The Science of the Heart

According to folk wisdom, the heart is the seat of love, wisdom, creativity, intuition, faith and compassion, etc. The finest values and qualities are associated with the heart rather than the mind. How do we know this? We know it in our heart. But, is there a scientific basis for this intuitive knowledge?

A new understanding of the word “heart” is emerging. It changes the long-held view of the heart from being merely a blood pumping station to the realisation that it is a dynamic, creative intelligence. We know that the heart has a very complex nervous system, consisting of neurons, proteins and support cells, which send information to the brain. Scientists around the world who study this nervous system actually call it the “brain in the heart”. Its elaborate circuitry actually enables the heart to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember and even feel and sense.

The communication pathways from the heart travel through the emotional memory section of the brain and go all the way to the top of the brain responsible for thinking and reasoning. It is this part of the brain, the neocortex, coupled with the intelligence of the heart, which allows man to break free from past limitations and tap into new levels of innovation, ingenuity and creativity.

It is interesting to note that there is a growing amount of scientific evidence that the heart has its own ‘brain’, to such an extent that the heart can recognise information well ahead of the brain itself. Researchers at the HeartMath Institute in Boulder Creek, California, claim that the heart plays a role in the functioning of human intelligence, emotions and personality. In tests at the Institute subjects were hooked up to both EEG and EKG machines and then slowly showed test subjects, cards that had been turned face down on a table. Researchers were surprised that the heart responded to what was on the cards a full four to six seconds before they were turned over. This was verified by feedback from the EKG machine. On the other hand, the EEG did not respond until the cards had been turned over and the images seen by test subjects. In other words, the heart knew even before the facts were presented. Thus, researchers at the HeartMath Institute have provided scientific proof for what smart people have known intuitively for centuries; the heart is just as smart as the brain.

Doc Childre and Howard Martin who founded the HeartMath Institute have coined the phrase “heart-based living”. They say of it, “Heart-based living refers to all intentions and actions that express qualities of the heart in daily life. These heart qualities or core heart values can include appreciating or caring for others, expressing kindness to those around you and giving back by volunteering to work with others to relieve suffering and to help the planet. Heart-based living allows us to experience less self-centredness and separation, less judgement, more intuitive discernment and more genuine fulfilment”.

It appears that the heart acts like a master control system sending powerful healing commands to the brain and the rest of the body. It does it in four ways: neurologically, hormonally, biophysically (through blood pressure waves) and through its own electromagnetic field. This last way is particularly powerful. Howard Martin of HeartMath says that the heart is an electrical organ which produces by far the largest amount of electrical energy in our bodies – forty to sixty times as much power as the second strongest source, the brain – and that the signal is so strong it creates a magnetic field that surrounds the body in a 360 degree sphere and can be measured over a metre outside the body.

Further, the Institute maintains that the heart’s electrical field is not static but that it changes, depending on what we are feeling. For example, when we are angry, upset or frustrated, the frequencies in the field become chaotic and disordered. When we experience positive emotions like love, appreciation or compassion; however, the frequencies of the field become more ordered and coherent. In other words, we broadcast our feelings like radio waves.

At the very least, new scientific research is providing a modern understanding of many of the things that have been said about the heart’s qualities for thousands of years. Science is quickly discovering that the mind, the emotions and our energy systems are crucial parts of our effective functioning as healthy human beings and as a society.

Other scientific findings about the heart include a published study by Pearsall, Schwartz and Russek who examined heart transplant patients. They discovered otherwise, unexplainable post-surgical emotional and cognitive changes in heart transplant recipients that paralleled emotions and beliefs held by their heart donors. In other words, the recipients not only received the heart itself, but part of the personality of the donor!

According to another heart study in the New England Journal of Medicine, memory, attention and concentration somewhat declined immediately after heart bypass surgery and a similar decline was observed after five years. There are two obvious explanations for this. 1) A bypass may affect the brain blood flow, and 2) the heartlung pump used during the surgery may cause mental impairment.

So we know there is a heart-mind connection through blood circulation and the heart physically communicates with the brain and the rest of the body.

Why have I explained so much of the latest scientific facts about the heart? So that you will gain a new appreciation of the power that is within you and be motivated to take greater care of this wonderful mind-heart system that we have.

The Communicating Heart

An open heart understands that as human beings we are not islands; we need each other and we are linked together in more ways than we can imagine. The heart will always lead us to fellow human beings and it longs to experience and interact with others. When you open your heart the boundaries between yourself and those you interact with will diminish and you will more easily see people as a part of your life.

