There is an incredible amount of knowledge that we as humans can gather up from the plant kingdom with a heart-centered approach. By gathering information directly from the “heart of nature”, we are able to realize the interconnectedness between humanity and the planet in a way that may conjure up themes from films such as Avatar. As more scientific research comes forward concerning the abilities and properties of plants, the more we learn that there are so many things that the plant kingdom is able to teach us, especially concerning harmony and balance.
A book that came our a few years ago entitled The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature details these things in a very elegant way and shows us that the ancient shamanistic tales of oneness, interconnectedness, harmony, and balance with respect to humanity and nature’s relationship are indeed true. The human heart is significantly more important than most people realize, and in order to spread awareness of this reality, certain excerpts from the book will be provided to show just how important and sophisticated the heart truly is.
The Physical Heart: The Central Nervous System Heart
Between 60%-65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells. Yes, the same kinds as those in your brain. The neural connections between the brain and heart cannot be turned off. Information is always flowing between the two. The heart is directly wired into the central nervous system and brain, interconnected with the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, and cortex. There are four brain centers are primarily concerned with emotional memories and processing; sensory experience; memory, spatial relationships, the extraction of meaning from sensory inputs from the environment; and problem solving, reasoning, and learning.
The heart makes and releases its own neurotransmitters as it needs them. By monitoring central nervous system functioning, the heart can tell just what neurotransmitters it needs and when in order to enhance its communication with the brain. The heart also has its own memory. The heart stores memories which affect consciousness and behavior, how we perceive the world. They most often have to do with specific emotional experiences and the meanings embedded within them. The more intense the emotional experience, the more likely it will be stored by the heart as memory.
Neuronal discharge in the brain–the oscillating pattern of informational pulse release in the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and sometimes the neocortex–is in phase with heart and lung cycles. These discharges are state-dependent. In other words, changes in heart activity–blood pressure, timing of beats, wave pulsations in the blood, hormone and neurotransmitter creation and release, and more–all shift the functioning of these areas of the brain. Information embedded within cardiac outputs directly reaches many of the subcortical areas of the brain involved in emotional processing.
The kinds of information that the heart sends significantly shifts functioning of the amygdala thus affecting emotions and other subcortical centers of the brain. The kind of activity displayed in the central nucleus of the amygdala has been found to be dependent on input from the aortic depressor or carotid sinus nerves. Heart researcher Rollin McCraty comments, “Cells within the amygdaloid complex specifically responded to information from the cardiac cycle.”
Single neurons in the brain alter their behavior in response to the signals received from each heartbeat. In response to cardiac input, complexes of neurons in the brain change their grouping and firing patterns. They alter their behavior in order to embed the information received through cardiac function and send it into the central nervous system. The information embedded within cardiac pulses alters central nervous function in behaviorally significant ways. There is, in fact, a two-way communication between heart and brain that shifts physiological functioning and behavior in response to the information exchanged.
Analysis of information flow into the human body has shown that much of it impacts the heart first, flowing to the brain only after it has been perceived by the heart. What this means is that our experience of the world is routed first through our heart, which “thinks” about the experience and then sends the data to the brain for further processing. When the heart receives information back from the brain about how to respond, the heart analyzes it and decides whether or not the actions that the brain wants to take will be effective. The heart routinely engages in a neural dialogue with the brain and, in essence, the two decide together what actions to take.
When the brain entrains to the heart, connectivity increases between brain and body. Conversely, the location of consciousness in the brain leads to an increased disconnection between brain and body. When one shifts into heart-oriented cognition, mental dialogue is reduced.
Sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve pathways and the baroreceptor system directly link the heart and brain, allowing communications and information to flow freely. Messages flowing from the heart to the brain during this shift to coherence significantly alter the brain’s functioning, especially in the cortex, which profoundly affects perception and learning.
A new mode of cognition is activated…the holistic/intuitive/depth mode. Heart researcher McCraty comments, “[heart entrainment] leads to increased self-management of one’s mental and emotional states that automatically manifests as more highly ordered physiological states that affect the functioning of the whole body, including the brain. The practitioners of these heart focus techniques report an increased intuitive awareness and more efficient decision-making capability that is beyond their normal capacity from the mind and brain alone.”
