I’ve written before about my ticking heart, and how the sound of it is almost always with me. I had been told before the surgery that there was a chance that I would be able to hear my valve click, but I had no idea what that meant.
About a day after the surgery, when the heavy painkillers were wearing off, I heard an interesting sound coming up out of my throat. I had heard sounds there before, an occasional gurgling noise that I assumed everyone heard and was some kind of digestive process. This new sound came from the same place, but was a sharp tick.
As I came to and the sound continued I started to understand what had happened. That gurgling that I would occasionally hear was in fact my old, failing aortic valve, as blood sloshed through inefficiently and noisily. My new valve, engineered with precision, allowed my heart to work as intended, and would make that sound with every opening and closing as long as my heart beat.
It is a strange thing to live with, that sound. It reminds me that I am two parts, one made flesh, bone, and fluid, the other made of carbon fiber, stainless steel, and plastic. Some days I am grateful for it, because it is what keeps me alive where my old valve was simply not able to keep going. Some days it is maddening, particularly in quiet, bare rooms (like a yoga studio), when the tick tick tick drowns out every other sound. Some nights as I lie in bed and the ticking is all that I can think about I look over at my wife. She stirs, frowns, then tilts her head. She is listening for the tick, because for two years that has allowed her in a half-conscious sleep to know that I was there next to her, healthy and alive. She hears it, smiles, and drifts back into slumber.
Tonight I sat on our quiet couch, breathing steadily to the beat of the ticks, reading the history of Yoga and the differences between Classical Yoga and Tantra. The Classic study engages the practitioner in the idea that we can move past the material to better understand the greater consciousness of the world. It is dualistic, seeing our existence in two parts, one to be surpassed while the other is pursued. Tantra, on the other hand, simply sees them as part of the whole. You should not seek to move past the material to seek a greater consciousness because the material, your body, is part of that great consciousness. “All of this”, my guide says, “is nothing but that”.
As I read that I felt my shoulder sink, my chest relax, the tension leave my face. What is this is also that. The warm, fluid, soft but hard body is also the strong, mechanical, loud and proud body, and is nothing but me.
This is that, and is me, and is us.