The Heart of It All (from Mind, Body, & Spirit: Challenges of Science and Faith)

In his book The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit, Joseph Chilton Pearce described the human heart as a fifth brain. Numerous other researchers have emphasized the interrelationship of functions between the heart and the brain. Throughout history, the heart has been characterized as the seat or source of love. The fourth chakra of spiritual energy is called the Anahata or “heart chakra.” It is purported to contain the seed for the ability to feel divine: pure love for everyone and everything. Details of this are discussed in Laura Henry’s online presentation “The Fourth Chakra: Anahata.”

Neurocardiology

This discipline has uncovered some amazing facts about the heart, according to Rollin McCraty, Executive VP and Research Director of the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California (2004). The human heart:

• has sixty percent nerve cells,

• has an energy field over five thousand times stronger than the brain’s,

• has a nervous system that enables it to make decisions independent of the brain,

• can receive, process, and remember information,

• sends signals to the brain to assist the brain in aspects of consciousness,

• generates the body’s most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field, permeating every cell, to help synchronize body processes,

• communicates the person’s emotional state throughout the body,

• rhythms appear to be disturbed by negative emotions,

• seems to be encouraged to function more coherently by positive emotions, and

• has energy fields that can establish resonance with other individuals’ energy fields and with group energy fields.

Coherence

Basically, coherence is the process of achieving a harmonious order and cooperation of physiological processes by individual body sub-systems. Other terms related to coherence are synchronization, entrainment, and resonance. HeartMath believes, “the rhythm of the heart … sets the beat for the entire system,” according to the Institutes online article “A Brief Look At Coherence.” Emotional and mental states can influence heart rhythms and thereby can affect the functioning of physiological processes. The term “psychophysiological coherence” has been used to denote “a distinctive mode of functioning” that appears to result from “sustained positive emotions.”

Breathing

One outcome of the Institute of HeartMath’s research has been the development of special breathing exercises they call “Attitude Breathing.” These were designed to enhance consciousness by improving heart-induced coherence. Consciousness in this context means not only awareness, but also thinking, feeling, and doing. An example might be to help control the impact of stressful daily events.

These breathing exercises seem to be a key recommendation from HeartMath to those people interested in taking advantage of the Institute’s findings about heart health. Doc Childre and fellow researchers at HeartMath have published three books emphasizing those exercises: Transforming Stress: The Heartmath Solution for Relieving Worry, Fatigue, and Tension ; Transforming Anxiety: The Heartmath Solution to Overcoming Fear and Worry and Creating Serenity; and Transforming Depression: The Heartmath Solution to Feeling Overwhelmed, Sad, and Stressed.

Some readers of these books criticized them as simply a form of meditation, but other readers applauded the techniques recommended there as offering a longer-term benefit than meditation. Meditation, one reader felt, provides “relaxing and blissful mind states” but it lets participants slip back afterward into “our conditioned discontent and unhappiness.” HeartMath’s efforts appear to prepare participants to deal with everyday pressures on a long-term basis.

Personal and Group Interaction

Robin Kelly’s book cites some unusual achievements by the Institute of HeartMath in focusing its emphasis “on the link between our emotions and our heart.” Kelly calls our heart our “energy center.” HeartMath demonstrated that the heart waves of one person could be affected by another person’s brain waves when they held hands and even up to four feet apart.

HeartMath’s research also suggests that individual human energy fields may influence interpersonal relations. It often was believed that verbal and non-verbal characteristics shaped people’s initial impression of and behavior with one another. However, some researchers had believed that each of us has the ability to sense one another’s emotional state. HeartMath now claims that evidence reveals “a subtle yet influential electromagnetic or ‘energetic’ communications system [that] operates just below our conscious awareness.”

HeartMath proposed too that the faculty of energy resonance between individuals can extend to group social interactions. Renee Levi’s doctoral dissertation supported HeartMath’s proposal as Levi probed the existence and nature of group resonance. She felt, “as human beings become more authentic, more deeply in touch with themselves and what they believe, and display behaviors that express this, that their energy fields change.” Otherwise, their fields may vibrate at their own natural frequency rather than resonate with one another. Love, a major heart-centered emotion, has been called the “cosmic consciousness.”

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