Updated: Aug 15
Since I was a kid my mom would always use the phrase "ma-oom yakhae," which literally translates into "weak heart." It's a Korean term that means you are too kind hearted and as a result people will take advantage of you. My mom always told me to be more "kang hae"- be tough.
I was a shy kid growing up. I hardly talked to people unless they talked to me first and I was never the kid that introduced himself to others. But once I was your friend, then I wouldn't shut up. Blabbity blabbity blah.
As I grew older I became less shy but no less weak hearted. If people were rude to me or pushed me around, I would usually just move aside. If people cut in line in front of me, I wouldn't say anything.
I think the worst part of being like this was that I fretted about it later. I would often ruminate about what I "should" have done or "should" have said.
My young life was a lot of "SHOULD's."
I discover my voice
When I was in the second grade I was in the school playground during recess. There was a little girl who looked about my age. I didn't now for certain because she wasn't in my class. Anyway, I was walking through the playground when I noticed that a group of guys were teasing and harassing her. Now this was the 1970's so ethnic slurs were a common thing in elementary school.
I was mad.
To this day I am not sure if I was mad at them because they were harassing that girl who was in obvious distress or because she was also Asian and I felt some sort of cultural connection to her; a form of solidarity in our abuse, based on race. Whatever the reason I spoke up.
I told the boys to "stop making fun of her!"
To which they responded, "Or what?!"
There was no backing down in me that day. There was no moving aside.
I looked each of them straight in the eyes and boldly replied, "Or I will kick your a$$!"
"Oooh..you got a boyfriend! You got a boyfriend" was the chant that ensued.
I didn't care.
The bell rang and I strolled off and headed back to class.
I had discovered my voice.
A tough exterior can hide a weak heart- I think.
The lesson I learned in second grade had begun to serve me well long into high school. I quickly learned that being "tough" and getting into fist fights gave you power and deterred kids from picking on you. I had built up a reputation as a tough kid and if you grew up in my time, that was usually enough.
One problem with having a tough kid reputation was that sometimes other "tough" kids wanted to see just how tough you really were. Sometimes when you talk the talk, people challenge you to walk the walk.
One day in junior high school (we didn't call it middle school where I grew up), I came to school to discover that my close friend had gotten interrogated and threatened by a local gang member the day before. I had ditched school that day so wasn't there for the festivities.
I later found out that the gang member was also looking for me.
The good news was that he didn't go to our school.
The bad news was that he was a delinquent and rarely went to school at all so could come to our school anytime to look for me.
I spent weeks on hyper alert status. But nothing happened.
And just like the movies where our hero thinks it's all in the past and things are safe, he showed up. But this time he didn't just show up by himself, he showed up with a group of his gang buddies. They were all in high school or maybe I should say they were of high school age because I have no idea if they actually attended school.
They caught up to my friend Eddie and me and cornered us in front of the school.
They were older and bigger and probably much tougher.
We stood there scared.
I don't recall the exact words but it was something along the lines of if you talk like you are tough, there will be guys (like us) that will make you prove it.
The leader of this pack looked at me and said, "You're Thomas." A statement not a question.
He slapped me in the face.
I was angry at the slap but also scared to retaliate.
He warned me to stop acting like I was tough, "or else."
They made us bow (they were all Korean), and told us to go class.
Walking into school with Eddie, we agreed not to antagonize these guys any more but also had no idea how to do that.
Eddie's solution was to focus on school and get good grades; just put his head down and study.
Mine was a little more complicated.
Looking back, I often wonder if those guys were protecting us or just being thugs.
I don't know.
What I do know is that I spent weeks ruminating over what I should have done and angry at myself for allowing myself to get slapped and not retaliating. I probably would have suffered a pretty severe beating but that doesn't really compute when you are reliving an event. In the reliving space, there are things that go your way and you are an action star not a scared teenager in junior high.
Although the incident had helped Eddie get on the straight and narrow, like I said, mine was a little more complicated. Eddie and I didn't go to elementary school together.
And I had a group of friends from elementary school who were getting into a lot of trouble. If I was going to survive junior high, I had to separate myself from these guys.
But they were my friends.
We were close and shared adventures together. We pretty much spent every day together.
Even though I knew they were a bad influence on me, I struggled, with my weak heart, to tell them that I needed to move on. Although acting tough had somehow hidden my weak heart from the general public, it had done nothing to make these sorts of confrontations any easier.
So much for my tough exterior.
It was all bluster and I hadn't really changed.
I discover my fists
After some of the trials of junior high, I decided that I wanted to be a better fighter. Because what better way to get rid of weak heartedness than getting into more fights and beating people up?
And back then if you wanted to be a better fighter, a la Karate Kid, you took martial arts classes. Being Korean, I took Tae Kwon Do.
