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Reflections on the Deeper Heart


One night, just after a fun-filled dinner with friends, I was invited to submit an online column for The Santa Barbara Independent. The next day, I woke up very early in the morning and the title was conceived. I shared it with Baba, my husband, who beamed me that beautiful smile of his. And so, on March 28, 2012, Matters of the Heart was born.

Akivah Northern

However, it took over one year for my heart to heal enough to write this first article, because, you see, on that very same day, the man who was the love of my life, my best friend and husband of 43 years — Babatunde Folayemi, more widely known as a former member of the Santa Barbara City Council and a community activist on behalf of youth — died of a sudden cardiac event.

We all have two hearts. One is physical and looks pretty much the same in all of us. Made up of four muscular chambers, two sides, and an amazing electrical system, the physical heart can in one minute move over five liters of blood in and out of every cell and organ in our bodies! In a sense, the human heart can be considered one of the strongest muscles in the entire human body.

Our other heart, our emotional heart, is different. Our deeper heart is fragile. It can be “shattered” with a glance, “swept away” with a scent, or “stolen” in a second if we are not careful! It can stop at things that take our breath away. It often causes our physical heart to flutter or pound uncontrollably. Our deep heart ponders and worries. It makes us all cry. It can be wounded, even beyond repair. But our deep heart can also be happy.

We are not only our minds and our bodies. We are hearts — joyful hearts, dancing hearts, and brave hearts. Bleeding hearts, lonely hearts, aching hearts. Some of us are hardened hearts that barely feel anything at all!

And yet, with intimate connections, even badly scarred and damaged hearts can heal. Our deeper heart can become strong and valiant, fighting the fights we all need to win. It can be tender, bringing compassion to a hurting world.

Recently, Western medicine has been examining the physiological ramifications of the condition of our emotional heart. Scientific evidence is mounting that “humans are psychologically and biologically dependent on giving and receiving love,” according to Dr. Neil Nedley, a practicing physician in internal medicine and an author on depression, among other topics. Dr. Robert Emmons, one of the leading scholars in the field of positive psychology, notes that the electrical field of the (physical) heart is about 60 times greater in amplitude than that of the brain and that “for millennia the heart has been viewed as the primary source of the spirit, seat of the emotions and the window to the soul.”

In this biweekly column, we will explore the deeper heart in all its dimensions. I welcome your heart stories, heart poems, and heart songs. Feel free to share your heartfelt thoughts and feelings, and of course to ask your deeper-heart questions, and I will try to answer. No matter what your age, I really want to hear from you.

Akivah Northern is a certified Family Wellness Trainer and holds a master’s in Divinity. Her biweekly column explores the emotional heart in all its dimensions. She welcomes heartfelt questions from readers of all ages. Reach her at mattersoftheheart@independent.com.

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