According to the World Health Organization, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death globally. Heart health is a major focus.
They further state that “most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol using population-wise strategies.”1
From a holistic perspective, these recommendations for heart health are but a few aspects of the whole picture and may only even be symptomatic of an underlying imbalance. To experience true heart health, we must look deeper and wider, at the whole ecosystem of who this person is.
So for a person with heart challenges, be it high blood pressure, at risk for heart failure or with a history of heart attacks, what does this mean?
There is a Chinese saying that “when the heart is in balance, the organs are happy; when the heart is dis-eased, the organs tremble.”
The Three Brains
We have three brains – head, heart, and gut.
The brain is an amazing organ. We are still learning about neuroplasticity, how we continue to grow our brain and lay down new neural pathways. When one part of the brain is disrupted, it is able to make alternate connections. The brain, however, functions in binary, dualistic, 2D terms – yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.
The heart is where our wisdom, desire, and passions live. In Chinese Medicine, it’s where our Spirit resides. In other philosophies, our soul. The heart, along with the lungs and the thymus, is the heart chakra, distinguished by a radiant emerald green. This is the colour of healing and the one we associate with “go”.
The thymus, according to the science of Kundalini Yoga, is connected to the silver cord of our soul. There is a rhythm to the thymus and the heart. It is our natural pacemaker, the one that starts the beat.
The gut brain is where our creativity is. When we are connected, we live in trust. We say things like “gut feeling”. Gut health is a major connection in health these days as the importance of the gut is becoming more and more clear. Illness often finds part of its roots in poor gut flora.
For a while now, the head brain has taken over as supreme. Logic and the rational over the intuitive and the creative. For most people, there is a disconnection from their heart and gut. From their own rhythms, the beat of the drummer we all hear. This imbalance in the head-heart-gut brains can be found in our personal health and that of the planet.
Another reason why a head-brain-based existence is missing out elements is because the stress and relaxation responses are body-based. The resolution of trauma, according to Trauma Release Exercises founder David Berceli, requires a body response. We cannot think ourselves out of a stressful situation. From individual and collective trauma, fear has ruled how we behave, and mostly it is not from love and vulnerability.
Vulnerability takes courage and trust.
Some people repress and some people react. Some people push boundaries and some are pushed by life’s challenges. Of course, these are extremes and we move along the spectrum.
How we live (or not live) can be seen on the physical level. Those pushing boundaries and those who do not are likely the ones with high blood pressure and low blood pressure, respectively. Always pushing, pushing, pushing takes one out of the natural rhythms of life, deaf to his/her desires, and yes physical health challenges, as well. Even so, being in life is better than not participating.
About the Heart
The heart is an amazing part of our body. About the size of two hands clasped together, the heart is a physical pump that gets about 1.5 gallons of blood around the body. Here are some more interesting facts from HeartMastery (part of the Institute of HeartMath which has been researching heart intelligence for the past 20 years):
- The heart begins to form in the fetus before the brain.
- The average heart beats 110,000 times a day, 40 million times a year, 3.5 billion times in a lifetime.
- Your heart produces enough power in 1 hour to lift 2,000 pounds 3 feet off the ground. In one hour and 15 minutes the heart could lift a Toyota Prius!
- The source of the heartbeat is in the heart, not the brain. When they do a heart transplant, they cannot reconnect the heart and brain. The heart beats on its own.
- The electrical impulse of each heart beat can be measured 3 to 4 feet from the body.
- The electrical impulse of the heart is 40 – 60 times stronger than the brain’s. It is many more times stronger than any other electrical impulse in the body.
- The heart sends more information to the brain, than the brain does to the heart.
- The heart’s vascular system is 60,000 miles long and can wrap around the earth twice.
- Different people’s (or even animal’s) heart cells, will all beat in unison in a petrie dish. Different people’s brain cells in a petri dish will not communicate with each other and die.
- The electricity generated by the heart can be detected and measured in the brain patterns of another person nearby.
- The heart works without interruption for 70-80 years, without care or cleaning, usually without repair or replacement. Do you need energy or stamina? Access the heart!
