Head and Heart

This past Sunday, somewhere between PB&J sandwiches and Jeb’s book report for the Boxcar Children’s “Surprise Island” (great read, by the way) I found a little time with science.

My life seems to support mere snippets of adult-time reading.  Random paragraphs imbibed after throwing the clothes in the wash but before I start dinner.  Needless to say this communication to you will be no dissertation (not even as thorough as a book report).  I work in threads here in the Archives and this is yesterday’s weave beside the fruit salad.

Two different sources.  Two different body locations.  Head and heart.  The theme:  bridging.

Never been too good at math, but Heart Math, maybe…  There is a fascinating non-profit called The Heart Math Institute that studies the links between the heart and mind.  Their mission:  “…helping people establish heart-based living and global coherence.”  Their angle: use science and technology to integrate and use the intelligence of the heart in all aspects of our lives.

What they’ve found so far is that the heart has a mind of its own.  Despite what I was taught in school – that all messages from the brain epicenter command the rest of our body – what we’ve got going on internally is no one-way street.  Studies have shown that the heart communicates with and affects the brain.  It actually has its own intrinsic nervous system, which acts independently of the brain.  Check out the cardiac ganglia below (cells that make up a kind of ‘brain’ material), which serve to process information and transmit it to the body.

photo courtesy of The Heart Math Institute

Seems the inner physical world is not the only place affected.  Using an electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure electrical fields emitted from the body, scientists have found that the field generated by the heart is 60 times greater in strength than that of the brain.  And with a SQUID-based manometer (wonder what that looks like), they’ve measured the heart’s magnetic field as being 5000 times greater than the brain’s.

Further research has discovered that the energetic field of the heart affects brain waves, can be influenced by emotion, and that the fields between the brain and heart can be synchronized.  These fields have shown to be synchronized between people, too.

photo courtesy of The Heart Math Institute

What does all of this mean?  For me it’s science explaining what I think many of us already ‘know’ in our hearts.  We’ve felt these connections.  We know the sense of how it feels when everything aligns in a moment – with ourselves, our world and each other.  “Follow your heart” is not just for blissful utopia seekers.  It seems to be a fundamental part of how we live.

This doesn’t diminish the power of the brain.  Somewhere after the almond butter but before the book report illustrations, I grabbed a few paragraphs from Janet Conner’s “Writing Down Your Soul.” It references work from a book by Dr. James Pennebaker“Opening Up”, which outlines studies done on the affects of expressive writing on the brain.  Pennebaker concluded that what was termed “confessional writing” effects the corpus colosum, a portion that bridges the left and right brain.  This kind of deep writing can produce a meditative state, inducing theta waves that trigger more whole brain functioning.

This state can be therapeutic, especially when healing trauma.  What is suggested is that the language aspect that is centered in the left brain can express the negative emotions that are primarily localized in the right brain.  The writing can actually release old patterns established by neural pathways, as the two halves of the brain communicate and converge.

In fact, a study even measured particular words that when written seemed to have the greatest positive impact upon the writer.  When expressing painful experiences, those that wrote from a place of reflection and insight and incorporated words like “understand”, “realize” or “know” seemed to benefit the most.  Pennebaker’s conclusion:  “Writing moves us to resolution.”

Simple snippets that remind me that the connections are there.  Always have been.  We feel it and know (there’s that power word).  Science studies it and explains the details.

I come here to the Archives because I feel.  I write to try to capture the essence of that feeling and share.  I hope that someone reading may be inspired to reach into their interior.  Express it any way they feel.  To let that heart of theirs beam its electro-magnetic field around the world and beyond.  To send signals to the brain that bring syncopation and plenty of happy thoughts.  To forge new pathways and travel on mental landscapes yet unexplored.

May we all fulfill this vessel’s greatest potential.  And enjoy the process of conveying the experience to one another.

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