Shifting the focus of consciousness to the heart–and away from the forebrain–results in entrainment of large populations of cells in the forebrain to cardiac functioning (rather than vice versa). These populations of forebrain cells begin oscillating to the rhythms produced by the heart, and the perception of those populations of cells, the kinds of information they begin to process during entrainment, is very different from what they process when entrainment is not occurring.
The human brain operates in a state that is far from equilibrium; it, like the heart, is a complex, nonlinear oscillator. Every day, there is an incessant stream of incoming data–material to “think” about. These incoming signals cause the system to constantly shift from one state to another in response to the incoming signals. The system constantly wobbles in and out of dynamic equilibrium, reestablishing a new homeodynamic every time it is perturbed.
The neurons in the brain are nonlinear, oscillators themselves, and can be influenced by extremely weak perturbations. They are very sensitive to such perturbations, for they, like all nonlinear oscillators, use stochastic resonance to boost signal strength. A shift in the heart’s electromagnetic field is a perturbation that the brain has been evolutionarily intended to respond to. And when the heart goes coherent, the brain immediately begins to respond.
Coordinated interactions across extracellular space lead to long-range, coordinated dynamics of heart and brain function during heart/brain entrainment. When brain neurons entrain to the heart’s ECG activity, the timing of neuronal firings alters, and research shows that the timing of neuronal firing conveys several times more information than the firing count. Analysis of electroencephalogram readings shows that the heart’s signals are strongest in the occipital (posterior) regions of the brain and the right anterior (front) sections of the brain.
The brain’s alpha rhythms also synchronize to the heart, and their amplitude lowers when they do so. The brain’s alpha rhythyms are the fastest of the brain’s electromagnetic waves. Their amplitude is lower when brain arousal is lower or when a person concentrates on external sensory phenomena rather than on abstract analytical or symbolic thoughts.
After heart/brain entrainment, when a combination of both heart and brain waves are taken by electrocardiogram, what is seen is that the brain waves ride on top of the heart waves. Not only are they oscillating together; the brain’s wave patterns are, in fact, embedded within the larger field of the heart.
Hippocampal activity increases considerably when cognition is shifted to the heart, heart coherence occurs, and the brain entrains to the heart. Focusing on external sensory cues activates hippocampal functions, since all the sensory systems of our bodies converge in the hippocampus. The increased demand on hippocampal function stimulates stem cells to congregate in the hippocampus and form neurons and neuronal complexes. The reduced cortisol production that occurs during heart coherence directly enhances hippocampal activity as well.
The hippocampus, in other words, comes strongly online. It begins sifting the electromagnetic fields the heart is detecting for embedded patterns of information, eliciting meaning from background information. The hippocampus then sends information about those meanings to the neocortex, where it is encoded as memories. The more that sensory focus is on external environments, the more activated the hippocampus and its analysis of meaning becomes.
Shifting attention to any particular organ–in this case, the heart–increases registration of the feedback from that organ in the brain. This increase is measurable in electroencephalogram patterns. The shift to heart awareness initiates an alteration in body functioning via physiological mechanisms that operate through neural registration of organ feedback on the brain.
This kind of synchronization does not occur spontaneously, unless people habituate heart-focused perception. Since we have been habituated to the analytical mode of cognition through our schooling, taught to locate our consciousness in the brain and not the heart, this type of entrainment must be consciously practiced. (For most of us, heart-focused perception is not a natural mode of processing information, though it was for ancient peoples and sometimes still is for indigenous cultures.)
Even though the brain entrains with the heart through heart-focused techniques, the brain tends to wander in and out of entrainment. Because of the brain’s long use as the dominant mode of cognition, this entrainment is not permanent. Practice in entrainment helps the brain and any other system to main synchronization for longer and longer periods of time.
Impacts on Health and Disease
The heart is the most powerful oscillator in the body and its behavior is naturally nonlinear and irregular. One measure of the irregular, nonlinear activity of the heart is called heart rate variability or HRV. The resting heart, instead of beating regularly, engages in continual, spontaneous fluctuations. The heartbeat in young, healthy people is highly irregular. But heart beating patterns tend to become very regular and predictable as people get older or as their hearts become diseased. The greater the HRV, the more complex the heart’s beating patterns are and the healthier the heart is.
