Have you ever been confused about what to feel or do? Your heart can help you get clarity. We usually think of the heart’s sole purpose as a circulatory pump without which we can’t live. While this is true, the heart is much more than a beating machine. Evidence-based science is catching up to what the eastern healing traditions have known for centuries. Our heart is also a sensing, feeling organ with its own nervous system and wisdom. Contrary to modern belief, tapping into your heart’s wisdom will never steer you wrong if you know how to listen. So, when you’re not sure, just ask your heart!
The Big Question
The question is how do we find the keys to unlock our heart’s wisdom for true insight without the brain’s automatic thought patterns obscuring reality? Let’s first briefly understand how the heart works in shaping our relationship to ourselves and others for health, wellbeing, connection, joy, and fulfillment.
Evidence-based Science – Its Not Just “Woo Woo”
The body feels and the brain thinks. The HeartMath Institute’s research has shown that the heart has its own independent intelligence. How does this work? The part of our nervous system controlling our involuntary body functions is the Autonomic Nervous System. One of its two subdivisions is the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is responsible for breathing, heartbeat, and digestion without us having to think about it. This subdivision also helps us relax and rest. Our thoughts can have a significant influence on speeding up or slowing down these functions even though they are automatic.
The Vagus Nerve of the Parasympathetic Nervous System is responsible for calming us so we can think more clearly and experience love, joy, and connection. In fact, 80% - 90% of this nerve’s fibers go from the heart and gut to the brain. The heart also secretes hormones, such as oxytocin (aka the “love” hormone), in approximately the same concentration as parts of the brain. This means the heart and gut send more information to the brain than vice versa. The heart just knows and senses, while the mind via the brain interprets based on past experiences. Nature in its perfection has made this a symbiotic relationship, but sometimes our brain can keep us stuck in old patterns while the heart knows the truth of the matter without the constant chatter.
Chinese Energy Medicine – The Wisdom of the Ages
Ancient cultures didn’t have modern technology, but they were excellent observers of how nature works and its cycles, of which we are a part. 5 Element Theory emerged from these meticulous observations over thousands of years. The world is made up of the elements of wood, fire, earth, air, and water, and each of the seasons corresponds to the characteristics of one of the elements. For example, summer is considered the “fire” time of the year.
Each organ in our body is also associated with a specific element, season, bodily function, and set of emotions. The heart contaIns the fire element of summer, and our language reflects this with phrases like, "You warm my heart," "I know it by heart," and many others. Its main emotional characteristic is joy, and its opposite is stress. The heart houses our spirit (“shen”) and regulates our thinking and emotions. There is no separation between the heart and mind; indeed, it’s referred to as the “heart-mind.”
Our body is analogous to a beautiful energetic garden ecosystem. If one part isn’t healthy, then it affects all the others. We feel love, joy, and human connection with a harmonious heart. If it is unbalanced, we are stressed, emotionally unregulated, and our soul can’t fully express itself. The heart can become unbalanced by our external world (i.e., environmental toxins, societal expectations, etc.) and internal world (i.e., improperly functioning organs, stuck energy, emotions, thoughts, etc.). So, tapping into the heart’s own innate wisdom is key to keeping us balanced, happy, and healthy.
How to Unlock Your Heart’s Wisdom
We can use modern science’s understanding of how to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system with the emotional intelligence of the eastern healing traditions to unlock our heart’s wisdom. There are many ways to tap into it. Here is one method:
1. You may choose to open or close your eyes. If open, softly gaze towards the floor.
2. Take at least 3 full breaths to settle yourself and be here now.
3. Let your breath seep down into your chest, as if you’re breathing in and out from your heart.
4. Place one or both hands on your heart area.
5. Think, sense, or bring to your mind’s eye something that elicits appreciation, gratitude, care, and/or love. Allow yourself to feel into the emotion.
6. Focusing on the heart area, ask a direct question that’s not in an “either/or” format. For example, “My heart, what is my true vision for my work?”
7. Now wait and listen. This is not a listening to receive an answer from the thinking brain. Allow your heart’s intelligence to speak its wisdom. It usually takes the form of an insight that pops up or an automatic knowing. If there’s confusion or a lot of thought, these are signs that your brain is getting in the way with its limiting beliefs.
Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come immediately. It takes practice because we’re not used to listening to the heart’s wisdom. But the results are worth it.
If you’d like guidance on other techniques for physical and emotional heart health by integrating eastern wisdom with western science, schedule a no-obligation complimentary call with me.