Our Hearts, Our Selves

heartekgOur Hearts, Our Selves

Did you know that the heart has its own “brain”? Yes, over 60 per cent of our hearts’ cells are nerve cells, and the heart has a brain with its own memories and preferences. The nun who received a heart transplant from a young man killed in a motorcycle accident was surprised to find herself craving Budweiser and chicken mcnuggets! And our hearts are sending messages to our brains more frequently than in the other direction. (Are we listening??) heartmath

HeartMath®: the rhythms of the heart 

The heart, according to the Institute of HeartMath®, is the “master regulator” for the whole body. As goes the heart, so go the nervous system, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the immune system, and the brain. The heart’s electromagnetic field is at least a hundred times more powerful than the brain’s, and it extends out beyond our bodies, subtly influencing everyone we encounter. Have you ever walked into a room where there has just been an argument, and felt the energy? Sometimes these energies are not so subtle!

Health benefits abound

When we are feeling peaceful, loving or grateful, our heart rhythms entrain all the other organ systems in our bodies to work at their best. This state is called “heart-brain coherence,” and it can be taught.  The Institute of HeartMath® has done extensive studies on the health benefits of practicing coherence. Some of the conditions that can be helped include: high blood pressure, digestive disorders, asthma, diabetes, insomnia, asthma, congestive heart disease, fatigue, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. HeartMath® has been used by health professionals, businesses, veterans, police, the military, schools, universities, nonprofits, and athletes.  (Please see www.heartmath.org)

It’s not just for adults. Students benefit because they can learn to diminish test anxiety and think more clearly, resulting in improved test scores. They also improve their social and emotional functioning in school.

Self-regulation skills

When I first encountered HeartMath® in the 1990’s, I was a biofeedback therapist. I was very impressed with their research, and hoped they would create a way to monitor and “feed back” the heart data so that people could learn these skills. And a few years later, they did! The Emwave® is a simple device that attaches to an earlobe and your computer and gives you information about your coherence level, and the Inner Balance® can go everywhere–it works with an iPhone.

This year when I became a certified HeartMath® coach, I was surprised and pleased to learn how to manage my own energy better using HeartMath® skills. Now if I am frustrated or worried or anxious, I pause and ask myself if I want to stay in that contracted state that is draining my energy. NO! It may take a few tries, but I can usually shift to heart-focused breathing and generate a feeling of appreciation or ease. At night if I am not falling asleep right away, I do my HeartMath® practices, and feel the bliss of deep relaxation followed by sleep. When getting ready for an important phone call, teaching a class, or meeting someone, my goal is to “get coherent” in preparation. These are the basics of self-regulation and resilience: taking charge of my own well-being.

Heart Insights

Best of all, I can frequently access intuitive insights that flow when my heart and brain are “in sync.” These insights can be as simple as “I could be taking better care of my health and slowing down more,” or they could be in response to a question I’m having about a relationship. When I first received a heart insight, it was in a class called “BePeace,” taught by Rita Marie Johnson, with practices for combining empathic communication skills with heart coherence and insight. The results were profound: I was able to heal a rift with a brother that had resulted in a communication breakdown, after having that insight!

Rita Marie trained me to be a teacher of her courses. Her new book, Completely Connected, just won the Nautilus award in psychology (an award previously held by the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Deepak Chopra, and Marianne Williamson).

Get the benefits…

You can receive the HeartMath® benefits by:

  • Taking the BePeace course with me on the weekend of October 15 and 16 at Unity of the Blue Ridge. Please see heartspeakpeace.com for more information.
  • If you prefer individual coaching sessions in HeartMath®, please contact me at 828-545-9681 or cathyfholt@gmail.com. Your first consultation is free!