How Finding My Heart Saved Me

stack of rocks

Steve Ray from Natural Way of Living speaks with Franca Carrera, a client liaison within the personal injury law sector.

Steve: So Franca, you have lived an amazing life. It seems that a lot happened early on that gave you clues that there was something you needed to find or something you needed to do?  Maybe you could start with that time when you were 11?

Franca:    Ok, well, I remember growing up in a family where I was quite sensitive compared to others in my family. So I was always a little bit on the outside, and always searching for something or to be connected to something.

Steve: Even when you were very young?

Franca:   Yes, it was very natural to me to want to make people happy to care and feel connected and part of something. When I was about 11, I remember I was in my room and this beautiful feeling washed over me. It went through my head and whole body and I got goosebumps. It was such a wonderful  feeling, and I just said to myself, “That’s love”, and I remember saying “This is God”, but not in a religious context. I went to a Catholic school and we were baptized and raised accordingly, but I never connected to the conformity and the structure around Catholicism. From that point on, I started to do my own research, reading books, just to get to know about and to build a relationship with God. I wanted to know how to talk to God.

Unfortunately, life kind of let me down…I think I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I was still finding my direction, searching, but off track, still that experience at 11 really stayed with me. When I was 16, I was seeking approval, but that can have negative consequences. I started berating myself, didn’t like myself and compared myself to all the other girls. This was compounded by the fact that at around age 11, there was an experience of sexual abuse. So then by the time I was 15, all the negativity, guilt and shame built up and it manifested in me experimenting…discovering…It’s hard to put words around this because it was not even talked about publicly back then. Anyway, I experienced bulimia. It was a physical expression of all that was within me, so it actually felt quite normal, and this continued as part of my identity all the way until I was about 33.

Steve: Wow!

Franca:    Yes, it started as bulimia, and then it became anorexia, and then I started to abuse drugs. At the time I felt I was searching for something, even within the eating disorder I wanted to be loved, but then I would do the complete opposite and it was the same with the drugs. I was looking for connection and even when on the drugs, I actually felt so connected at times, or what I thought was connected.

It wasn’t until after I left my daughter’s dad when she was 22 months (my daughter and I left together), it was a very abusive relationship, that I absolutely broke down. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. At one point my mum walked in and she saw me in the wardrobe, just closed up and crying on the floor and she said, “What is going on?” I said, “I don’t know who I am, I don’t know…I don’t have any energy, I don’t know what I’m about.” And it was in that moment I realized I had to find something and that something had to change.

Steve: How old were you then?

Franca:    I think I was about 30?  

Then, something did change. And I began my spiritual journey. Right when I had hit a low point,  I started doing Reiki and various meditation practices, gratitude manifestation, and so on.  I had this great discipline due to the eating disorder, this kind of willpower didn’t serve me well, but in these practices I became very dedicated. I tried Buddhism too and I loved praying in Buddhism, but with everything I did, it felt like there was something missing for me. Despite there being changes in my life I still felt empty.

One of the things about an eating disorder is you don’t feel anything. You are on autopilot, consumed with a million thoughts. Just surviving. Anyway, I jumped onto Meetup, which was random because Meetups were not even that big, and I was like “I need to find something that’s about Love.” Lo and behold I found Open Heart Meditation (OHM). I drove out to this private address thinking, “What are you doing Franca? You’re a single woman, you don’t know anyone”. Then I walked in and I did the OHM and…I felt something! Everything I experienced that day was pure love. No one was trying to sell me anything, they all just wanted me to experience my heart and to be there, at that moment I said, “This is for me”.

So here I am, 8 years on from that first Open Heart Meditation.

The other day a friend said to me. “Franca you are so relaxed”, and I can’t tell you how that makes me feel to hear that after years of literally not sleeping. It’s really just so amazing to think back to that time, and how I’ve totally transformed since then.

Steve:  So once you started really doing open heart meditation, What did you notice most about what happened to you in terms of how you lived your life and your feelings and so on, because you talked about not feeling beforehand.

Franca:    With other practices I noticed I needed to be practicing them to get the result. and I would come out of the practice and I would once again be busy in my mind or whatever, and then I would need to do something again to still my mind and so on. However within months of doing Open Heart Meditation, I found myself one day singing out in the kitchen. “Wow, I’m not busy in my mind, and I’m not even practicing!”.  So it actually changed me inside, the love changed this habit. That was the first thing I noticed. But I also noticed how much calmer I had become.  Physiologically, I changed…I’m a highly strung person, or I was. I would need to take an upper – for example, coffee or amphetamine-based something to keep me going, but now, I can find peace and calm in my day and I can come back to that calmness if I get emotional.  I can communicate so much better with other people and I can be just me, not try to change myself to the situation etc. So many things have changed…  

Life now feels so much more beautiful and more simple and I experience so much more gratitude, even when things are not going the way I expect it to be. I find myself just saying, “True Source Love has got this, it will be okay, I don’t need all the answers”.

