Taking the 18-Inch Journey from Your Head to Your Heart


Doctor Neha: Hi, everybody. I’m in Costa Rica and I am with Erica at this lovely retreat center. And we were having such good discussions that I thought we should record this and share it with all of you. So, Erica, tell us a little bit about what we were talking about.

Erica: We were talking about how both of us work in fields where we’re always in our left brain—right-wrong, data, how to do things a certain way. There’s not a lot of creative expression. And one of the things that draws me here to Costa Rica and to these types of retreats and to writing is to be able to allow the creative part of me to have a voice.

Doctor Neha: What does it give you that the other part of you doesn’t give you?

Erica: Wholeness…I think there’s that balance in each of us, and it’s an ideal to achieve.

Doctor Neha: Heart, right? Because typically we have too much head. And so it’s like that wholeness would be when head and heart are connected.

Erica: And really dropping into your heart, your intuition, creative expression. Through our conversations this week, learning your work around communication and then being here at a Qoya retreat, which is designed to foster free movement and really getting into our hearts and our bodies…

Doctor Neha: And healing our past.

Erica: Yes, a lot of that happens, we have tears and joy and you create this freedom…so one of my questions is how do we really learn this as a practice? Not always going on a retreat to drop into our hearts. What are some of those outlets that we can use to balance better and not be so stuck in our heads only?

Doctor Neha: I will tell you this is like my lifelong journey. I spent the first 34 years of my life with thinking that my body’s job was to carry my head to work, to school, to meetings, to see patients, and to anywhere that I could solve problems and give advice. For the last maybe 13 years, it’s been the practice of slowing down and breathing so I could actually literally feel my rib cage expanding and then contracting. I actually become so aware of the moment where I’m fully expanded before I even exhale. And then when I exhale, I’m fully at the end of an exhale before I end. That’s what I do when I can’t go to sleep at night because I have to become really present with my body. That’s how I get out of my head because my head is often all about future thinking, what if…? My head goes into a little bit of anxiety, planning, or organizing, which does give me some solace but nothing quite as much as me feeling my body. So taking a moment to feel right now. For example, feel your bottom on this bed, that we’re sitting on a field of gravity, pulling us down, making us feel supported here. Combine that with feeling our breath. So I’d say the very first thing is checking in with your body and using gravity to feel that support.

The second thing is I’ve learned that movement actually helps clear and settle down my thoughts. Because I’m focused on balancing and listening to music or whatever I’m doing.

Erica: Just to keep your mind occupied.

Doctor Neha: Yes. And then in the craziest way—and I cannot believe I’m saying this because the first book was a tough, tough, tough one for me to write—I would say that I love writing. I enjoy the creative process. I look forward to it. Not as much as I enjoy something like a personal connection and video blogs. I’m not quite at that level, but I would say the creative expression of journaling, of writing, of figuring out how the puzzle pieces fit together so that my thoughts are more clear. How the ideas feel inside me is what is now on the page.

Erica: It’s like the writing almost creates a space to self validate.

Doctor Neha: Yes. Validate and articulated in a way that I can share it with others.

Erica: It’s a huge part of the healing process, the growth process to be able to share that with others and combine those as an art form. I also am a writer. I wrote a chapter in an anthology, and I had a similar experience. It was a very healing journey. It was a about a collection of stories about how women were impacted by sexual trauma and how it affected their sexuality. To talk about something that makes you really feel in your body or remember how that person felt. That was really the catalyst for me. And since then, I like the creative process, whether it’s poetry, trying to write a book.

Overall it’s about knowing that it’s okay to be in your head and in your heart—it doesn’t have to be one or the other. The irony is that the more that you make a practice of sinking into your heart and listening, the better you are at analyzing and solving problems because it clears your mind as your heart processes.

Doctor Neha: One of the ways that I say this is that data + intuition (which is your knowing and trusting yourself) = integrated decisions. As a physician and healthcare practitioner, it’s my job to give the data, the clinical experience, and my impression when someone comes to me. I look at all the data and then I give my opinion based on my experience of data and research. All of that plus intuition—mine and theirs—because they’ve been in their body for a really long time. They know. That leads to an integrated decision.

My belief is that’s where the future of medicine has to be. And what you’re saying is that is the future of you. It’s the future of us. It’s the future of no longer just relying on our brains. We have to also connect to our heart if we want to begin to care about the world in a new way.

Erica: I’m so impressed and thankful that you, as a physician, get that and that you’re writing and speaking and sharing for other healthcare providers. For people in general, we each need to know that part of what causes disease is being separate from that and not listening to our body and thinking that our body’s role is to carry our head around.

Our body does give important signals that show up in our heart and our own intuition. So you just made a good point, that it’s not just your intuition as a physician, but you’re trying to empower patients to say it’s actually their intuition and what feels right to them or what feels off. And asking, “When did you first notice it?” In our first conversation, I realized this and thought, yes! That’s a fantastic position right there.

Doctor Neha: Thank you. I hope this was helpful—just some random thoughts and Costa Rica that we’re hoping spark your thinking and gets you trusting yourself a little more. Drop into your heart even more than you have been and into your body—because the body will tell you your own physiology is data. When your heart is racing, when your stomach is turning, that is the information. For me, it’s throat constricting. And when that happens, I know I’m not saying something I need to say. So tuning into the data inside you, as well as the data outside of you and dropping into your body is so important. Maybe that will help all of us remember that we are not only connected to ourselves, head, heart, body wisdom, but also to each other. Thank you.

Doctor Neha


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