Unfortunately, our everyday lives are so complex and overcrowded. Sometimes we feel we are too busy to be of service and there are so many things to do. But if we do not put importance and value on opening our heart and helping one another; if we do not see this as part of our growth and development, what does that say about us? Where will our lives lead if we cannot include service to others as part of that life? Certainly deepening isolation and unhappiness could result.

I read somewhere once that the heart is like a compass that, when opened and listened to, it will guide you through life more gently yet powerfully than the mind can ever hope to do.

Its language is peace, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and thankfulness. When we open our hearts we can access these emotions in infinite supply and they become the essence of who we are. We become like a dam that is full to overflowing and we have to share and be there for those around us.

When your mind is tired of trying to find the meaning of life, go to your heart, commit to opening it up and let it lead you through its fullness to an inspiring life.

Guarding an Open Heart

It can seem hazardous to live with an open heart, because to allow your emotions to fully mature means total honesty, vulnerability and a deep love for your fellow man. You stand the risk of being hurt and misunderstood. Opening your heart to other people can be challenging but it is very worthwhile.

To live with an open heart does mean setting appropriate boundaries which can be communicated with honesty and respect for other people. The Bible tells us to guard our heart but this is different to shutting down or walling up our heart. Some people have become adept at building protective walls around them to keep pain and hurt out. Unfortunately such walls also keep out the love and concern of family and friends as well as the potential love of those you have not yet met. Be aware of how others are feeling and do not take negative attitudes to heart. Keep a loving attitude to others for by accepting other people unconditionally, you discipline the emotions that want to get even. You allow people to be who they are with all their idiosyncrasies.

In his book, “Open Mind, Open Heart”, Thomas Keating writes, “The guard of the heart requires the prompt letting go of personal likes and dislikes. When something arises independently of our plans, we spontaneously try to modify it. Our first reaction, however, should be openness to what is actually happening so that if our plans are upset, we are not upset. The fruit of the guard of the heart is the willingness to change our plans at a moment’s notice. It disposes us to accept painful situations as they arise. Then we can decide what to do with them, modifying, correcting or improving them.”

In this guarding of our heart, we need also to have a regard for ourselves. We cannot respect others until we respect ourselves and we cannot love others until we love ourselves. This is not vanity or self-absorption; until we can appreciate ourselves we cannot appreciate life. From being open and honest with ourselves we can learn to be open with others so we can work with them on the basis of the goodness we find in ourselves.

Open Your Heart

“In the small matters trust the mind, in the large ones the heart.” Sigmund Freud

A spirit of joy and enthusiasm can help make possible a better life for everyone with whom you come into contact. One way to have that quality of life is to get outside yourself by having an open heart. People who live within themselves, or are insular, lose that vitality for life which stimulates verve and excitement. Many have become ill through a process of self-centredness that poisons their thoughts and drains their heart life force. When you forget yourself, letting your personality flow outward to others, your life takes on creative joy and even health. You see others as a part of your life and notice how we all shore the same life experience together.

Everyone has troubles, problems and hardships. That is part of life. But it is the way you handle those difficulties that is the key to a full and happy lifestyle. Let the heart take over and live with a sense of gratitude and strength. Determine to live a dynamic life, despite trying times. Your life vitality can be increased by opening your heart to others and taking pleasure in interaction with family, friends, people you meet each day and those with whom you work. Practice liking it; get enjoyment out of every activity because an open heart – that aliveness – stimulates a sense of excitement and happiness. A famous philosopher once pointed out that ‘aliveness’ is measured by the number of points at which we touch life. To the degree to which you cultivate an interested attitude you will create a life full of zest and vibrancy.

You cannot cheat by pretending to have an open heart for others. Vitality and ‘aliveness’ and a sincere interest in others show through the eyes of the individual. Open-hearted people have an inner light shining through their eyes which marks a dynamic personality.

When you have achieved an open mind, you can then open your heart to humanity. The open heart never forgets that the gift of our life is an honour and privilege for which we are forever indebted. Being open-hearted is living with a heart full to overflowing with loving kindness. It is a life of power from within, a life filled with purpose and service to humanity. Open-hearted people have a genuine interest in and regard for other people and have a respect for others’ problems and needs. Commit charitable acts; help because you want to help those who cannot help themselves. Look around and see the world as it is and do your part to make it better. As you help each other you will find a nurturing joy and inner peace that you could not have imagined before. Establish the values of great mortals who have travelled the path before you and begin where they left off, to build a better world.

We must learn to understand the wisdom of our heart because it will help us understand ourselves more accurately. The heart has been referred to as having influence over our thoughts, feelings and values.

A Closed Mind

“A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood. – Chinese Proverb.

We have all been given the power to develop ideas and exercise free will. Unfortunately too often those ideas die as a seed and people use their free will to close their mind to the tremendous opportunities surrounding them. This stubbornness prevents them from achieving the goals that they want for themselves and so the opportunity for success is greatly decreased.

