Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
February 14, 2007
The Intuitive-Connections Network

The Emotional Heart

The heart as an organ of perception and communication

The Emotional Heart

Stephen Harrod Buhner

(The material below is Chapter 5 from the book, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Bear & Co. All Rights Reserved.)

The spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart.

We evaluate everything emotionally as we perceive it. We think about it after.

The intellect is powerless to express thought without the aid of the heart.

Only a reductionist science would need to "prove" the ridiculously obvious: that our hearts are perceptual organs, crucial to our humanness.

The tendency for heart cells to entrain with one another, merely because of the proximity of their electromagnetic fields, extends to any electromagnetic field that comes into contact with them. Just as the electromagnetic fields of two heart cells cause them to begin beating or oscillating in unison, when the electromagnetic fields of two hearts come together, they also begin to oscillate or entrain to each other.

But this phenomenon extends even further. When the heart's electromagnetic field and any other organism's electromagnetic field whether it has a "heart" or not, are in close proximity, the fields entrain or synchronize, and there is an extremely rapid and complex interchange of information. As the two fields harmonize with one another, shifts occur in each electromagnetic field, producing significant alterations in the physiological functioning of each organism.

For not only does each electromagnetic field alter, but the information embedded within each field is also taken in by the receiving organism. The information in the encountered electromagnetic field is a perturbation of each organism's dynamic nonequilbrium and, like the clown on the unicycle, an alteration of internal dynamics is needed in order for them to keep equilibrium.

The perturbations that occur when another electromagnetic field is encountered alter each organism's coupling dynamics, producing new, cooperative, dynamic states. In addition, as the two fields come together and synchronize, the process produces a combination field, in effect, two fields in one. And these two fields are, like all nonlinear oscillators, in harmony.

They produce something that is more than the sum of their parts. These fields are, as Joseph Chilton Pearce says, "aggregates or resonant groupings of information and/or intelligence." A unique identity comes into being and exists as long as the two fields are synchronized.

Energy systems, like the heart, are open systems; they are always interacting with other energy systems. They are always using, storing, and emitting energy. The more complex a system is (meaning the larger the number of self-organized subunits that combine in self-organization to make it up), the more complex its energy and information processes become, and the more factors must be taken into account to maintain its dynamic equilibrium.

Within the electromagnetic spectrum, the heart must decode and encode information across multiple waves and frequencies with each beat. At the same time, it generates and delivers different pressure waves, sound waves, thermal fluctuations, hormonal cascades, neurotransmitters, and neural bursts of information directly to the centers of the brain that it is connected to and to the rest of the body.

At any one moment in time there is an informational gestalt, a gesture of communication, going out from the heart to both the external and internal environments in which it lives. And this particular gestalt changes from moment to moment, depending on the information the heart receives from those environments.

The heart is extremely complex, and the energy fields it creates, emits, and uses in communicating with other energy systems (the rest of the body or other organisms) are extremely complex as well. The pulses of energetic information that the heart sends out, for example, do not all travel at the same speed.

Like a lightning strike: you first see the flash, then hear the sound, then feel the rumble.

Some electromagnetic waves-like visible light-travel very fast. Some, like sound waves, are slower; pressure waves are slower still. All these pulses of energetic information travel at different rates within and outside of the body, and produce effects at different times. All of these energetic expressions encode meaning, and all have effects on external organisms. The sound of a slow, external heartbeat helps calm infants; a more rapid beating, inserted in the background score of a horror film, can generate feelings of panic in the listener.

Electrical and magnetic energy, in combination with other forms of energy, radiate from the body and travel into space as organized patterns of energy.

The organized patterns of energy from the heart, in fact, have been shown to directly affect the functioning of organisms outside the heart.

The merging and entrainment of our hearts with other electromagnetic fields is extremely natural to us; it is one of our earliest experiences. For this entrainment first occurs before birth. We are immersed in our mothers' electromagnetic fields while in their wombs, and electroencephalogram and electromagnetogram readings have shown that the fields of the two, mother and infant in utero, naturally synchronize or entrain.

During breast-feeding and holding, the infant's electromagnetic field is constantly resynchronized with the mother's. As Joseph Chilton Pearce remarks, "The mother's developed heart furnishes the model frequencies that the infant's heart must have for its own development in the critical first few months after birth." And the mother's electromagnetic field encodes large amounts of complex information that affect the child far beyond mere mechanical dynamics.

At the simplest level, how the mother feels about the child, whether the child is wanted or loved, is conveyed to the developing embryo through information encoded within alterations of the mother's electromagnetic field. Those alterations are specific embeds, encodes, of information that the receiving field of the developing child can decipher-just as a radio receiver can decode radio waves.

Because the human heart is born into a situation in which its first functionings are intimately involved with information coming from another electromagnetic field, it continues throughout its life to be sensitive to the information in electromagnetic fields. It gestates, you might say, within this kind of language.

It is the heart's birth tongue. So, throughout life, the heart actively scans fields it perceives, looking for patterns of communication and information. Whenever the heart comes across other biological oscillators and their electromagnetic fields, and as its field is perturbed by the other fields at their first touch, the heart experiences an alteration in its electromagnetic spectrum. The way the electromagnetic field is altered conveys information.

