Coherence is an optimal state in which the heart, mind, and emotions are aligned and in sync. Physiologically the immune, hormonal, and nervous systems function in a state of energetic coordination
- HeartMath Institute
In every spiritual tradition I’m aware of, the heart is the personal, moral, and spiritual center of the human being. It’s the core of who we are, where we access our natural presence, wisdom, and compassion.
AND it’s the point from which we awaken to our innate oneness with All That IS (with God), with others, with nature, and everything and everyone around us.
The Philokalia, a wisdom text from the Eastern Orthodox tradition compiled over a thousand years, offers the following suggestion:
Place the Mind in the Heart
- Philokalia (18th Century)
In Centering Prayer & Meditation we talk about cultivating “heartfulness” through your daily practice. Heartfulness is like mindfulness, but it emphasizes the spiritual dimension of our being located in the heart, along with compassion and acceptance toward yourself and others.
How fascinating that science has now shown that this kind of heartfulness is the best way to move into a state of coherence and alignment!
Based on measurements of your heart-rate variability (HRV), you can see if you’re coherent in real time. Notice how the HRV on the right side, after practicing a coherence technique, is more smooth and consistent.
By learning to shift into a state of coherence – through simple daily practices – you can learn to interrupt old, anxious mental patterns by allowing your heart to send its natural, innate love and wisdom to the brain. Effectively telling your brain that it’s safe, it’s ok to relax and trust in the moment.
Below is a screen image from iPhone showing my Coherence and HRV in real time during a practice I did last Friday, using the free app and the Inner Balance bluetooth sensor.
When you’re in a coherent state, your heart’s regular rhythm of heart-rate variability sends these messages up to the brain through something called the vagus nerve.
We often think of our nervous system as delivering information from the brain out to every other organ or part of the body. But communication is always a two-way street. Between 80% to 90% of your vagus nerve runs the other way – it primarily sends information from your heart up to your brain.
The vagus nerve, which is 80% afferent, carries information from the heart and other internal organs to the brain. Signals from the “heart brain” redirect to the medulla, hypothalamus, thalamus, and amygdala and the cerebral cortex. Thus, the heart sends more signals to the brain than vice versa..The heart is not just a pump. It has its neural network or “little brain.”
There have been over 400 published studies describing the benfits of these HeartMath techniques. They’re pretty cool. But the real shift is what you experience, because that’s where you can feel the change in your life.
Here are some highlights of what I’ve noticed so far (I’m currently in week 3 of the HeartMath coaching certification):
- These in-the-moment practices can be done with eyes open…while sitting in meetings, talking with someone else, driving your car, or doing email.
- Like the Welcoming Prayer, these are wonderful complements to my daily centering prayer and meditation…allowing me to “stretch” the benefits of my sitting practice and bring them into heartful moments throughout my day
- Plugging energy leaks!! Negative emotions like anxiety, even at low levels, drain energy. Being able to shift quickly is like plugging the leak so my energy is more consistent throughout the day.
- I’ve cut way back on coffee and caffeine intake. When I feel that energy crash where I’d usually go for the brew, I do a quick coherence practice and find more natural, sustainable energy.
I hope you all are enjoying learning about these new practices and the science behind it along with me. I’m also updating my materials and creating a new webinar and a new Centering for Wisdom program that will incorporate the HeartMath practices (to be ready in early 2022).
So, stay tuned!
In the meantime, if you have any comments or questions drop me a message here on my site or in FB Messenger – just click on the little Messenger image in the bottom-right corner of your screen.