In our formative years we grow and develop egos that maintain very particular ideas about ourselves in relation to the world around us. Your ego is your conscious mind, that which controls your behaviour and tries to give meaning to your external, material reality. It is powerful and can control your life if you allow it. Your external reality is a direct result of your mental and spiritual self so if the latter two are not where you want them to be your external and material self will suffer. The ego cannot improve the quality of your mental and spiritual life.

When you close your mind you essentially become stubborn and become a victim of the ego mind which says, “My attitude is right despite what anyone else has to say”. The ego mind, although it thinks it knows better than anyone else, is never prepared to leave its comfort zone and so is not open to new ideas nor will it welcome others into its world. This kind of attitude shuts you off from the process of life and nature which is about growing and experiencing new possibilities. Think about how many times you were resistant to trying something new only to eventually give in and discover that you really enjoyed the process.

Limitations are the jail of the mind so if you can throw off the shackles and open your mind to new and exciting ideas, your possibilities become limitless. When the mind is shackled and limited it affects every part of your life, for example, work presentations can lack innovation and impact and even every-day conversations are less productive and rewarding. Conversations often become defensive as the mind closes off to what is being said by others.

Society today gives out a negative message that everyone is out to ‘take you down’ and that if it ‘looks to good to be true, it probably is’. This causes many to close their minds to everything beyond their current knowledge. An open mind is a mind that is aware that the current knowledge is not all there is to know and will eagerly investigate possibilities.

When you have a closed mind to new and exciting possibilities you essentially tell yourself that you are not willing to go the extra mile – that you are not willing to grow and experience new things. You have now switched off the power within you and there can be no change and no progress in life and things will never improve. Such people become very introspective and weak. The old recordings of the past can, however, be changed. If you choose, you can wipe the old record clean, put on a new record and make a decision to activate the positive thoughts which lead to a relaxed and open view of the world. Remember, the past explains how you got to the present but where you go from here is your responsibility.

In his book A Vision of Power & Glory, John Kehoe gives a Zen parable about two monks who are on a journey together when they come to a river. By the river there is a beautiful woman. The woman asks them, “Please will one of you monks carry me across the river? The river is too wide and the current too swift.”

The two monks look at one another, because they have taken a sacred vow to not so much as even touch a woman. Then, abruptly, the older monk picks up the woman, carries her across the river and puts her down on the other side. They continue on their journey.

The younger monk is flabbergasted. He can’t believe it. An hour goes by and not a word is spoken between them. Two hours. Three hours. And finally, after four hours, he turns to the older monk and blurts out, “How could you have done that? How could you have carried that woman?” “Oh?” responds his companion, “Are you still carrying her? I put her down four hours ago.”

John Kehoe goes on to say, “How much are we still carrying around inside us that should have been put down a long time ago? Disappointments; regrets; failures; grudges. How much junk are we carrying around inside us and how long are we going to carry it? All our life?”

If you want to change and improve your attitude to life then it is imperative that you keep an open mind. That is not to say you will be taken in by every ‘fly-bynight’ scheme that may be put before you. An open mind is curious and investigative and examines new things. Your creative power system uses your conscious and subconscious mind to attract, explore and check out new opportunities so that you can begin achieving your goals and creating the life you want. Don’t limit yourself; learn how to attract new possibilities and make the right decisions by developing the power of your mind and heart.

If you move in your community with an open mind and an open heart you can learn to accept others. You don’t have to agree with them, but accept who they are and feel free to express yourself.

I remember a friend of ours who has passed on now, who was well-known and well-liked in community affairs. He met many people as he moved around and sometimes in a gathering he would be heard to say, “There’s a fellow over there I met recently and I didn’t like him; I must go over and get to know him better”. He would always come away with a new-found friend; now that’s an open mind and open heart.

An Open Mind

“Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.” James Dewar

To create the life that you want, growing as a human being and regularly experiencing a prosperous lifestyle, you will need a mind open to other people, possibilities, ideas and opinions around you. When you have an open mind you allow yourself to attract and follow up on opportunities. When you work with the power of the conscious and subconscious mind you will attract opportunities that will bring you what you need; for what you radiate you will constantly attract. When you are prepared to become creative you will create a vibrant life, while eliminating negative and unwanted situations.

Most people think they already listen to others with an open mind, merely by paying close attention to what is being said. In fact, keeping an open mind is not easy to do if you are happy with the way you are doing things and do not see the point of changing. We all have moments, however, when we do listen with an open heart and mind, for example, we are more open to listening to someone we trust.