- The heart is pretty amazing!
Working with the Heart for Heart Health
Medicines and a pacemaker may help the heart function “better” or longer but it is not a cure. Even people who depend on western medicine can improve the state of their health and well-being in many ways.
We need to look inward and open up to the whisperings of the heart. In some cases, as with a heart attack, the messages from the heart are being shouted out! Look at a heart attack as another opportunity to take heed of our heart’s true desires. Instead of dwelling deeper in fear, step out in love.
The heart is physically in the centre of our body and according to some philosophies and belief systems, the heart is the seat of our soul. As the fourth chakra, it bridges the lower and the higher chakras. Through our heart and our love, all is bridged. This is more of an universal love, rather than a personalized or romantic love. A loving kindness towards all. The meaning of this chakra whose sanskrit name is Anahata is “unstuck” so you can imagine our power when we become untethered from fear and social programming.
When all the knots of the heart are unloosened, then even here in this human birth, the mortal becomes immortal. This is the whole teaching of the scriptures.
In a recent lecture by Dr. Ruediger Dahlke he pointed out that it is important to let the heart grow and burn, but not on a physical level. If you are Christian, you may recall that it is asked that we love our neighbours as ourselves, and love our enemies. It is not always easy to love our neighbours as it is to love our friends, which is why perhaps there is no need for a commandment for that. Sometimes loving our own family, though, is a feat in itself. And enemies?
We grow our heart, to where we can include everyone, whether we understand them or not. If we do not grow our heart to love more and more, on the metaphorical, spiritual, and the consciousness levels, the heart will grow on the physical level which may lead to health problems with the heart.
Include your friends, your family, your neighbors, and your enemies. The animals, the trees, and everything. Most of all, include yourself in this field of love.
What is your heart saying?
In Chinese Medicine, there is an organ clock and each of the organ meridians is dominant energetically for two hours. According to this clock, the Heart meridian comes before the Small Intestine. Based on this, when we follow our rhythms and our desires (Heart), we can make the right choices (Small Intestine).
What happens when we listen to our heart first and foremost? Instead of OPO – “other people’s opinions”?
Meet yourself and other people with openness, and live life – your life. Our heart can never really be too big. Listening to the heart first allows the brain to transform from a critic to a creator, according to Guru Singh.
When we do not resolve what is out of balance in our psyche or on the consciousness level, it will play out on the physical level. Look to the nature of your physical symptoms as signs and clues of what is lacking in life. If you have an irregular heartbeat, perhaps you need to allow more “irregularities” in your life. More flow, rather than structure. More originality, rather than following the masses.
Heart Health Tips
If you are dealing with heart-related health challenges, perhaps it may be helpful to at least contemplate why your heart is in dis-ease and requires your attention.
We all probably know about the heart-healthy habits suggested by doctors, such as eliminating animal protein and increasing physical exercise. Many people find it difficult to be disciplined to sustain massive lifestyle changes. What if part of the missing puzzle that makes these lifestyle choices only temporarily attainable because self-love is lacking?
Knowing that there are other dimensions to a heart condition does not mean we need to find blame, in others or ourselves. We have all felt our hearts close, from being wounded and in fear. Research has shown that traumas can be passed down from our ancestors, along with our genes, so we may be dealing with ancestral wounding. This does not make us “bad” people and certainly not victims. It can be scary to break down our walls and allow the world to see us in all our brightness and “flaws” but living with a lightness and an open heart is really the only way to live fully.
Food for thought: The heart generates an electromagnetic field and every time it beats, our emotions are sent out into the field, and into the world. What are you sending out? And are you listening to what the heart is saying?
We have so much information to enhance our heart health these days, bringing together ancient wisdom and new research. This gives us multiple ways to increase our heart-based approach to life as well. The heart is at the centre of it all and if we can listen first to our heart-brain and aligning with the head-heart-gut-brain system, our overall health, wellbeing, and fulfillment can take a quantum leap. Personal heart health is also collective heart health.