When people talk about the “consciousness of the heart,” we automatically assume that they are speaking metaphorically, or romantically, or spiritually. We make allowances for the metaphor because, first, the understanding is based on common sense – love, care, and intimacy are all associated with the heart – and, second, because we don’t expect hard science to discover that the heart is anything more than an elaborate pump.
Well, all of that is changing – and fast. New research is showing that the heart is a realm all its own. In fact, the heart may be the master of the entire body – first, because the electrical energy produced by the heart regulates all the body’s functions, and, second, because the distinct kind of thinking and feeling associated with the heart enhances the heart’s power to create health.
We Are Electrical Systems, Creating Waves And Fields
Every cell, organ, and system of the body runs, in part, by electricity, and every part of the body produces an electrical field. Sensitive electrical equipment can measure the electrical output produced by any part of the body. You might automatically think that the brain is the body’s biggest producer of electricity, but you’d be wrong. The heart produces 60 times the amplitude of the brain, and generates a field 5000 times greater in strength and size than the brain.
When seen through the lens of electrical sensors, a human being’s electrical field looks like a giant doughnut lying on its side, with each of us standing in the doughnut hole. The field extends in all directions by as much as five feet. At the center of the doughnut is a little ball of electricity, which is the electrical field produced by the brain. The doughnut of electricity is produced primarily by the heart.
Comparing the electrical output of the heart versus the electricity produced by the brain is like comparing the power of an elephant with that of a rabbit.
Why is this important?
Because there is a scientific principle known as entrainment, which is the ability of a powerful, pulsating wave, or set of waves, to draw all other fields into harmony, or coherence, with it. In other words, the heart coordinates all the other pulsating, or oscillating energies of the body, meaning every cell, organ, system, hormone, and chemical event within the entire organism.
Entrainment: How The Heart Regulates All Your Systems And Creates Health Or Illness
In 1656, the Dutch physicist, mathematician, and astronomer Christian Huygens was in the process of inventing the first pendulum clock. One evening, Huygens decided to put several pendulum clocks on the same wall. Naturally, all the pendulums were swinging at different rates – the clocks looked like an alley-full of cats arrayed on the wall, each one with its tail swinging back and forth at its own pace, all of them out of rhythm and rhyme. Huygens soon fell asleep. When he woke up, all the pendulums were swinging together in perfect unison. Somehow they had all been harmonized while he slept.
Huygens was a smart guy – he had already improved the lenses on telescopes and had invented the balance wheel that we still use to make wrist watches work. The Dutchman immediately understood that the pendulums had been synchronized by waves that traveled through the wall. But the “aha moment” came when he realized that the strongest wave – the one produced by the most powerful clock – had drawn all the other waves into harmony with its own wave pattern.
Thus was born the theory of entrainment, or the knowledge that oscillating bodies produce waves that, when they share the same medium, tend to coordinate and oscillate in harmony with each other.
An everyday example of this is music. You can be in a low, dark mood, but when the right song comes on the radio, or is played on your stereo, your mood is immediately lifted by the notes and harmonies of the music. Your waves have been lifted up, or entrained, by the song’s waves.
Every cell in your body oscillates, thanks to a number of activities, including electrical signals and chemical processes, including the turning on and off of genes. Throughout the day, you experience surges and falls of hormones, which create oscillating waves throughout your body, as well. Your lungs contract and expand, as do your intestines, and every other organ in your body. As they oscillate, they produce waves that flow throughout your system.
Since there are ten trillion cells in your body, and each of these cells are composed of smaller bodies of energy, right down to their molecules and atoms, we obviously are talking about numbers that extend way beyond the trillions. And all of these elements are producing electrical wave patterns.
These waves could create a chorus of cacophonic waves, all banging into each other, throughout your system. That would soon create electrical, chemical, and hormonal chaos, which would lead to physical, emotional, and mental illness, and then death.
That is, unless some larger wave organized all the trillions and trillions of smaller waves into a larger harmony. Guess which organ does that?
That Heroic “S” Stands For Synchrony (And Maybe Super)
Your heart is the strongest electrical wave pattern in your body. Consequently, it coordinates, or entrains, the entire system, based on its own condition. If your heart is producing a harmonious, rhythmic wave pattern, it will entrain all the waves of your body into a harmonious concert, which in turn will produce beautiful music. That music has the ability to open and illuminate all your human capabilities; indeed, it can awaken the powers of your soul.
On the other hand, if your heart is weak, conflicted, and chaotic, it will lose its ability to organize the many trillions of waves in your system. The chaos that ensues will eventually lead to the breakdown of organs and cellular functions, which in turn will create mental and physical illness, and ultimately death.
In short, your potential as a human being depends on health and optimal function of your heart.
What, we should ask, causes the heart to produce harmonious or chaotic waves? I’m glad you asked.
The Regulator Of Your Heart
Like so many other aspects of your body – your immune system, hormones, and digestion, just to name a few — your heart is controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is divided into two branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. Each branch is responsible for very different functions within the body. In general, the sympathetic nervous system speeds up nervous, chemical, and electrical events within the system.