An open mind is an understanding mind which will develop a genuine appreciation for people. When you take the trouble to think of other people’s feelings, their viewpoints and their desires you are saying “people are important”.

An open mind will accept other people unconditionally. It requires the letting go of likes and dislikes and other similar emotions. When you do this you discipline your emotions and you allow people to be who they are with all their idiosyncrasies, differences and irritations.

When you are communicating with others there can often be misunderstandings and these can lead to failure in your relations with others. We expect others to react and respond and come to the same conclusions we do over a given set of facts. Unfortunately, no one reacts to things as they are but to their own mental images; they are responding appropriately to what they see as the truth about the situation. An open-minded person will ask themselves “How does this appear to that person?” or, “How does that person interpret the situation?” and they will try to understand why someone might act differently to the way they expected.

Many small business owners have faced extinction because they thought they knew it all and were not prepared to have an open mind and listen to others who had been down that path before them. When you are open minded you are always prepared to be teachable, to learn something new and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. An open mind is the doorway to expansion of ideas.

When you open your mind you are not compromising your ethics and values. It just means that you begin to practice a greater sense of awareness and in doing so you are prepared to look at your world a little differently. Test opportunities that are presented to you and examine where the message is coming from. It may be from a friend, a neutral party or from a source about which you are sceptical. If you are not sure, instruct your subconscious mind to guide you by simply saying, “I am making the right decision.” Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.

The Importance of an Open Heart and Mind

Recently I came across this very interesting verse and its meaning:
“The Heart of a General
The Mind of Confucius
The Bravery of a Hero
The Compassion of a Buddha” ‘The Heart of a General’
refers to the qualities of a good leader: open-mindedness, generosity and the ability to work with, understand and motivate people. A love for others sets a leader apart from a power-holder.
‘The Mind of Confucius’ signifies deep learning, wisdom and knowledge. The meaning of this line is not restricted to one philosopher, but to all who have devoted themselves to the path of profound understanding.
‘The Bravery of a Hero’ is born of fearlessness, the essence of human freedom. And Benjamin Disraeli said, “Nurture your minds with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes.”
‘The Compassion of a Buddha’ blossoms from an open heart and mind as vast as the universe itself.

When you learn to unleash the unlimited power within you the qualities espoused above determine the balance and well-being you can have in all the key areas of your life both personal and professional. Positive changes will be evident when your heart and mind are open and receptive to the energy of life surrounding you, for when you communicate, your logical mind and your emotional heart act in tandem to make decisions, though emotions usually prevail.

Be grounded in the present moment and gain control of your thoughts so you can tap into your own personal power. You have absolute control over one thing only and that is your thought power. It is the sole means by which you can control your future. Protect it and use it with care – you were given willpower for just such a purpose. You need willpower to keep out of the mire of selfishness and negativity, both of which are enemies to an open mind. Part of your willpower, also, is to exercise your right to keep the negativity of others out of your thoughts.

All mankind is hungry for open and constructive attitudes, actions and reactions and quickly responds to them.

The story is told of two junior members of a large law firm. One of the junior lawyers was a happy, open and optimistic individual. He did not hesitate to pay a compliment when it was due or to show kindness and courtesy to everyone he met. No one was too insignificant to receive his attention and to gain an open and listening ear. He apparently did not know what it was to criticise or condemn others’ ideas. The other lawyer was better qualified for the work they were both doing and because he held one more University degree than the first man, he was being paid substantially more each month. Thus, he had every advantage over the first man, or so one would suppose.

But this highly paid lawyer was a “quiet complainer” and nothing could please him. Whenever someone had different ideas to those he put forward he would become quite upset and annoyed; his attitudes were closed and narrow. Certain of the staff that he considered beneath him would always be ignored. Within a year he was no longer employed by the firm and within that same year the other lawyer had been promoted into his position and salary. He later became a full partner in the firm.

It has been shown that, by and large, optimistic, open and cheerful business people who are prepared to listen to others and learn new ways of doing things, are more successful than those who are closed-minded, pessimistic.

Self-image is the key to your personality and behaviours and it sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do either by limiting your thinking (closed minded) or by expanding the area of the possible (open minded). When you develop a positive self-image within yourself you open up new capabilities, new talents and you can literally turn failure into success.

Maxwell Maltz in the book PsychoCybernetics says, “The self-image is changed, for better or worse, not by intellect alone, nor by intellectual knowledge alone, but by ‘experiencing’. Wittingly or unwittingly you developed your self-image by your creative experiencing in the past. You can change it by the same method. It is not the child who is taught about love but the child who has experienced love that grows into a healthy, happy, well-adjusted adult. Our present state of self-confidence and poise is the result of what we have ‘experienced’ rather than what we have learned intellectually.”