Harvard-trained, Dr. Cynthia Thaik is a heart doctor who practices with her heart. She delivers security and peace of mind to her clients by orchestrating behavioral and mindset shifts to evoke lasting transformational changes in their health, well-being, vitality, energy, and creativity. She has helped thousands of people make changes to transform their lives through the ways they think, feel, and act.
Intuitively, Dr. Cynthia has known that she would serve this calling since the age of five, after accompanying her physician mother to the medical clinic in their home country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. There, she witnessed the pure hands-on art of healing, free from modern-day drugs, bureaucracy, and malpractice threats. This experience laid dormant deep within her as she navigated her American life, completed her modern medical training, and subsequently began practicing Western medicine. Decades later, the demands of solo practice, a strained marriage and three small children created a toll that left her feeling disconnected and drained. It wasn’t until the opening of her wellness center three years ago—where she successfully guided her patients to experience tremendous improvement in their health and well-being through integrative lifestyle practices that focused on nutrition, fitness, and spiritual / meditative practices—that those early childhood memories of the art of self-directed healing were reawakened.
Rediscovering her life purpose has lend authenticity to her work and filled her with joy, energy and spirit. She believes the mind-body connection for health is best served through the practice of being centered and present in each moment. A practicing Buddhist, Dr. Cynthia is now on a mission to deliver that message about healing through her new book, Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength & Spirit from the Body’s Core.
Reason enough for us to meet with Dr. Cynthia Thaik and speak about the mind-body connection and the role of our heart in our overall vitality.
Interview with Dr. Cynthia Thaik
Soul Love: Dr. Cynthia, you are a Harvard-trained cardiologist and you have a very successful practice, yet at some point in your life you felt unfulfilled. Where did that feeling come from?
Cynthia Thaik: Being a doctor, you’re always in the field of service, but there are many different levels of service. I initially started in the field of medicine and cardiology to make a difference, but as time went on there was a growing frustration on my part, where I felt that I was worrying so much more for a patient than they were for themselves. I was frustrated about patients coming back in with the same issue like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and doing very little to make a shift in their lives. Part of it was that I was unskillful back then to be able to help them raise their level of awareness. So I essentially found myself being a pill pusher and through that the frustration and dissatisfaction happened.
This was really my dark period – as a physician you know the right things to say and do for your patients but you don’t always practice it for yourself and so I found myself in that situation where I wasn’t practicing a good lifestyle, I wasn’t eating well, I wasn’t exercising. At that time, I was a young mom with three young children, two physical practices, marital issues and I got physically very ill.
One of the things that I teach my patients that any time something shows up for you in terms of physical symptoms or a disease, it is your body reaching out to you and trying to give you a message. The message initially comes as a small tap, it then becomes a little louder, it becomes a pound and then it becomes a bang and finally it kicks the door in like in the form of a heart attack or stroke. For me personally, my door was being kicked in because I was severely anemic and I probably had half the blood volume that a normal person should have and so I needed blood transfusion and surgery. It was a wakeup call for me and from there on I started my own healing journey that led to a beautiful discovery.
Soul Love: You write about your realization that you had been following other people’s rules for so many years. What do you think, why can people be so untrue to their own path and inner desires?
Cynthia: I think part of it is because we’re conditioned that way. For me personally, a lot was related to my cultural background. Particularly as an Asian, we always hear about the tiger mom, about expectations and academics and following this path to success is sort of the holy grail and that was the path that I took. I don’t want to generalize, but particularly in the Asian culture there are highly successful people, but that success is not always filled with love. Not always filled with inspiration. This kind of success comes from a brute force, from sheer determination and willpower. But what I found was that it doesn’t need to be that hard, it can be easier. It comes from that discovery of your own inner voice, your own passion, your own pathway and I found that it’s key to have service be tied to that, like a greater calling that’s your path in stead of someone else’s path.
Soul Love: ‘Your Vibrant Heart’ contains many useful and beautiful tips and steps to gain physical strength, mental clarity and spiritual enlightenment. How does spiritual enlightenment influence the health of one’s heart?
Cynthia: I think that it is the core. I really do. So here I was, a cardiologist for 25 years and for the first 20 years, I did not have a clue about that. When I compare my effectiveness of treating patients with heart disease back then and where I am now, it’s like night and day. In the past, when I dealt with someone with a heart issue, I dealt with their physical heath, I was able to diagnose whether they had a blockage or not and I often I could tell them, “your heart is fine, you’re good”, and they leave but they weren’t transformed, they still had their symptoms.
We now know that stress, how you use your mind and how you hold your thoughts, whether you’re in an anxiety based thinking pattern and worry too much, versus when you’re speaking from love, from compassion, from gratitude, makes all the difference on a cellular level.
Both Gregg Braden and Bruce Lipton speak about the fact that your heart and your cells are bathed in an environment that on a physiological level has to do with cortisol, adrenalin, dopamine, oxytocin and so there are literally hundreds of thousands neurotransmitters who act as a symphony that’s playing either heavy metal or beautiful gospel music – Every thought is a prayer and every thought is a connection to that spiritual side of yourself. We can either hold good thoughts or negative thoughts but either way, they will act as a message to the universe which will reflect it back to us. I very much feel now that health is as much about your emotional, mental and spiritual state as it is about your physical. But the physical manifestation is just that – a reflection of everything else that you hold deep inside of you.
Soul Love: While there’s so much evidence about this phenomena, why do you think it is still not part of your training?
