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your heart has a mind of its own
August 01, 2005

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #039, August 1, 2005 =========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

Your Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own (And It Can Help Relieve Stress)

Men's Health Website

Be Kind To Your Spouse


Written by Noel McNaughton (c) copyright 2005


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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men. I don't know about where you live, but here in Alberta it is a statutory holiday. We had a family gathering (twenty three counting kids, spouses and grandchildren), to say farewell to my youngest son who is moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to start a Ph.D. program in computer science (robotics) at Carnegie Mellon University. He will be there for six years, and we will miss him a lot. Today is also my grandson's twelfth birthday, so we celebrated that too. When I was in the throes of andropause, and Elizabeth in menopause, it would have been a struggle for us to host a big family event such as this, but now it is a pleasure.

Even if you are struggling in a midlife transition, remember this too shall pass, and be kind to those around you so you still have good relationships when you emerge as the 'new you'.

Hope you find this newsletter interesting and useful.

There are about 1500 words in the articles in this newsletter, which may take about six minutes to read.



Your Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own (And It Can Help Relieve Stress)

Here is a quick exercise: Close your eyes and point to yourself. Do it now, before you read any further.

OK... open your eyes. Where did you point? To your head? Your knee? Your toes? Or did you point to your heart, which is where pretty well everybody points?

From ancient times until as recently as the 17th century, the mind was assumed to reside in the heart. When the priests in ancient Egypt were preparing a body for the afterlife, they would pull the brain out through the nose in pieces, but were careful to leave the heart intact.

There was a taboo in ancient Greece against dissecting cadavers, so for many years no one knew what the brain was for. Aristotle, noticing it was somewhat cool, decided it must refrigerate the blood. He argued that because of our unusual intelligence our hearts must produce more heat, so required a large cooling system.

Today we may laugh at such an idea, but in a way the ancients were right. Research at the HeartMath Institute (, based in Boulder Creek, California, shows our heart is a 'mini brain'. In fact there are more nerve cells in the heart than muscle cells. Although the whole thing is a bit complicated, essentially much of our emotional thinking literally occurs in the heart. When we speak of having a 'heart to heart conversation', or being moved by someone 'speaking from the heart', we are literally speaking the truth.

The Heart Rules Over the Head

And here's another interesting fact: the heart can overrule the brain, but the brain can't overrule the heart! (That old love song "My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own" hit the nail on the head.) In an emotional situation (falling in love, falling out of love, having an argument with our spouse, or the boss), we sometimes act irrationally. That is because the heart is not rational, it is emotional, and in the heat of the moment, it takes control. Which is why it is sometimes a good idea to take time to cool down when emotions run high (unless it is in the heat of passion, in which case why spoil a good thing?).

An exercise to help you handle stress

Your heart also has a wisdom your brain doesn't have. It thinks holistically, and can see the 'big picture', whereas your brain can only see things in a linear, logical way. Doc Childre and his staff at the HeartMath Institute have developed a quick stress-reducing exercise that works amazingly well.

It is called 'Freeze-Frame'. Here are the five steps to using it:

1. Recognize you are having a stressful feeling and Freeze-Frame it. Start by taking a short 'time out', to do the quick exercise that follows. (You can do this in almost any situation, including in a tense business meeting, or even a heated argument with your spouse.

2. Make a sincere effort to shift your focus away from the racing mind or disturbed emotions to the area around your heart, and pretend you are breathing through your heart to help focus your energy in this area. Close your eyes, and as you breathe, picture the breath coming in and out through your heart. Focus on this kind of breathing for ten seconds or more.

3. Recall a positive, fun feeling or time you have had in life and try to re-experience the feeling of it. (It's a good idea to take a few quiet moments sometime soon, just to recall a couple of positive times, when you felt very good, so when you are doing a Freeze Frame, you can quickly bring one of those positive experiences to mind.)

4. Now, using your intuition, common sense, and sincerity, ask your heart, 'What would be a more efficient response to this stressful situation, one that would minimize future stress?'.

5. Listen to what your heart says in answer to your question. (It's an effective way to put your reactive mind and emotions in check. It's also an in-house source of commonsense solutions!)

I have used the Freeze-Frame exercise a number of times, and have always been pleasantly surprised by the answers I have received. It is true... my heart has a mind of its own. So does yours. And its answers are often wiser than anything our brains can come up with.


ON A BOTTLE OF CHILDRENS' COUGH MEDICINE: Do not drive car or operate machinery.


