To begin with this can seem far-fetched, surely when we think of a heart we just see lovely cute Valentine’s day images, it signifies romantic love or love for a child or an animal, but there are negative images attached too, we also know that a high proportion of people have heart disease, heart failure, heart attacks, we worry about cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and stress and when its linked to our emotional state, we talk of a broken heart, we recognise that our heart can expand to an even great capacity than we thought possible (enough to love subsequent children as much as the firstborn)
Most of us acknowledge the importance of our brain but sometimes don’t recognize that the heart is Emperor within the mind / body system, it’s the first port if call to receive the ‘energy’ of anything, it communicates this to the brain, the brain signals to the body to tell it what to do, and then we have a conscious realization – ‘oh I’m feeling scared…need to run, I’m feeling upset, my ears will fill with tears, I will cry’
Of course all of this all happens automatically but as we all well know it’s going on constantly and the more negative the emotions the more stressed we become. Many people live in a constant state of stress, the adrenaline is high, they are ready to fight or flee – but there isn’t really a tiger there – it’s just that the bus is late, or the delivery hasn’t been dispatched, or we didn’t get chosen to participate in something we had worked hard for, but we don’t fight, and we don’t run either (interestingly that’s why if we do physical exercise it can be brilliant for relieving stress) usually the stress is internalized.
Karl also made us aware of the work of the US Heartmath organisation. HeartMath was founded by Doc Childre in 1991 to help individuals, organizations and the global community incorporate the heart’s intelligence into their day-to-day experience of life. They connect heart and science in ways that empower people to greatly reduce stress, build resilience, and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making better choices.
Surgeons have reported that they have given heart transplants to patients who when recovered, take on the characteristics of the donor. The film Heartless portrays Angus Deayton as a straight laced divorce lawyer who has a heart transplant after a sudden heart attack, acting on a new impulse he gets an urge to buy a leather jacket and motorbike and takes off to the wilds of Scotland, there he decides to stay in a B&B, sees a photo on the mantelpiece of a guy on a motorbike, it transpires it’s the owners husband who died in an accident and donated his heart – to Angus’ character – its fictitious – yet according to some surgeons plausible. Of course, for a bit of fun, you may have seen the movie Last Christmas (sorry spoiler alert if you haven’t!)
What can we do with this kind of information? Well quite a lot it seems, Heartmath have made popular a simple breathing technique that could transform our lives, from the school room to the workplace to our personal relationships and could probably massively reduce the burden on the NHS with anxiety and stress related illnesses.
We watched Karl via the internet link up his heartrate to a monitor on the Heartmath site, we saw his starting heart rate graph, fluctuating between 90 and 50 bpm, the graph showed a chaotic jagged line, then he did the simple Heartmath exercise, with his hand on his heart he took 6 slow breaths in and out, then he consciously thought of something positive, a time when he felt great, a place where he wanted to be, someone he loved deeply, within seconds his heart rate had stabilised and the graph become a gently flowing wave – no more jagged rises or dips – it was extraordinary.
This is what athletes call being ‘in the zone’ – others call this state being in flow…it’s a state of high coherence bringing the brain in sync with the heart. In Ireland it’s used widely in schools, some forward thinking teachers are using it in UK schools too, can you begin to imagine how different everyone’s day might look if it became standardized?
Feeling stressed or want to feel ‘heart-centred?
Try this simple Heartmath technique before the next potentially stressful thing you know you need to do…and check in with it to ensure that you are on course with the decisions you make for your life.
Place your hand over your heart and take 6 breaths in and out, exhaling slowly. Focus your attention on a feeling of gratitude, of appreciation for something or someone you love deeply.
Your heart rate will calm in seconds but stay with the feeling for up to five minutes.
Gently imagine sending that feeling of love and appreciation to yourself and others.
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