I’ve spoken about the heart before, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of adding heart to our lives. I’ve also mentioned that I’m busy writing a book, and as the first chapter is all about the heart, I’ve been deep diving into the topic!
I’ve been doing a lot of research and incorporating some tools into my own life. One resource I turn to is the HeartMath Institute (heartmath.org), as I wrote about them in my blog, Giving Thanks. I also became an Add Heart Facilitator, where I am able to share what I’ve learned about the benefits of being heart conscious, and some tools to help align heart and mind. I am not a spokesperson for them, nor am I affiliated in any way…I’m just a big fan.
There is a “brain” in the heart, consisting of about 40,000 neurons, that processes incoming sensory information. The heart is constantly sending messages to the brain via the vagus nerve and spinal cord. The signals go to the medulla, which regulates your blood pressure and autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is made up of your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The ANS influences about 90% of all body functions.
The signals also go to the amygdala, which is your emotional memory center. The amygdala stores your intense, traumatic and noteworthy emotional memories, both good and bad. The job of the amygdala is to get the signal, read it, and find a matching emotional pattern stored there. It then works with the thalamus and the cortex, the thinking and decision making part of the brain, to determine the most appropriate actions to take.
Besides communicating neurologically, the heart is also communicating biochemically, through hormones and neurotransmitters; biophysically, through rhythms in blood pressure waves; and energetically. Every cell in our body gives off an electric charge, which creates an electromagnetic field. And just like a cell phone that receives and transmits information, so do the organs in our bodies. The heart has the strongest electromagnetic field, five thousand times greater than the brain. This energy radiates to every cell in the body, and can be measured up to eight to ten feet away. You could call this your aura or biofield.
Let’s look at the brain and heart as two separate intelligences, both receiving, processing, and transmitting information. Four of the five organs used for sensing input from the physical world are located in close proximity to the brain: eyes, ears, nose and mouth. The brain is basically designed for survival, to help us navigate through the world. The software program is constantly looking for inconsistencies in our environment, alerting us to danger and anything that can go wrong. As we go through life, we are constantly recording our experiences and filing them into categories of pleasure and pain, so we can learn to avoid pain at all costs.
Our brains are wired to see what we believe. They are prediction making machines. They take all of our experiences and package these memories to help us stay alive. They look at the world around us based on our own needs, desires and predictions.
The heart, on the other hand, is also receiving information from the body, mind and energetically from the external world. Communication is being shared in the subtle energy fields surrounding people and environments. You can sense “good vibes” or “bad vibes” when you go somewhere or meet someone. And when a loved one is in distress, you can feel it in your heart.
The wisdom of the heart has been extolled for thousands of years. I believe that the heart is a truer compass, as it receives and processes information in a totally unbiased manner. It doesn’t have the same thinking and predicting mechanism as the brain…it just tells it like it is. Put it this way…your heart is smart. It taps into information, a consciousness that is beyond the limits of time and space. It knows. The little brain in the heart is receiving information, processing it, storing it and making decisions as to how to proceed.
The ultimate state of being is when your brain and heart are working together in harmony. HeartMath calls this heart coherence. Basically, we are incoherent when our thoughts and actions do not match the present moment and/or situation at hand. If a truly stressful or dangerous situation presents itself, then it’s appropriate to set off the fight or flight mechanism. But we have developed patterns where seemingly insignificant events cause us to go haywire. We often function automatically from our programs and habitual responses.
For a year and a half, I’ve been using the HeartMath Inner Balance app. There is a sensor that clips to your earlobe and monitors your heart rate variability (HRV) and coherence. It’s a great way to practice getting in and staying in coherence. It’s a way to take the focus off the brain and put it on the heart.
Here are snapshots of two sessions. In the top image, I was a little stressed out and the HRV is a jagged line. In the bottom image, I was more coherent and in the flow. The HRV is a smoother, more even sine wave.
Challenge for the week: Add heart and get coherent!
You don’t need the Inner Balance app to get coherent, although it’s a great tool. Here is a technique from HeartMath that can help called the Heart Lock-In:
1) Find a quiet place where you can relax. Close your eyes, if that’s comfortable.
2) Shift your attention to your heart area. Sometimes it helps to place your hand over your heart, as the sense of touch concentrates your focus.
3) Pretend that you are breathing in and out through the heart. Cultivate slow, deep rhythmic breaths…with an even inhale and exhale to balance the ANS.
4) Focus on a feeling of love, appreciation or care. It helps to feel the feeling without getting too much into thoughts. I often imagine a smile in my heart. Stay with this feeling for five to fifteen minutes.
5) Send that feeling of love to yourself and others.
The more you practice this, the easier it becomes. It helps you become more coherent and also helps you to access your heart’s intelligence, increasing your natural intuition.
Have a great week! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.