Men's Health Website

There was an article in the local paper a couple of weeks ago about a men's health website in the U.K. - It was started by some Doctors who realized men are not always served well by the health care system either in the U.K., or almost anywhere else. I won't tell you too much about the site, except to say there is a lot of valuable information for men there, and it is well worth the visit.

Here is a quick quote from the site's home page:

What Do You Do?

When stressed, males tend to drink twelve pints of lager, eat a curry at one in the morning, chuck, swallow the contents of a carry out and then find a floor to pass out on, waking up with a mouthful of cig butts, carpet and cat hair. This can be helpful in the short term although it is not the most healthy route. It may also provide amusing anecdotes to other men who have most likely been in the same position and can in fact be a form of primitive male bonding. Anyone who doubts this need only consult an excellent weekly documentary once provided as a public service by the BBC - Men Behaving Badly.

Take a look...


Be Kind To Your Spouse

I get calls and emails from distressed women fairly regularly. I got another one from a woman in the U.S. today. She desperately wanted help trying to figure out how to deal with her husband of 24 years. He is forty five, and during the past year has become withdrawn, defensive, uncommunicative and sometimes downright mean with the words he uses. He recently left home. She is at her wit's end.

My only advice to her was essentially the same advice as that of a counsellor she saw, and Jed Diamond author of 'The Irritable Male Syndrome', whom she also talked to. I suggested she figure out what she needs in her life, as well as what behaviour she will not put up with from him (such as verbal or any other kind of abuse, for example).

She has of course been trying to get him to talk to her about what's going on with him, but the more she pushes, the more reticent and defensive he bexcomes. As that approach does not work, I suggested she let him be. I also assured her that he will get through this transition, after which he may or may not come back to her. In either case, she needs to figure out what is important in her life.

Now Here Is The Thing I Would Really Like To See All Men Remember

I am shocked and dismayed at how many men seem to be mean to their wives/partners when they are depressed and irritable (which are common symptoms of midlife transitions). I know when we are feeling irritable it is easy to lose patience with almost anyone, and that is pretty much unavoidable as far as I can tell. What is avoidable is to become mean and nasty. There is no excuse for that. We are men, not children.

We may need to let people know we just can't talk right now, but to use cruel words is not acceptable.

A Cree elder I have known for many years teaches the four principles of a balanced life:

  • Love (expressed as Kindness
  • Sharing (your time, talents, possession, etc.)
  • Truth (as in speaking and living your truth)
  • Strength (Perseverance, or Determination)

Of these four, treating other with kindness and respect will go the furthest toward harmonious relationships, and will help you make it through your midlife transition with dignity.

So many emails and phone calls I get from women talk about how their husbands have turned mean with not only them, but with their children as well. Relationships are often damaged for years because of careless and unkind words.

We are men. Our responsibility is to protect and care for our families, our communities, and our part of the world. Yes midlife transitions are hard, disorienting, frightening, and confusing, but there is no excuse for abusing those that love us.


Got your copy of Picking Up The Burning Feather yet? It will help you on your spiritual journey.

just go to Picking Up The Burning Feather: A Spiritual Guide For Midlife Men.


Notice in a field: The farmer allows walkers to cross the field free, but the bull charges.


Just For You: A Free Do-It-Yourself Retirement Planning Report

If you are a new subscriber to this newsletter, you will recall I promised you a link to a secret page on the Midlife Men's site where you can download a free 27-page report on 'DIY Retirement planning' by George Slater.

Welcome to the newsletter, and for your free report, go to: DIY Retirement E-Report , and follow the instructions.



Learn to be a Teleclass Facilitator

If you are a facilitator/speaker/professional who gives lectures or workshops, you can do it from home and make money. Teleclasses (also known as teleseminars) using telephone bridge lines, are becoming increasingly popular, and and a very inexpensive way to deliver high-quality training. I took training in teleclass leadership from Teleclass International which I highly recommend.



A Destroyer of Compasses by Wade Bell, published by Guernica Editions, (Toronto, Buffalo and Lancaster UK) $15.00 Cdn

One Man's Mid-Life Crisis Led to Spain. Planning to spend six weeks, he stayed five years.

A book of stories the Toronto Globe & Mail called "an assured and sensual portrait of a culture" with "precise and ironic examples of human idiosyncracy." The review went on to call stories "gems."

Available from Amazon, E-Bay and local bookstores.



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Is Your Computer Slower Than When You Got It? And Are You Protected From Hackers? Performance Pro is a POWERFUL little program that gives you:

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  • Block annoying pop-ups and banner ads - this alone speeds up your Internet browsing experience!
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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.


Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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