As sympathetic activity increases, multiple systems throughout your body speed up as well. Your metabolic rate becomes faster. Your digestion gets faster. As it increases, diarrhea becomes more likely.
As the system accelerates, brain chemistry changes, as well. Brain function speeds up. You think and speak faster, for example. But chemical events change within the brain, causing dopamine and norepinephrine to increase, thus causing elevations in anxiety and nervous tension. If allowed to increase, you will experience more and more fear and anger. Eventually, those chemicals will lead to increasing states of paranoia, rage, aggression, and even violence.
All physical and electrical events function at higher rates, as well. This means that your body will burn more energy and generate more oxidation. Oxidants are highly reactive oxygen molecules that break down cells and organs and increase the speed with which we age. Most of the serious illnesses we contract today are caused by elevated levels of oxidation throughout the system. Thus, as sympathetic activity rises and dominates your system, you’re going to age more rapidly and your chances of contracting a serious illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, are going to rise precipitously, as well.
You can see where all of this is going. Sympathetic nervous function can lead increasingly to stress, anxiety, fear, aggression, paranoia, more rapid aging, mental and physical illness, and death.
That is, unless it is balanced by its sibling, the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic system not only slows chemical and electrical functions, but it also creates coherence and order. It is associated with energy recovery, gathering, and rest. It stimulates anti-oxidation, and thus sustains cellular order and health, which in turn slows aging. Since oxidation is the basis for most of the illnesses from which we suffer, the antioxidant effects of the parasympathetic system also protects us from many serious illnesses.
Just as the sympathetic function is stimulated by various emotions, and in fact generates those emotions, as well, the parasympathetic is also associated with an array of mental and emotional states. These include the experience of relaxation, openness, feelings of love, peace, and gratitude.
The chart below gives a summary of the two branches of the ANS and their respective effects on our lives.
|SYMPATHETIC SYSTEM||PARASYMPATHETIC SYSTEM|
|Speeds up cellular, chemical, and electrical functions||Slows down cellular, chemical, and electrical functions|
|Speeds neurotransmission||Slows neurotransmission|
|Energy expenditure increases||Energy recovery and gathering|
|Increases oxidation, decreases||Reduces oxidation, Increases|
|Heart rate increases||Heart rate slows|
|Smooth muscle function increases||Body relaxes|
|Elevations in stress, fear, anger. (If allowed to increase, negative mental states worsen.)||Elevations in feelings of peace, love, understanding, gratitude|
|Going toward activity, breakdown, chaos||Going toward coherence, disorder, and assimilation, integration|
|Stimulated by Cities||Enhanced by Nature|
|In general, Yang||In general, Yin|
|In general, Fire and Heat||In general, Water and Cooling|
Older and Younger Siblings that Need Each Other
Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are essential to life. We need both in order to respond appropriately to our environment. One system gives us our instinctive powers, while another opens us up to the higher human potentials. Both are essential in our journey to wholeness.
Nevertheless, a clear hierarchy exists between the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions. Let’s face it, it’s easier to live from the sympathetic consciousness. It’s easier to forget yourself, work too hard, burn out, and become overly stressed, angry, and empty. These things can happen – and usually do — without our being aware. In fact, the less aware of our inner lives, the more likely we are to fall victim to excessive sympathetic nervous function – or, in other words, the consciousness of stress, overwork, anxiety, and fear.
It takes a certain elevation of consciousness, a certain awareness of higher priorities, to demand more time and activity associated with parasympathetic function.
In order to do that, we must become more adept at using one of our most powerful tools for understanding life – yin and yang.
The Rising Wave And The Falling Wave – Yin And Yang In Balance
It can be helpful to think of yin and yang as a wave pattern, with rising and descending parts of the wave. The rising part of the wave can be seen as the part that represents energy expenditure and increasing stress – in other words, the yang ray of the wave — while the descending part of the wave can be seen as energy recovery and rest, in short, the yin part of the wave. The rising is yang, the declining is yin. The following schematic can help us visualize what I mean.
RISING WAVE DECLINING WAVE
Energy Expenditure Energy Recovery
Stress Relaxation, peace
Increasing speed Decreasing speed
For the vast majority of us, most of life is spent on the rising wave, which means that we burn more energy than we recover; we live under more stress than in relaxation and peace; we spend more time working than resting. Most of us live too much under the sympathetic function. We get too yang.
It’s true that this is not the case for everyone. Many spend too much time on the yin part of the wave. For these people, balance means increasing sympathetic nervous activity.
Nevertheless, most of us who work for a living in the 21st century are dominated by the yang part of the wave. We must become more conscious of our need for balance, which, practically speaking means, consciously seeking out high quality yin. That means spending more time consciously living in, and promoting the function of, the parasympathetic nervous system.
In order to accomplish this, we must think of the heart as a realm composed of three aspects of human life – physical, emotional-psychological, and spiritual. We must then act to heal the heart in all three realms of its being.