Cynthia: Yes. Sad isn’t it. Never mind spiritual training, in a medical school we don’t even get nutritional training, the core component. I think that the medical culture and profession is unfortunately still very much driven by the pharmaceutical companies but thank goodness there are a few shining lights and we’re hopefully going to change that. In fact, there was recently a large medical summit about the consciousness of evolving original medicine and it’s my hope and belief that we will get there. But it takes some time.
Soul Love: In the chapter about restoring the soul, you explain that too much sadness can harm the soul, but too much happiness can also be unhealthy. How can excessive happiness harm our emotional soul?
Cynthia: That particular phrase came more from my Buddhist training and faith about being centered, being in balance, not having extremes of anything. So there’s happiness, joy and compassion but you can also take that to the extreme and that happiness in and of itself becomes the focus. This will then become an all consuming thing which is not healthy.
Soul Love: Why is it so important to listen to your dreams an how do you relate this to your heart health?
Cynthia: This is something I am studying for myself, on a personal level, because I want to be able to practice this on a professional level so that it becomes my medical intuition, and in this case heart intuition. I know that Howard Martin talks about this in his organization HeartMath because they have the focus on heart intuition, about connecting to our energy centers, our chakras, to that voice inside of us which is really our connection to source and spirit. And that message will be different for each individual and therefore learning to listen to it is very important.
Meditation is a way to connect to that inner voice, but also yoga practices and practices of the Eastern arts are ways of connecting. In that respect I also feel that for some people their dreams are how our intuition and our inner connection talks to us. I personally keep a very gentle openness, I invite people to just be curious and to look at any and all sensory. We know the five physical senses but there are also the non-physical senses like our imagination, our intuition, our memory and our will. We can learn how to tap into those other senses and really understand them. So we can then look at those dreams and be curious about them and ask ourselves what was the message and the way it relates to heart health again. We’ve been focusing on the heart but it’s about general health as well and any thing that shows up, whether is centered in the heart or in the gut or in the brain, they are just clues, they are messages that something is not aligned in that area.
Soul Love: What is our inner guide and can you give us some practical tips to connect with your inner guide?
Cynthia: Our inner guide is our direct connection to source. We have our conscious mind where we do our thinking and processing and receive all the sensory input from our environment. But we also know the subconscious mind, the unconscious mind which is really running the ship. Our subconscious mind is responsible for our paradigms, for our habits and thinking patterns and so forth and I like to think of the inner guide as a relay, a communication center that connects our conscious and our unconscious and also connects on a deeper level to source and spirit.
To connect at that level, you become quiet, mindful, you become present, you look at your thought and you don’t allow yourself to run on an auto pilot which we often do. When we become aware of all that, we will also become curious and start asking powerful questions, first on a conscious level. I like to tell my patients not just to stay on the conscious level because we like to answer our own questions with what our own conscious mind thinks, what we are able to achieve and so we get answers where we have direct data for like our education, our book knowledge and we will stay on that same level. You still won’t be able to connect on that subconscious level and that’s where the magic happens.
When you get really quiet and ask questions like “why is this showing up for me?”, “what are the choices that I am making that are bringing forth this situation that I like to have clarity around?” and “what are the consequences of my actions?” or “are there better choices?” and then you get quiet. We all do have a direct line to source, we just have to pick up the phone and the line is never busy. We just have to ask the highly calibrated questions. You only have to just wait for the answer and shut off that mind which will be trying to block that connection.
Soul Love: Is it true that the heart has a certain brain capacity?
Cynthia: The heart has a lot of neurological connectivity and has its own nerve cells. We always thought of the heart having just muscle cells but there are nerve cells and neuro connections and pathways that go back to the brain as wel as to all other organs in our body. Those connections don’t go through the central nervous system but via neurohormones that don’t need a particular physical route. The HeartMath research also shows that there is as much messaging going from the heart to the brain as there is going from the brain to the heart.
When we talk about the mind, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, people typically have a vision of of the mind being up there (in the head). Well, the brain is in the head, but where is the mind? To me the mind is ever flowing. And if you ask me as a cardiologist, I really think that the mind is much stronger in the heart. All of our deepest communications and thoughts come from the heart. That’s why we use the expression ‘Heart Intelligence’.
Soul Love: How do you personally connect to your own heart and soul on a daily basis Cynthia? How do you do manage to do that in your busy life?
Cynthia: I use a couple of practices. I have a gratitude practice, every day, and I know you do as well. When I wake up in the morning, I am consciously grateful for the person that I am, for the things that are showing up in my life. We can all be grateful for the material things in our life and it’s easy to be grateful for the things that are positive. But we also have the capacity to be grateful in the moment, be grateful for the things that are not necessarily going well and knowing that everything that is showing up is for the purpose of increasing our path to consciousness. That’s one practice that I do.
The other practice that I have is loving kindness. The Dalai Lama has a loving kindness practice, Buddha has a loving kindness practice and it’s really about connecting to your heart. Recognizing that by generating love, kindness and compassion, that it becomes an actual entity that you can immerse yourself in and then send out, as a physical form, this energy to those who you love but also to the one’s you might have a conflict with. I teach my children this same practice and my daughter, who is 11 now, told me that she sends love and kindness to all the people who have Ebola and so there are many communities that can benefit from our loving kindness. When we can do this as a collective community, how powerful is that energy?
Soul Love: We are talking about the heart here and the heart is often the symbol for love. What does love mean to you?
Cynthia: [Dr. Cynthia becomes very quiet now, starts smiling and continues…] Love is a connection that brings all of us together. Love is the highway that connects all of us. Every single individual on this planet – humans, nature, animals, flowers, plants, it’s the connector that connects us to spirit and soul. All that is starts with love.
More information about Dr. Cynthia’s work and book: Yourvibrantheart.com
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER