“The solution is for us to learn how to love more fully and deeply; to look at the world through our hearts as well as through our heads — to become more inner-self managed.” – Dr. William Tiller, founder of the Institute of Psychoenergetic Science and HeartMath research contributor, featured in What The Bleep Do We Know?
“Follow your heart,” we say when we want to advise someone to make the right choice.
“Cross my heart,” we announce when we want someone to know we are telling the truth.
“A bleeding heart,” we use to describe someone who is sensitive, compassionate towards others and/or committed to service.
We give a purple heart to those who have done courageous and noble things on the battle field. We give candy hearts with cutesy sayings on them to those we want to woo on Valentine’s Day.
The heart is a symbol for intuition, love and truth. It has been considered the source of emotion, courage and wisdom for indigenous peoples and traditional societies for centuries.
As a part of our physical bodies, it’s a pretty important mechanism as well. Without it, we could survive for about zero seconds.
But what if the heart were a lot more important than we ever realized?
In terms of human intelligence and our connection to all life on Earth and within the cosmos, what if the heart were actually more important than the brain?
And what if instead of merely being a symbol for love, intuition, wisdom, courage, compassion, and deep connection, it really was the source of all those things within us in a very tangible, and measurable, way?
For over 25 years, Heart Math has been asking these very questions.
The research conducted by this organization hasn’t been feel-good questionnaire-type stuff. It has been hard-boiled science conducted by some of the greatest scientific minds around.
And the result has been studies that have literally changed what we now know about this wonderful and still mysterious organ.
Since the beginning, researchers at Hearth Math, under the guidance of founder and stress-reduction pioneer Doc Childre, have started with the basics:
“Let’s take a look at what we know already about the heart’s connections to other organs,” Childre and his colleagues said back in 1991, being the practical-minded scientists that they were, “Let’s check out brain waves, skin conductance, blood pressure, hormone levels…all the functions of the body that we know the heart has a part of and go from there.”
(I’m not exactly sure that they said all this in one big sentence, but you get the idea.)
At any rate, what they discovered was quite remarkable:
1.) The heart has a “brain.” According to Heart Math researchers:
“We … observed that the heart acted as though it had a mind of its own and could significantly influence the way we perceive and respond in our daily interactions. In essence, it appeared that the heart could affect our awareness, perceptions and intelligence.”
2.) The heart contains cells that release and synthesize “feel good” hormones, such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, and oxytocin. Oxytocin is also known as the “love” or social-bonding hormone and is responsible for childbirth and lactation. It is also involved in the cognition, tolerance, trust and friendship.
“Remarkably,” say HeartMath researchers, “concentrations of oxytocin produced in the heart are in the same range as those produced in the brain.”
3.) There is a direct correlation between the heart and the emotions. The communication that occurs between them effects every organ and system in the body;
4.) These heart-brain communications run through the channels of the Vagus Nerve (the central point of the para- sympathetic nervous system); they actually flow from the heart to the brain, not the other way around. In technical terms, here is the how that flow goes: “The sympathetic afferent nerves first connect to the extrinsic cardiac ganglia (also a processing center), then to the dorsal root ganglion and the spinal cord. Once afferent signals reach the medulla, they travel to the subcortical areas (thalamus, amygdala, etc.) and then the higher cortical areas.”
5.) Heart rate variability, or heart rhythms, most reflects the fluctuations in one’s emotional states, current stressors and even cognitive processes. For example, high levels of negative stress, such as frustration or anger, will be reflected in higher fluctuations in heart rhythm and can also be measured as increased disorder in the higher-level brain centers and the autonomic nervous system;
6.) The heart is the most powerful source of electromagnetic energy in the body. Its amplitude is about 60 times greater than that of the brain. The heart’s electro-magnetic field can be detected up to 3 feet away from the body in all directions. These facts have led to further studies as to the energetic communication capabilities of humans using “cardioelectromagnetics,” (basically, telepathy), with positive results.
The research that Heart Math and forward-thinking others have done over the years have led to some pretty exciting conclusions about how we humans– the complicated and beautiful beings that we are– operate as individuals and as vital parts of an planetary and cosmic whole.
They are empowering conclusions as well, because they show us that we have lot more say about our mental, emotional and even physical health than we realize.
Health and well-being on all levels can come not so much from the absence of disease, but rather from a state of inner balance. The folks at Heart Math call this “Coherence,” “a sense that life is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful.”
It is this form of inner balance, peace and connection to ourselves and to all of life around us that we all strive for at the deepest level.
It is why we go on retreat, why we take ourselves and our loved ones on far-away adventures and why we may decide sometimes to go nowhere at all in order to unplug from all the noise and simply go within. Through a myriad of tools such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, retreating, being in nature, practicing gratitude– or through using more technological mechanisms like what Heart Math offers—balance and peace is possible.
We can grow our ability to stay in balance as the inevitable changes of life occur within us and in the world around us.
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