Complexity here refers specifically to a multiscale, fractal-type variability in structure or function. Many disease states are marked by less complex dynamics than those observed under healthy conditions. This decomplexification of systems with disease appears to be a common feature of many pathologies, as well as of aging. When physiological systems become less complex, their information content is degraded. As a result they are less adaptable and less able to cope with the exigencies of a constantly changing environment. To generate information a system must be capable of behaving in an unpredictable fashion… Certain pathologies are marked by a breakdown of this long-range organization property, producing an uncorrelated randomness similar to white noise.
What is especially telling is that when the heart is entrained to the brain’s oscillating wave-form, rather than vice versa, the heart begins to, over time, lose coherence. The more the heart entrains to the brain, and the longer it does so, the less it displays a variable HRV, the less fractal its processes are, and the more regular it is. It is, in fact, entraining to a linear rather than a nonlinear orientation.
It is not surprising then that our culture’s focus on a type of schooling that develops the brain to the exclusion of the heart, that fosters thinking instead of feeling, detachment instead of empathy, leads to disease. Heart disease is the number-one killer in the United States.
When any system begins to lose this dynamical-chaos aspect of its functioning and becomes more predictable, it begins to lose elegance of function. It, in fact, becomes diseased. Heart disease is always accompanied by an increasing loss of nonlinearity of the heart. The more predictable and regular the heart becomes, the more diseased it is. Loss of heart rate variability, for instance, occurs in multiple sclerosis, fetal distress, aging, and congestive heart disease. To be healthy, the heart must remain in a highly unstable state of dynamic equilibrium.
Given all this, it is not surprising that unhealthy emotional states (major depression and panic disorders, for example) correlate with changes in HRV as well as alterations in the power spectral density of the heart (power spectral density refers to the range and number of electromagnetic waves produced by the heart).
During major depression and panic disorder, as in many pathological heart conditions, the heart’s electromagnetic spectrum begins to show a narrower range, and beating patterns again become very regular. This narrowing and increase in regularity also show direct impacts in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Sympathetic nervous system activity and tone tend to increase, the parasympathetic to decrease.
These are all signs of increasing heart disease, as a disordered heart cannot produce the extreme variability and flexibility that is normal in the healthy heart. Since emotional experience comes, in part, from the electromagnetic field of the heart, a disordered, narrow, noncomplex electromagnetic field will produce emotional experiences, like depression and panic attacks, that are themselves disordered, narrow, and restricted in scope.
In many pathological conditions, the heart’s electrophysiologic system acts as if it were coupling itself to multiple oscillatory systems on a permanent basis. In other words, it behaves as if it can’t make up its mind, and its cells no longer beat as one unified group. Instead, the group begins to split (broken-hearted), pulled this way and that by different outside oscillating attractors.
Holding the consciousness to one state of being, the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode of cognition, of necessity produces a diminished heart function, a shallower mix of emotional states, and an impaired ability to respond to embedded meanings and communications from the environment and from the self.
Conversely, increasing heart coherence and heart/brain entrainment has shown a great many positive health effects. Increased heart coherence boosts the body’s production of immunoglobulin A, a naturally occurring compound that protects the body’s mucous membranes and helps prevent infections. Increased heart coherence and heart/brain entrainment also produces improvements in disorders such as arrhythmia, mitral valve prolapse, congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, autonomic exhaustion, anxiety, depression, AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In general, in many disease, overall healing rates are enhanced.
One specific treatment intervention study, for example, found that high blood pressure can be significantly lowered within six months–without the use of medication–if heart coherence is reestablished. And as heart/brain synchronization occurs, people experience less anxiety, depression, and stress overall.
Lack of cognitive focus on the body (habituation to the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode of cognition) results in disconnection and increased disorder in organ function–and is the foundation of many diseases, including heart disease. When attention is focused on different sensory cues (e.g., heartbeat, respiration, external visual stimuli) physiological function shifts significantly and becomes more healthy.
It becomes even healthier when specific kinds of emotions are activated: feelings of caring, love, and appreciation enhance internal coherence. The more confused, angry, or frustrated a person becomes, the more incoherent their heart’s electromagnetic field.
In the healthy heart, the varied and complex emotional mix we experience each day–generated by contact with our internal and external worlds–produces a range of heart rate patterns that is nonlinear and constantly shifting. Communications are embedded within these shifting mixes and patterns, communications from and to our bodies, our loved ones, the world at large. The narrower the range of the electromagnetic spectrum, the more regular the beating patterns of the heart and the less “hearty” we become.
