ease. (Later I realize why speaking was so difficult – my face was frozen. As Lorne commented later “I noticed I couldn’t speak either.) However those fateful words spoken on the lift set in train a spiral of events that could not be halted. Over the next four hours I told my story seven times. First to three patrollers then to the mountain doctor, the two paramedics that were waiting at the bottom of the lift to take me to the clinic, then to two separate nurses and finally to the clinic’s doctor. The treatment I received was outstanding and I felt amazingly cared for by everyone involved. The doctor on the mountain felt convinced based on some simple tests I was not having a stroke and that my heart was fine, however he suggested that as a precaution I should be checked at Whistler’s excellent clinic. There I had a cardiogram, my blood pressure was checked, blood sugar checked, pulse monitored and a full examination by a doctor who suggested some blood chemistry checks that proved normal. Modern medicine could find nothing wrong with me.
During one of the long waits that are a part of any emergency treatment, I decided to meditate. This led to a process of active imagination and I engaged in a dialogue with my soul. I wanted to know why. Why had I been subject to such drama? What was the point from a metaphysical level? What was I trying to learn? The answer was immediate, “you have failed in your commitment to me”. I knew immediately what this meant but heard myself remonstrate. “I ‘ve been doing pretty well and isn’t this a bit dramatic?” Then some words that surprised me, “but you asked for this.” I sat back puzzled reflecting on the response. I knew what the commitment referred to. Two days ago I had been checking in a document file and I came across the blog I wrote on February 4th titled Journey of the Heart. (http://wp.me/phAyS-2l) It concerned another occasion when I had some concerns about my heart but realized that the issue was not physical but metaphysical. (Confirmed later by a stress test) My heart was aching for attention. I had begun a process focused on feeding my heart, which since summer, had assumed a lower priority in my life. But I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my soul would say “but you asked for this.”
Feeling good and finally released I met my friends for the drive back to Vancouver. Upon arrival at home, my first step was to pull out the original blog and read it again. “My contemplation had reminded me that this new awareness of my heart chakra has come to remind me that I have work to do to with my heart. My heart requires feeding. Feeding the heart comes from beauty, joy, laughter, music, compassion, poetry, peace and gentleness.” At the time I began a daily practice focusing on this agenda but over the months other priorities had crept in to distract me. As I reflected, I had to admit that the idea of starting this practice again had occurred to me a few times since I returned from the UK at the end of October but somehow I had always found a way to deflect it. I guess that explained the “cosmic two by four”. It was the next day that I got the last piece in the puzzle. Every morning I pray this affirmation “May my soul fulfill its highest expression.” Words of great power and when my soul feels that I am neglecting this commitment then it feels invited to get my intention. It reminds me of a lovely quote from Meister Eckhart that I read as part of my heart practice yesterday “God is at home. It is we who have gone for a walk”.