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This piece has not been an easy one for me to write or think about. There is much that I would like to forget and get past.

Also, I searched my motivation for this piece and concluded: It is based primarily upon the belief that life is the great classroom and we learn much from personal, everyday experience.

Earlier this year, I was in the hospital with a heart attack; now after the shock waves have subsided a bit, I have had time to reflect on all of this. Also, I am still occupied with the after effects. I am in cardiac rehab, changing certain life habits and still don’t have all my strength or heart capacity back; in multiple ways, this experience has clearly affected members of my family.

Some learning happens right away and other lessons take longer; both the doctors and EMTs said I was lucky to be alive. There was a 100 percent blockage in my major heart artery and 60 percent in another; they have a nickname for this particular attack: “the widow maker.”

Fortunately, I was at a family Thanksgiving dinner when this occurred and people acted quickly.

Sometimes, I still wonder why I am here. Perhaps there is more that I have to do, accomplish and enjoy.

Anyway, while I try to work this out, so far here are 11 things I learned and seem to have relearned again. In some way, I hope sharing this helps:

  • Life is fragile and may be over in an instant.
  • Flesh is weak and can be broken; yet, spirit fights and lives on.
  • In order to heal, you need a support system and love of others.
  • After an event like this, fears, pains and sorrows are shared by those who love you.
  • When pain enters, it is a game changer, often bringing you to your knees.
  • Enjoy this moment: it is all you have. If there is something you want to do, then do it now.
  • Why one lives and another dies is beyond our understanding.
  • Be kind and generous to others. That is what the Universe wants. Suffering shows you this.
  • We carry within the seeds of our own destruction and end.
  • Death is part of life; they are tied to one another.
  • Healing can be difficult and take a long time.

Now after reading this list, if you would like to share what you learned through personal adversity, I encourage input. God/Light willing, may you continue to be healthy, growing closer to your lasting self.

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Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
Dr. Stewart Bitkoff is an avid student of Sufi Mysticism and the perennial philosophy. Professionally, specializing in the healing applications of therapeutic recreation, psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health treatment, Bitkoff holds a doctorate in education and has served as a faculty member for six colleges and universities. He is the author of Sufism for Western Seekers, The Ferryman's Dream and A Commuter's Guide to Enlightenment, among others. Visit www.stewartbitkoff.com.

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