Heart Communication with the External World
Biological fields, as Renee Levi comments, are “composed of vibrations that are organized, nor random, and have the capacity to selectively react, interact, and transact internally and with other fields.” “Our body and brain, Joseph Chilton Pearce remarks, “form an intricate web of coherent frequencies organized to translate other frequencies and nestled within a nestled within a nested hierarchy of universal frequencies.”
Living organisms, including people, exchange electromagnetic energy through contact between their fields, and this electromagnetic energy carries information in much the same way radio transmitters and receivers carry music. When people or other living organisms touch, a subtle but highly complex exchange of information occurs via their electromagnetic fields.
Refined measurements reveal that there is an energy exchange between people, carried through the electromagnetic field of the heart, that while strongest with touch and up to 18 inches away, can still be measured (with instruments) when they are five feet apart. Though of course, our (technological) ability to measure electromagnetic radiation is very crude. Electromagnetic signals from living organisms, just like radio waves, continue outward indefinitely.
So, energy encoded with information is transferred from one electromagnetic field to another. In response to the information it receives, the heart alters its functioning and encodes in its fields, on a constantly shifting basis, its responses. Those responses can, in turn, alter the electromagnetic fields of whatever living organisms the heart is engaged with–for this is a living, ever-shifting dialogue.
The heart generates the strongest electromagnetic field of the body, and this field becomes more coherent as consciousness shifts from the brain to the heart. This coherence significantly contributes to the informational exchange that occurs during contact between different electromagnetic fields. The more coherent the field, the more potent the informational exchange.
A coherent heart affects the brain wave pattern not only of the person achieving coherence, but also of any person with whom it comes into contact. While direct skin-to-skin contact has the greatest effect on brain function, mere proximity elicits changes. A sender’s coherent heart-field is measurable not only in a receiving person’s electroencephalogram, but also in his or her entire electromagnetic field.
When people touch or are in close proximity, a transference of their heart’s electromagnetic energy occurs, and the two fields begin to entrain or resonate with each other. The result is a combined wave created by a combination of the original waves. This combined wave has the same frequency as the original waves but an increased amplitude. Both its power and depth are increased.
The signal of transfer is sometimes, but not always, detected as flowing in both directions; this depends to a great extent on the context of the transfer and the orientation of the sender. When a person projects a heart-coherent field filled with caring, love and attention, living organisms respond to the information in the field by becoming more responsive, open, affectionate, animated, and closely connected. Just to illustrate this in real life, this is something that anyone who has ever experienced the effects of MDMA and other empathogens knows all too well and can attest to this reality.
The importance of caring on outcomes in healing has been stressed in a great many cultures and types of healing professions. Healing practitioners that consciously produce coherence in the electromagnetic field of their hearts create a field that can be detected by other living systems and their biological tissues. This field is then amplified and used by the organism detecting it to shift biological function. When these loving, practitioner-generated fields are detected and (naturally) amplified by ill people, healing rates of wounds are increased, pain decreases, hemoglobin levels shift, DNA alters, and new psychological states manifest.
So, the best outcomes are dependent on the state of mind of the healer. Extreme importance should be attached to the kind of intention a practitioner has as he or she works. The more caring the practitioner, the more coherence there will be in their electromagnetic field and the better the healing will be.
When we are cared for or care for others, the heart releases an entirely different cascade of hormonal and neurotransmitter substances than it does in other, less hopeful, circumstances. Falling in love causes a tremendous expansion of the heart, a flood of DHEA and testosterone throughout the heart and body, and a flow of other hormones, such as dopamine, all of which affect adrenal, hypothalamus, and pituitary hormone output. More Immunoglobulin A, or IgA, is also released, stimulating the health and immune action of mucous membrane systems throughout the body.
The receiver’s receptivity to the practitioner’s heart-field also plays a part in the outcome. The more open he or she is to receiving caring, the more he or she will entrain with an external electromagnetic field. However, the elegance of the practitioner in creating and directing a coherent electromagnetic field to the patient is of more importance than the sufferer’s receptivity. In addition, the practitioner-generated field must be continually adjusted.