Steve:  What happened with your eating disorder. How did that change after Open Heart?

Franca:  Well, thanks for asking that, you know I kept that secret for 19 years. I kept it away from everyone including my family and friends. I was lying to myself all that time, as well as everyone else. When I went to an Open Heart Spiritual Retreat, something huge shifted in me and I was able to tell my mum about the eating disorder and she just held me. She said, “Whatever it means, we can do this together”. I was so blessed.

My body was broken though. Doctors said I would never have my period again, never have children again, I was a mess. Through Open Heart I was helped by so many people to just take one step at a time and to keep trusting, just touch your heart, keep trusting. Letting go is the hardest part, letting go and allowing yourself to really accept help and talking to people. This is really important. Even though I knew that the love was so sweet during that first experience, because I was so used to this other way of being and so scared to let go, I really had to talk to people to understand that I needed to take one step at a time, and then my body completely transformed and in just 7 months, my period came back.

Now, not only am I completely healthy, there is no part of me that hates myself or thinks I need to change myself. When you really start to experience the love, you realise you are loved. and the love changes you. I didn’t have to listen to those people saying, “You have to love yourself” because that felt so empty.  It was a really big shift to let the love change me. It changed parts of me that I didn’t even realise I had.

With eating disorders, even if you get through them, you can turn to other things like drugs and alcohol, because the pattern within you is not really healed. The miracle was that the love healed that deep recording of self-hatred within me.

Steve: Wow, how amazing, because that was such an old pattern within you that you spent a long time reinforcing in your system, and to be able to have said “That’s not right”, that just says so much about what opening your heart at a practical level means, and how it can transform you. You did something that the doctor said was not possible, and you’re saying it was the love from True Source that was key to that, not you, how wonderful!

Franca:  Yes, and you know for me, it was a big lesson, because many of us are great at giving but not at receiving. The love helped me to receive. We have no idea how important accepting love is. When we do that, we can be changed, but if we don’t, love can’t change us, really, we are blocking love when we don’t accept it.

Steve:  What a great insight Franca. So let me get this right. When you did Reiki, you realised it was giving you the opportunity to share love but at the same time you were receiving love, because that’s how it works, yes? The energy flows only because you are receiving it?

Franca: Yes! If you are searching for love, then you are likely a very giving person. We love, love. And we like giving love, but those parts of us that I’ve described in myself that I mentioned through my eating disorder, when I was really hating myself, it’s those parts that are transformed. I can no longer hate myself because the love changes that within me. As soon as I felt love, I began to accept it and eventually through the amazing practice of Open Heart and Reiki, even the parts that were resistant to love began to accept.

Steve: So Franca, tell us about your daughter, Sienna?

Franca:   I became a sole parent when she was 22 months and people say, wow, it must have been so hard being a sole parent but here’s the thing, it wasn’t and hasn’t been hard because I’ve stayed connected to my heart.  

My daughter is so different to me. She’s like the complete opposite, she’s strong, she’s confident, she’s all the things that I wasn’t when I was a kid. She’s sure of herself, and at times I have found that so confronting, because I’ve never experienced that for myself and she’s all the things I would have liked to have been.

So, here is where the heart has been so key to my relationship with her being one that is really respectful of her difference and ensures that I am the parent she needs me to be, to support her uniqueness. What my heart has really shown me to do is to see her as she is, and there has been a complete letting go of me needing to try and change her.

She’s also so different to the rest of my family as well. And as parents we can often try and mould our children into how we would like them to be, or how we think they should be, or how society wants them to be, etc. It’s a very strong driver in us. The heart has guided me to take a step back and let her be the person she is supposed to be, even if the rest of my family disagree and judge me and talk about it negatively and so on. However it’s been years since that time, and my family now think that she’s the most amazing kid. She’s a teenager, (she’s now 14) and she gets ruffled and I get ruffled at times, and I get emotional sometimes too.

The greatest gift is that the heart connection gives me a chance at a reset. Even though I get emotional, the love just washes away everything and allows me to see her again anewed, and who she needs to be in the world.

I’m so grateful that she has her heart, it’s her inner compass. She checks things, her choices and decisions with her heart and it is so beautiful. I know that she is bound to have some wild experiences but I also know that her heart will always bring her back to her true centre, and she won’t stray too far. That really gives me peace of mind as a parent and it also helps the two of us to connect in a way that’s really special. It’s not always with words and it’s not always with actions.  

So, I’ve been super grateful for my parenting experience, even though it’s been as a sole parent, and even though I haven’t met anyone and I’m still living on my own, I’ve always felt supported, loved and guided and when I do meet someone, I know it will be right for me.

Thank you for allowing me to share.