Now this was back in the early 1980's so Tae Kwon Do was NOT an Olympic event. It was just one of many true martial arts that taught you philosophy, technique, and physical exercise.
The classes were 2 hours long on the weekdays and 3 hours on Saturdays.
You trained every day.
You started sparring essentially the first week.
There was no protective gear.
I got good at fighting.
I got so good that one day I got into a fight at school.
It was a quickie.
Basically, we argued. I punched him. It was over.
This fight was a big confidence booster. I had not gotten into a fight in a while so it was good to get one under my belt. Nothing like a quick fight to make you feel powerful and give your all important ego a much needed boost! (Hey, I was in junior high school. Expect less.)
The problem was that somehow my master at the Tae Kwon Do school had found out. I still don't know how they know these things.
Maybe I strutted into class?
The other kid never touched me so I couldn't have had any marks to reveals my extra-curricular activity.
However he knew, it was time to make an example out of me.
Our master had told us MANY times that martial arts was NOT for fighting.
Apparently I thought that was just a movie line that people said but didn't actually mean because if you are training a fighting technique, didn't you do that to be a better fighter?
I got to do frog jumps for half the class (that's like an hour!)
And then I got to stand in a horse stance for 45 minutes. For those of you who don't know, a horse stance is basically a squat that you hold.
In the down position.
For 45 MINUTES!
I had sweat dripping from my elbows!
You ever sweat from your elbows?!
And if that was not enough of a deterrent, I had to spar the entire class at the end... black belts last.
Yup, I had discovered my fists alright.
And again it had done nothing to make me "tough."
I still believed that a tough exterior would "cure"me of my weak heart...until Jimmy changed my life.
Jimmy was one of my closest friends from elementary school.
His parents had divorced very early on so I never even knew his mom. It was only Jimmy, his dad, and his older brother. For some reason, even though we were the same age, Jimmy always seemed to look out for me.
One day in junior high, there was going to be a major fight. A bunch of the Asian kids were fighting a gang of the white kids in school. There was a park next to the bus stop behind school and that was where it was going to happen.
Everyone was excited. Including me.
I had been taking Tae Kwon Do for almost a year now so I was eager to test out my skills.
I had Jimmy in my 5th period.
We sat in class and I started talking to him about the fight that was coming up and he looked at me and said, "Don't fight."
To which I responded, "Ha! What do you mean, don't fight? Dude, I am a pretty good fighter and I can't stand some of those guys."
"You have a clean record. Don't mess that up. You still have a chance, " he said.
I didn't know what to say.
"Promise you won't fight," he pressed.
I didn't promise.
But I would go to the fight and NOT fight.
I watched my friends battle.
Some did well and others not so well.
There were so many kids involved that I guess the neighbors had called the police.
When the police showed, everyone scattered.
Most of my friends took off in a variety of directions.
I rode the bus home.
Had my weak heart failed me again?
Was it because of that weakness that I had chosen NOT to fight?
Why had I listened to Jimmy that day?
Paging Dr. Kim
When I decided on chiropractic as my future field of study I was out of college for a couple years and working. After I had gotten accepted into the program, I decided I wanted to take some time before I started so I deferred for a year.
That year became 18 months.
I have never regretted taking that extra time off to make a little money, play some more and try to get my head wrapped around the idea that I was going to be a doctor.
Believe it or not, I put some serious thought into who I was going to be.
I knew that being a doctor would mean that I needed to be a different person.
I had to change my biases, my attitude and especially my response to things and people who I perceived to be "disrespecting" me.
I remember having a conversation with myself about not having a violent response to people; trying to avoid confrontation and just generally being a more mature person.
Little did I know that chiropractic was going to continue to challenge me in that way.
My experience in chiropractic school was probably the most growth I ever had.
It forced me to come out of my shell.
It forced me to speak publicly, often.
It made me understand that I actually had a personal philosophy that was not based on ego but something I actually believed in and I was now willing to stand behind it.
It made me stronger because I now understood that I was part of a medical minority.
When I started, I had no idea that chiropractic was an "alternative" health care practice.
I had no idea that the medical profession had thought us "quacks" and actually tried to eliminate the profession in a carefully planned conspiracy. (Yes, it's true. They actually went to trial for violating anti-trust laws as the AMA engaged in a conspiracy to eliminate the chiropractic profession.- Wilkes vs. AMA)
Being a chiropractor made me challenge my weak heart to no longer just fight for myself but for a larger purpose.
I would struggle.
The struggle is real
The day I took my Washington state board exams, I got a call from Dr. Chan.
I had no idea who this person was or how he got my number.
He told me he was a local chiropractor who owned a number of clinics in western Washington. He also asked me two other questions:
"How do you think you did on your test?"
"Would you like to come in for an interview this afternoon?"
I felt like I did okay on the exam but was kind of tired and wasn't really in the mood to go interview with someone I knew nothing about. (This was in the 1990's so the internet was relatively new. It wasn't like I could just look the guy up).
However, I was with a friend of mine who had also taken the exam with me, Paul, and he thought we should do it. He was also invited to interview.
He said, "Hey, it's an opportunity for a job. Why not?"
After the initial pleasantries, Dr. Chan asked me one question.
"If I had a rich uncle and he was going to give me money for a practice what would I do?"
I replied, "I would open my own practice today."
"You wouldn't want to work under someone for a little while?"- he asked.
"No. I know how I want to practice."- I said. Confident.
"How long does it take you for an average patient treatment?"- he followed up.
"About 30 minutes."- I replied. I wasn't sure where he was going with this line of questioning.
Then he said something that shocked me.
"You will never make it."- he said plain and simple. "You cannot build a successful practice spending that much time with a patient."
I had heard enough.
I was angry with this guy.
"Who the hell did he think he was?"
He didn't know me.
Now, I really going to make it. If nothing else but to show this guy he was wrong!
"Watch me," was my response.
I left that interview not having any clue how I was going to do it but absolutely motivated to make it happen.
Paul left with a job offer.
My tough exterior once again showing up for maybe not the best outcome.
I struggled with every aspect of building a practice.
I had to deal with idiots telling me I wasn't a "real doctor."
People saying that they "didn't believe in chiropractic or that chiropractors were scam artists."
I felt like I was swimming upstream every day.
I knew what I was doing was right but it seemed like society believed I was full of it.
I get the point- finally!
So I have been struggling back and forth with my weak heart issues my whole life.
I have taken on things and fought through things that I brought upon myself because I was trying so hard NOT to appear weak hearted.
But the other day, I was watching a show and the main character was crying. (It's not important why).
At that moment, my little one came into the room, saw that on TV, and she was heartbroken for this character. She had no idea what had happened or why this person was crying but it made a significant impact on her.
She began to tear up and then start crying because of the suffering she believed this person was going through.
And then it hit me.
The "weak heart" I had struggled so much with my whole life was NOT something bad.
It was just an open heart that had compassion for others.
I perceived no weakness in my little girl.
There was nothing wrong with her.
And there was no need for her to be "tough."
It was a beautiful example of compassion and caring from a pure heart.
It has taken me over 50 years to finally get it.
I have struggled to overcome something that I should have understood to be a gift, not a handicap.
I have understood that it is important to work on heart openers but didn't really understand that it was okay to live your life this way.
Sure you may come across some people who are going to attack you and try to take advantage of you but that's no reason to close your heart off.
I realize now that there is nothing to protect myself from.
I realize now that it is this fear of attack that has been my limiting factor in life.
I realize that I stood up for that little girl in grade school because she was suffering.
I realize that I listened to Jimmy because it was wrong to fight.
I realize that I don't have to justify or defend chiropractic to people who don't get it.
I realize that having the support of people who love me and have my best interest at heart is all that matters.
Practical matters to "open" your heart and connect
The hypothalamus is a gland in your brain that samples your blood and all the information contained within constantly. It knows that is happening to your hormones, emotions, and all other bodily functions.
It is also said to control whether or not you are able to "open" your heart and connect at a more "spiritual" level. It and the pituitary gland are supposed to be responsible for connecting to what we refer to as intuition.
Is this a real thing?
What I do know is that this is something we can all benefit from.
I usually recommend people do it as a trio:
Hypothalmex (1 twice a day)
Black Currant seed oil (works as a transport system). (1 twice a day)
Will it turn you into a big softy?
I certainly hope so!
Protecting the health of your heart
First, you need to understand one thing.
Your heart is an electric, muscular pump.
It's job is to pump massive amounts of blood through your body every day- about 2000 gallons a day to be precise.
It pumps (or beats) an average of 70 beats per minute or 4200 pumps per hour or 100,000 pumps per day.
All day, every day.
By the time you are 70 it is estimated that your heart will have pumped 2.5 BILLION times.
So invest in keeping it healthy and performing optimally..
You need to support it as a muscle and as an electrical entity.
I always use two supplements:
Cardio-Plus- combination of vitamins and minerals to provide comprehensive heart muscle support. (3 twice a day)
Cataplex B Core- complete b-complex that supports not only energy production but also the nerve impulses required for efficient muscle contractions. (1 twice a day)
And, of course, there is aerobic exercise.
What's the best?
If you can do 10,000 steps a day, great for you!
But just 30 minutes a day is a good place to start.
Opening our hearts takes courage.
It also requires support at many levels.
Life without an open, healthy heart is a life blocked off from the things that connect us to everything around us that matters.
Invest some time and energy in your heart.
It will only reward you.