Are You Fibrillating?

The muscle cells of your heart all work together in a synchronous rhythm.  Coordinated by an electrical system, the cells also communicate directly with each other, so that they can organize to accomplish their vital task.

Fibrillation occurs when the heart muscle cells aren't working together properly.  Each cell is contracting rhythmically, so in that sense, it's doing what it's supposed to do.  But without the right coordination, the cells all beat at their own rhythm, accomplishing nothing.  The heart quivers but does not function.

Have you ever felt like you're fibrillating?  You're working hard at a thousand different things, but things just don't seem to be going anywhere?

Those electrical shockers are designed to work on fibrillating hearts.  (That's why they're called defibrillators.)  Contrary to popular belief, giving an electric shock doesn't start a stopped heart.  It stops a fibrillating one.  The doctors put those pads on your chest, yell "CLEAR!," and stop your heart.

This is exactly the right thing to do to a fibrillating heart.  It synchronizes the heart muscle cells by stopping them all at the same time.  Then they can start again, working together so that they can actually accomplish something.

People report a similar phenomenon in their fibrillating lives.  Many people report that a traumatic event, such as a cancer diagnosis, stops everything in their lives for a period of time.  When they start back up again, they have a renewed focus on what's truly important.  Their actions are more purposeful.  Their lives are filled with new meaning.

If you feel like you're fibrillating, maybe it doesn't have to take a trauma to cause this defibrillation.  What if you simply decided to put things on pause for a while?  What if you stopped struggling and let go of as much as possible, focusing only on resting and renewing?  What if you allowed yourself to rest as if your life depended on it?  Perhaps you would emerge from that stopped period with a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.

Keep in mind a crucial point: the defibrillator doesn't force the heart to start again.  It only stops it, then allows it to start back up when it's ready.  So if you take a pause, don't set an endpoint.  Focus only on pausing, then allow yourself to start again whenever that starts happening on its own.

Often, when we're going a million directions at once, all we really need is to stop.