On this Valentine’s Day week, I think it is fitting to talk about the heart. Did you know that your heart beats independent from any information or energy sent from the brain? The electrical impulse of the heart is said to be 60 times larger than the impulse sent from our brains. The SA node at the top right chamber of your heart sending the electrical impulse that creates the beat of your heart. Your heart is also an endocrine gland receiving and sending biochemicals all over the body. So, the heart receives information from the body about feelings and emotions being experienced and the heart can send out messages to signal how we must respond. This forms an endless loop of sending and receiving.
Let’s think about this by exploring our heart rate variability. Did you know that your heart beat can change from beat-to-beat? Our heart can beat faster one beat and slower to the next beat. I knew that my heart rate increases when I am anxious or nervous, when I am exercising, or watching a scary movie. Also, I can slow my heart rate down through meditation, breath work, and by drinking a nice glass of red wine! The idea that is new to me is that this fluctuation happens all day long according to what message the heart is receiving from the body. The emotional state of the body is reflected through the beat of the heart and these messages are sent from the heart up the vagal nerve to the brain stimulating the Amygdala which identifies our emotional state as chaotic and prepares for flight, fight or freeze or identifies our emotional state as calm promoting compassion and bonding in community.
Since the body sends signals to the heart asking for increased blood, oxygen and the biochemicals needed, meaning that the heart is affected by the needs of the body, we can understand that by changing our heart rate, we can bring the body back into a state of calm. By practicing meditation, breath awareness and increasing our input of good energy through focusing on compassion, gratitude and love, we can change our heart to change the physiological state of our body. This is what is means to expand your practice from Mindfulness to Heartfulness. For further reading, I suggest From Mindfulness to Heartfulness by Alane Daugherty. This blog post is my understanding of heartfulness after reading her book.
Join me next Tuesday for part two!
May you be happy. May you be well. May you walk in peace. May you feel loved. May you live free.