Since the heart’s electromagnetic field is nonlinear, healers can alter the makeup of the field through a constantly shifting perception of the patient. As the healer shifts toward coherence, nor surprisingly, there is an alteration in his or her own cortical function. At this point, pesronal perception also alters considerably. The healer’s cognition is, as McCraty puts it, “dramatically changed.” This altered perception is by nature extremely sensitive to the fabric of external electromagnetic fields and the information contained within them.
As the practitioner’s perception and their facility in using it deepens, it is possible to use it in a highly directed fashion to extract more meaning from the patient and his or her interior world. As the patient’s electromagnetic field alters, as it will from moment to moment throughout the process, the kind of caring, attention, and love the practitioner sends and where it is directed can be adjusted, making it more highly sophisticated in its impacts.
Since the healer’s electromagnetic field is so personally directed and shaped to fit the unique needs and electromagnetic field of the patient, the patient’s sensitivity to the process increases the more it occurs. Anyone can, and will, responds with significant shifts in their electromagnetic field if the practitioner’s technique is elegant enough.
If the practitioner entrains themselves to the patient’s ECG or EEG, their heart can take on the disease patterns in the other person–beat and EEG pattern, and so on. Self-reflection will show the practitioner the pattern of disease in the patient, and by altering their own pattern back toward health, the practitioner can determine the processes, the steps necessary to produce health in the patient. But beyond this, the patient, in a state of synchronization, will tent to “follow” the leads embedded in the practitioner’s electromagnetic field, moving toward health.
The more accustomed people become to responding to coherent electromagnetic fields generated through a practitioner’s heart, the more rapidly they are able to physiologically respond when they detect a coherent electromagnetic field. The more interaction two living organisms have, the more imprinting that occurs on their hearts, the more alteration there is in their electromagnetic fields, the more shifts that occur in heart function.
Since this element of healing is almost absent in conventional, technological medicine, patients are not used to responding to coherent electromagnetic fields as part of their healing. In fact, the electromagnetic field of most medical healers is extremely incoherent, since they have been trained to use their brains to the exclusion of their hearts. The ill are immersed in incoherent electromagnetic fields throughout their healing process in hospitals, which, in and of itself, is a strong contributing element to the kinds of outcomes hospitals and physicians produce.
Incoherence vs. Coherence
The heart-based way of living takes into account that everything is part of an interconnected Wholeness. This interconnected aspect of consciousness increases the feelings of empathy, compassion, and love among humans part of this grand field. It seems as if the process of evolution itself, initiated and formulated by whatever processes of Reality began it all, are focused and directed towards strengthening the aspects of reality we have come to know as interconnectedness and oneness. Evidence of this can be seen in many places. One such place is in the sphere of incoherence and coherence.
Incoherence, such as when a person feels stress, anxiety, uncertainty and fear, generates chaotic and incoherent signals in the heart that go to the brain and trigger stressful responses. The heart and brain fall out of alignment and as a result the solutions to personal or world problems are not readily found. These negative emotions are registered in the heart and brain’s electromagnetic fields and generate a global stress and incoherence wave that radiates outward into those around us and to those all over the world.
Stress and incoherence are intensified by catalysts such as instant mass media reports of situations of suffering such as natural disasters, social upheaval, economic turmoil, etc. Incoherence brings about negative results and because of this, demonstrates that the opposite, that being coherence, is what the process of consciousness evolution prefers.
When a person feels genuine hope, care and compassion, his or her heart sends out harmonious and coherent signals to the brain, replacing feelings of separateness and solitude with a sense of connectedness and oneness. The heart and brain are aligned and in sync. There is harmony. The higher cortical functions are enhanced, facilitating objective, sober assessment and intuitive perception. A person is able to perceive more wholeness, and solutions to problems become more apparent.
On a collective level, positive emotions such as hope, will, care, compassion and appreciation generate a global coherence wave whose electromagnetic field goes out into those around us and all over the world. The intentional increasing of the heart-mind alignment and the focusing on a heart-centered way of life have the potential to create a global coherence wave to facilitate new solutions for the problems and issues that the world as a whole faces today.
Now that you know about the incredible impact our hearts and their electromagnetic energy fields have on ourselves and others, use this information to your advantage and create coherence with those around you, enhancing not only your life but the lives of others and ultimately society as a whole.