The intelligence of your heart
Your intelligence isn’t confined to the brain in your head. Science has discovered that your heart contains around 40,000 specialised neurons which are configured in a way that creates a neural network (traditionally thought of as only being present in the brain in our heads). These cells think, feel and remember independently from the brain in head. This can explain why you can resolve a traumatic experience in your head by talking and thinking about it, but still feel like it’s bothering you, because the experience is still present in your heart and needs to be resolved in the heart.
Scientists have called this the “little brain” in the heart. But this discovery is just the beginning. It’s opening the door to untapped potential. The fun begins when we learn how to use this source of intelligence. It can help us make better decisions, be more resilient in times of crisis and act in more intelligent, wise and useful ways.
In the modern western world we firmly believe in the supremacy of the brain between our ears. We spend most of our education focused almost entirely on its development, and many of us spend most of our working life using it as our primary resource. We even have sayings about being "cool headed” and “keeping our head in the game”.
But with the new discoveries about the intelligence in our heart, focusing solely on the development of our cerebral brain is a bit like only exercising one side of your body, or making an important decision by only looking at half the information.
This singular focus on the brain in our heads seems normal to us but it isn’t pervasive throughout all of time and through all cultures. We used to consider the heart as the master organ of the body. Many cultures thought of the heart as the source of someone's character, of their emotions, their personality, their memory. Think of all the qualities you might attribute to the heart: courage, compassion, love, gratitude, warmth etc. These are qualities that are about us as human beings, not about how useful we can be for someone or something else or some superfluous measure like how much money we have.
Science is now finding that our heart functions with our brain and vice-versa. It’s difficult to think clearly if your heart is beating erratically and your body’s in fight-or-flight. Similarly, it’s difficult to feel present and calm if your brain is running in crazy loops. But if we can cultivate a harmony between heart and brain, we can be in a state of harmony, health, wisdom, compassion etc instead of having a tug of war going on inside of us that is less than optimal.
Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone who did everything externally that a trustworthy, reliable, kind person would do, yet you just got the sense that something was off? And only later you found out that your first instinct was right? In the west we have come to disregard the intelligence of our heart to our own detriment. If we learn to listen to our heart more and develop its abilities, we won’t have to experience so many painful things.
We should continue to develop and use the brain in our head, but as individuals as well as a collective, we desperately need to develop the intelligence of our heart.
Your heart is more than a pump
When you were at school, you probably learnt that the heart is essentially a pump to circulate blood throughout your body. But that’s not the whole story.
As early as the 1920’s, Rudolf Steiner discovered that liquids (which include blood) naturally move in minuscule spiral patterns without the aid of external forces when they are in their natural state.
Additionally, there is footage of blood moving in a chicken (which is in the egg) during its development, before the heart started functioning. And there have been studies where the heart was removed and blood continued to flow for up to 10 minutes.
If blood flows of its own accord, then why do we have a heart?
While the heart does pump blood, it seems to be more of a booster function to the already natural flow of liquid. The heart seems to serve purposes beyond this simple pumping action.
The memory of your heart
One remarkable function of the heart (that we tend to think of as belonging solely to the brain in our heads), is memory. Our hearts seem to remember, or store memory and character traits in some way. Here are two remarkable stories that illustrates this point:
The first story is of a woman named Claire Sylvia who, after receiving a heart and lung transplant began having cravings for things she hadn’t craved before: specifically chicken nuggets and green peppers. She was able to trace down the donor and found out that her donor had been a man named Tim who had loved exactly that: chicken nuggets and green peppers.
Perhaps the most astonishing case of this kind comes from a heart transplant given to an eight year old girl. After the transplant, the girl began having vivid nightmares. These nightmares were so impactful that her parents eventually took her to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist sensed that there was something more going on, because the images this eight year old girl was getting were very clear and consistent. In the end, the police got involved, and they discovered that the girl was recounting the events of an unsolved murder in the area (the murder of the girl who’s heart was now in the eight year olds body). The girl provided the police with details of where and how the murder had happened (even the exact words spoken), which lead to the arrest of a man who was later convicted.
How the heart influences those around us
We all have an electromagnetic field that extends about 5 meters around our body. This field affects those around us and vice-versa. While we can measure this and do all kinds of scientific experiments with machines and complicated technology, you’ve likely experienced the effects of this field in everyday encounters: you meet someone and you feel their warmth or their coldness, their danger or their authority. You just get a sense of who they are, they give off a certain vibe.
