How long is your leash?

After coming close to death, then becoming a heart transplant recipient on January 18, 2001, I was so filled with gratitude, I wanted to find a way to give back. Following a year’s recovery time, one of those ways I gave back was volunteering to visit potential heart transplant recipients on the waiting list to receive a heart.

In 2001, medical technology was not as advanced, and many people who were waiting to receive a transplant were tethered to a machine that much resembled R2D2. The machine necessitated confinement to their hospital room on a 30-foot leash that connected them to an elaborate pump. This was how they lived, 24/7, too weak and too compromised to travel anywhere outside of this enclosed space.

I would go from room to room to visit some of these patients. Each person I visited was highly aware they could die any moment from complications, while waiting for a heart. As a result, they were keenly aware of living each moment.

In each room, the patient surrounded themselves with the world of their beliefs. Pictures on the wall, decorations and objects that were important to them. Everything in their environment expressed their nature and values.

One woman had scribble drawings from all her grandkids plastered over every inch of the room. Her biggest fear, she wouldn’t live long enough to see them graduate high school.

Another man had his room filled with trophies of his athletic awards. He felt worthless now because he had no breathing capacity to move and was determined that if he got a new heart, he would compete again.

One man’s room was completely bare, which matched his utterly despondent mood of bitter hopelessness.

Entering each room was like entering the mind of the person, their world, their ideals, their beliefs, all defined and expressed within this 30-foot range of rope.

As I traveled room to room, I had an epiphany. I witnessed how their beliefs made them feel. I observed how these beliefs are utterly our own creation, our own limitations, and the feeling experiences we have as a result of our beliefs.

I realized; we are all on the leash of our beliefs. For most of us, our leash is longer than 30 feet. We’re able to walk around, drive to the next town, fly to another country so we don’t notice their confinement. We are tethered nonetheless to the feelings we undergo as a result of our beliefs, no matter how short or long our leash.

I’ll never forget the moment when a brilliant client of mine, PhD, top professional in his field, speaks 5 languages, once asked me, “Laura, how do you know what you believe is true?”