The Three Part Harmony Of The Heart
The physical, emotional-psychological, and spiritual hearts are all interwoven, so that what you do for your physical heart will help to heal your emotional and spiritual hearts. The same is true in reverse: What you do for your spiritual heart will heal your emotional and physical hearts.
Healing The Physical Heart
The physical heart obviously means the physical organ itself, the part medicine regards as the pump.
To heal the physical organ, we must establish the following:
- Clean, rich blood. The heart requires an abundance of plant foods, rich nutrition, fiber, oxygen, and antioxidants. It has a limited capacity to deal with animal foods, especially saturated fat, which leads to atherosclerosis and the suffocation and death of the heart.
- Maximize circulation. The physical heart requires oxygen, above all else, which means we must maximize blood circulation to the heart. To do this, we need to keep the arteries open. Reductions in stress, negative emotions, and animal fats are all essential to maximum circulation.
- Heal the liver. All the inflammatory compounds that destroy the heart, including LDL (“bad’) cholesterol, homocysteine (which is elevated by excesses of animal protein and destroys arteries), fibrinogen (which creates clots), and c-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation levels) are all created in the liver. In order to heal the liver, we must eat an abundance of plant foods, especially green and leafy vegetables, sweet vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, and whole, cooked grains. We must avoid fried and fatty foods, excesses of alcohol, and excesses of anger.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is essential to the strength, vitality, and fitness of the heart. Exercise also increases circulation and oxygen to the heart. Without exercise, the heart atrophies.
Healing the Emotional-Psychological Heart
Certain emotions support the parasympathetic function, which means they support the vitality and overall health of the heart. The following are just some of the parasympathetic boosters, which we all need more of.
- Love. Rather than think of love as a state of being, consider it more of an action – indeed, a set of actions that nourish and support your life, and the lives of others. In order to boost parasympathetic function, and thereby strengthen the heart wave, we must engage in loving behaviors, first, toward ourselves, and second toward others. Engage in acts of love toward yourself constantly. Eat well. Get care, such as massage and acupuncture. Take walks in nature. Take loving care of your body. Surround yourself with beauty, such as radiant colors and works of art. Get enough rest. Make time for activities that are fun and give you pleasure.
- Truth. Express your truth, if only to yourself. By coming to know your truth, you come to know yourself.
- Courage. Courage is needed to act on your truth. Most people dislike what they do for a living, which means they are afraid of leaving Hell. Have the courage to seek new opportunities. The Source of Life will respond by opening new doors. (See below.)
- Compassion. You have done the best you could with your life. Have compassion for yourself. In all likelihood, you were raised under difficult circumstances. The odds were long against success. Yet, you have succeeded again and again. Take heart. Despite all that you have suffered, you are still a seeker of love and truth and the Source. Your essential goodness is still the pilot of your life.Compassion for self is the basis for self-love, which itself is the basis for future success. You can not make a new start, nor improve your circumstances, without first establishing compassion and love for yourself.
- Find ways to help others.
Healing the Spiritual Aspect of Your Heart
Your heart is the direct, physical representative of your soul. Your soul relies on your heart to make you aware of your soul’s intentions, desires, and instructions. Feel the joy that arises when you listen to your heart; speak and act from your heart; do what you love. Act in this way and your soul will be the real pilot of your life. Here are a few ways that you can do that.
- Spend time being. Whatever you are doing, be in the doing entirely. Practice focusing on whatever is right in front of you and, as much as you can, consciously connect to the present moment. While sitting, sit. Enjoy the rest. While eating, eat. Enjoy the food. While working, work. Enjoy the work. While reading, read. Enjoy it. As much as possible, dissolve into whatever you are doing. Give yourself to the living action of the moment.
- Listen. Being present to whatever you feel is an act of listening to your inner life. Feel the emotions, insight, and soft impulses that arise within you. Bring your awareness to whatever is occurring inside of you. Don’t judge it. Just open to it. Awareness is one of the tools your soul uses to heal every aspect of your life. By bringing awareness to whatever is rising within you, you allow your soul – the Divine being within you – to heal your imbalances and pain, to understand your needs, to answer your prayers, and to recreate your life. Awareness is the act of bringing non-judgmental attention to whatever is crying out in your body, heart, and mind. Awareness is the channel that allows soul to intermingle with whatever is calling out for help.
- Pray. Ask for what you need. Ask for what others need. Pray every day, as often as possible.
- As much as possible, get beyond good and bad. These are the basis of conflict. They are the source of energy for the sickness of our day. We must practice healing them by seeing them as inherently false. Rumi, the great Persian poet, said it best, perhaps.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
- Help others do all of these and more.
The heart is a realm, a representative of heaven on earth, a healing force, a wave greater than any other wave in the body. It has consciousness and power. It can heal you and spread healing throughout the world. This is why we make every effort to come into its domain, understand its nature, and let it direct our lives. It is our only hope.