Your body has an electromagnetic field, so does every cell in your body, as well as every organ. Yet your heart's electromagnetic field is the strongest of all the organs in your body, and not by a small amount. When compared to that of the brain’s, your heart's electromagnetic field is about 5,000 times stronger.
What this means is that your heart affects those around you. People feel and act differently depending on the interaction of these electromagnetic fields. When you learn to work with your heart, you affect your electromagnetic field. Thus you’re not only influencing your own state of being and your own actions, but also those of the people around you.
Developing your hearts abilities
One very important role that our heart plays is detecting changes in the body (such as hormone levels and stress chemicals) and communicating that information to the brain in our heads. This then allows the brain to meet the needs of the moment appropriately.
Our hearts send more signals to our brain than our brain sends to our hearts. In other words, our brain is not the primary control centre. Furthermore, the quality of the signal sent from the heart to the brain affects the brain's function. It affects our clarity of thought, our ability to problem solve and make good decisions, our memory, our choices and more.
Author and scientist Gregg Braden eloquently says that in every moment of every day, there is a conversation happening between our heart and our brain. This can be a conversation of fear and anger where stress chemicals run rampant, or it can be one of presence, compassion, intelligence and coherence, where our body has more energy and vitality.
While you can try to rectify your thoughts to affect the heart, it’s easy to over think, over analyse, and end up going around in circles. However, you can access this “conversation” that’s going on through your heart.
Here’s a method for doing this called “heart coherence”:
Place your attention on your heart (it can be helpful to place your hand there as your attention will naturally follow your hand). This helps you get out of your head and into your heart.
Slow your breathing down. Imagine your breathing in and out of your heart. This helps signal to your body that you are safe. This means you move out of fight-or-flight and into a state where your body can begin to naturally heal.
Cultivate a positive / rejuvenating feeling such as compassion, love, gratitude etc. This strengthens step two
This process helps you manage stress and overwhelm, and positively affects brain function. It’s a very simple practice that you can do anywhere, anytime. An organisation known as “HeartMath” have done considerable research in the power and intelligence of the heart. You can read their exact step by step instructions and have a guided video walkthrough for creating heart coherence by clicking this link: https://www.heartmath.com/quick-coherence-technique/
You can follow these step by step instructions, but you can also simply begin by consciously connecting with your heart and “listening” to it, tune in to it and let this connection and coherence organically grow in it’s own way and in its own time.
The more you connect with your heart and create coherence, the better your skill at accessing its intelligence and wisdom will be and the longer the positive effects (such as improved health) will last. As with so many things, getting started is the hardest part. But it need only take a few seconds to begin with, to create that connection, and with time you can develop a practice that works for you.
Once you're connected to your heart (such as using the process above), you can also ask your heart a question you’re struggling with and listen to your heart for its answer. The answer will often come immediately because you’re not trying to use the slow, logical, methodical analysis of the brain in your head. It’s a different kind of intelligence. Learning to use both is incredibly useful. Ideally you want to ask the question in a yes or no format, for example “heart, is it in my best interest to take on this project?”
There is an important point that is worth mentioning. That is, if you try to suppress an emotion, it often backfires at some stage. There’s a saying that “what you resist persists”. So while cultivating a positive emotion and breathing that in and out through your heart is powerful, I would encourage you to be mindful of not pushing negative feelings away in the process. This is a fine line and one that you get better at judging. I have found a good approach is to come at it from a place of self compassion and a genuine intent to improve your state of being, rather than demonising so-called “negative” emotions.
Bringing it all together
The message at the core of all of this is listen to your heart. You don’t have to follow it, but be aware that it has information that the brain in your head does not. You can access your heart’s intelligence to manage stress and overwhelm. You can create heart coherence before communicating with someone so that you’re not saying one thing with your words and electromagnetically giving a different message. If you have a decision to make, get into heart coherence, look at all the information logically, then look at what your heart is telling you, and use that combined information to make the final call.
Braden writes that both modern science and ancient spiritual traditions point to the heart as the key to a more resilient way of being and living. While the technique of heart coherence can be used in times of stress, you can also think about it as a way of being, a way of living coherently. This is not achieved with a snap of the fingers, and I’m not sure it’s realistically achievable for us to be in complete coherence 24/7 living in the busy 21st Century. However, taking this approach can make it less of an effort or an activity that we have to squeeze into our full schedule, and more of a nurturing, rejuvenating life practice.
Resilience from the heart by Gregg Braden
Mind to matter by Dawson church
The genie in your genes by Dawson church
The HeartMath institute