Radiate Love I Day Four
Nourish Your Mind
THE HEART + BRAIN CONNECTION
Did you know that your heart sends far more information to the brain than the brain does to the heart?
And did you also know that the heart actually has its own brain?
Your mystical, powerful, beating heart has approximately 40,000 sensory neurons called the "heart brain" that can sense, feel, learn and remember information. While the brain in your head has over 100 billion neurons, the heart (with its modest 40,000 neurons) is actually 60 times greater electrically and up to 5,000 times stronger magnetically than the brain!
This life-pumping organ emits a magnetic field measurable from several feet away from the body and has the power to effect the energy of any living organism in its energetic reach. (See the video below about the yogurt experiment. We also highly recommend the Tom Shadyac documentary - I Am.)
So what does this mean?
It means that how we feel matters.
When the heart feels an emotion (whether it be positive or negative), information about that emotion is sent to the brain to accordingly inform the rest of the body. These messages are communicated in the brain via neurotransmitters and then translated into the body via the many hormones of our endocrine system that tell the body how to behave and respond.
If we feel deep love, peace and gratitude, then the body is informed accordingly. Cells flourish, healing occurs and harmony and coherence reign.
If we feel stress, grief or resentment, then the body is also informed accordingly. Cells flounder, weakness occurs and chaos and discord reign.
But when we are aware of this powerful connection between the thoughts of the brain and the feelings of the heart, we can begin to mindfully cultivate the type of environment we want to exist in our bodies. We become the maestro leading the symphony of our heartwaves and brainwaves, and we can cultivate a literal and physical space around our bodies that influences everyone and everything we encounter.
BUILD YOUR PRACTICE
THE COHERENT HEART
So how do we create this coherence in our hearts and brains?
Coherence is defined as "the quality of forming a unified whole," and in our opinion it is as important and fundamental for a successful life as learning your ABCs and 123s.
In both the brain and the heart, we can measure coherence by looking at the frequencies, wavelengths, speeds and amplitude of the waves of energy being emitted at any given time. For the brain these are called EEGs (electroencephalograms), and for the heart they are ECGs or EKGs (electrocardiograms).
When we are in a state of coherence the waves of energy emitted from the body are rhythmic, orderly and harmonious. When we are in a state of incoherence they are chaotic, disorderly and erratic.
As you can see from the image above, limited emotions of stress, anger, frustration and despair create incoherent waves. But when we shift to elevated emotions of love, gratitude and compassion, the waves become more coherent. This happens in a matter of seconds and is completely under our control.
But we don't have to be hooked up to EEGs or EKGs to manage our energy. You can feel it in your own mood, and you can literally alter it in a matter of seconds.
The following exercise (as taught and tested by HeartMath) is a quick, easy way to move the energy of your body from incoherent to coherent and can be remembered as "Focus-Breathe-Feel."
Heart Focus: First, direct your attention on your heart and hold it there. Simply put your awareness in the part of your body where your heart resides in your chest, and keep "looking" there with you attention.
Heart Breath: Next, breathe deeply and slowly and imagine that each breath is entering and exiting through the center of the chest.
Heart Feeling: Finally, maintain heart focus with heart-focused breathing, and now activate a positive emotion like gratitude, love or compassion. The easiest way to do this is often to bring up an especially-charged memory that incites deep feeling in you. I often draw on the moment of Chloe's birth and the overwhelming waves of love I felt.
Practice holding all three steps for 3-5 minutes, and notice the incredible effect it has to calm the body, soothe the mind and instill an overall sense of peace. Managing our own energy isn't complicated, and it doesn't have to take a lot of time. We just have to be willing to focus, breathe and feel.
Today we move onto the third Core Meditation Technique - Heart-Focus.
Focus Your Attention
A LOVING PRACTICE
To cultivate a heart-centered approach in life, we have to first begin with ourselves. And how you approach your meditation practice says a great deal about how you show up for yourself as well as in life. When we teach meditation at retreats, we always invite our students to use these three statements to center their efforts:
LET IT BE EASY.
Meditation (and life for that matter) doesn't have to be hard. Oftentimes, the perception of difficulty arises because we are overthinking something or making it too complicated for no reason. Allow your practice to easy. Close your eyes. Breathe. Follow the guidance. And return to the focus anytime you get lost. Can you allow it to be that simple? Don't worry about how you have your hands or whether or not you're doing it "right." Just show up, open your heart and sit with yourself. The rest will happen for you.
LET IT BE LOVING.
Be tender with yourself as you adopt this new practice. While we know that we are asking you to push yourself as you master your body and learn a new skill, it is so important to do it centered in love. Find lightness and joy in the practice, and let your meditations come from a place of love each and every time you sit. We often talk at retreats about field trip day as a child. Remember that anticipatory joy of knowing that the next morning was a field trip day? The day hadn't even come, but already we were filled with the excitement and wonder that doing something new was going to bring. Can you allow that amount of love and joy into your practice? What if every meditation was like field trip day?
LET IT BE ENOUGH.
This one is a biggie. We encourage you to resist the urge to judge your meditations. Yes, sometimes it will feel like one meditation was a good one and another was absolutely horrible. But what if what you got that day was actually perfect? What if it was in reality what you actually needed most, and what if that was enough? Can you treat your meditation practice like brushing your teeth? You don't leave the sink each morning thinking, "Oh yeah, I really brushed those babies good today!" You simply move through the practice. You know it is good for your health and probably something you don't want to skip out on, and so you do it without judgement.
Expand Your Awareness
KNOW YOUR SOFT SPOTS
There is no secret to creating heart coherence; it's simply a function of slowing down and allowing yourself to feel deeply. The journey into the heart is about knowing yourself.
In your journal, make a list of at least three memories or pinnacle moments in your life that easily elevate your mood when you reflect back on them. Perhaps it was the birth of a child or the moment you walked across the stage at graduation. Maybe it was a subtler moment, like a beautiful vista on vacation or a memory of feeling expansive and free.
Once you have picked your handful of memories, spend time on the page describing them in great detail. What were you wearing? Who was with you? How did you feel? Linger in each moment and let the magic unfold. These will become your treasure chest of emotion as you practice getting heart-centered in meditation and in life.