If the two fields synchronize, even more information is conveyed. The way these radiating fields of energy patterns and their perturbations are experienced by human beings is unique. They are experienced as emotions.

The basic colors our eyes can detect combine to make up the infinite range of colors that we can see. Each of these colors has a different waveform, a different frequency; these frequencies are taken in through the eyes, processed in the visual cortex, and interpreted as color. All our sensory mediums are similar in this way.

For example, the four basic tastes-sour, sweet, bitter, and salty-combine in a multitude of ways to make up the spectrum of tastes we can experience. The electromagnetic field frequencies of the heart are experienced not as colors or tastes, but as emotions. (The slightest emotional change, due either to internal or external factors, shows up immediately as a change in heart rate and heart rate variability patterns, and vice versa.)

The heart is, in fact, an extremely sensitive sensory organ whose domain is that of feelings. Emotions represent the impact of specific electromagnetic spectrum carrier waves upon us, as colors are the impact of visual carrier waves. Like colors and tastes, the broad spectrum of complex emotions we can experience is created through subtle combinations of a few basic emotions: mad, sad, glad, and scared. These combine to form many more complex emotional states, such as jealousy, awe, and love.

They combine in even more complex forms than these of course, because the number of emotions we can experience, fleeting as most of them are, cover a nearly infinite range. Just as the variations in electromagnetic response of the nonlinear oscillator we know as our heart approaches infinity through the fractalization of its processes, our experiences of those shifting processes allows a nearly infinite number of emotional blends.

Internal and External Electromagnetic Fields

The human body contains a great many biological oscillators, all hooked together in the organism we know as ourselves.

The three most powerful are the heart, gastrointestinal tract, and brain.

The internal energy fields we sense within us, coming from all our biological oscillators (from cells to organs to the combined, whole organism), contain certain kinds of information about our internal world. We feel that information as certain kinds or groupings of emotions. These emotions give us informational, sensory cues about what is going on within us. if only we will pay attention

When we decipher those cues, just as when we decipher the pattern of visual cues that is a road sign, we gain information about the road we are on, the path we are taking.

That our internal world expresses information to us in emotional information pulses was reflected in classical understandings that organ malfunction would be accompanied by specific emotional states. A malfunctioning liver, for instance, was considered the source of unexplainable anger, a malfunctioning gallbladder of melancholy. Each of these malfunctions affects the makeup of the heart's electromagnetic field.

Even in a healthy system, a great deal of the emotional flux we experience daily comes out of an intricate interplay between our internal subunits: molecules, cells, and organs. Studies have found, for example, that there is a relationship among splenic contraction, blood pressure, and emotional states. As their function shifts, the changing electromagnetic fields of those biological oscillators alter the heart's electromagnetic field.

We then experience an electromagnetic pulse of information, felt as emotions, coming from a shift in our internal functioning. (This alteration also changes the heart's pressure waves, something traditional Chinese physicians know and have formalized in pulse diagnosis.)

Unfortunately, in our time, our languaging for these internal states is extremely limited. We may feel "under the weather," but we can feel under the weather in a great many ways, and each of these ways has a particular and unique feeling or complex of feelings attached to it. We may feel "blah" or "sick" or "depressed," but each of these statements conveys little information about our internal state. They are not elegant, specifically communicative statements.

To a great extent, this limitation comes from a cultural, long-term lack of focus on the great variety of emotional states that are generated by alterations in our internal world. Ancient and indigenous cultures, focused more on the heart as an organ of perception, generally were more able to elegantly articulate these internally generated emotional states.

If we direct our consciousness outside ourselves and pay attention to the biological oscillators we encounter there, we can also become aware of the emotions generated by our encounters with external electromagnetic fields. When the fluctuating electromagnetic field of our heart touches another electromagnetic field, whether from a person, rock, or plant, we feel a range of emotional impressions that are our experience of the information encoded within those organisms' electromagnetic fields and the alterations that have occurred in our field.

This is, in fact, the source of the deep feelings that come from our immersion in wild landscapes, the feelings we have when we see the Grand Canyon, for instance. And these externally generated feelings are an important and essential source of emotions for all human beings, for we emerged not only from our mothers' wombs, but also from the wildness of the world. We developed nestled not only in our mothers' electromagnetic fields, but also within the larger electromagnetic field of the Earth.

We are an expression of the ecosystem, the womb, the Earth, an ecological response of the planet. And this kind of information exchange is embedded deeply within our cellular memories.

The heart is, then, a receptor organ, receiving information not only from within, but also from the external world. The heart processes the impact of external events on the organism within which it is located, changing its beating patterns, pulse waves, electrical output, hormonal functioning, and neurochemical release.

These changes in function are used to impart information to the rest of the body and also to the central nervous system, the brain. The heart serves as a conductor of depth information from the external world to the central nervous system and brain, where it interacts with central nervous system functions. These cardiovascular events, or alterations, exert strong influences on cortical functioning and are specifically detectable as sensory signals.

Close examination reveals that these alterations in heart function in response to external phenomena have the same kinds of effects on cortical functioning as do more classical sensory inputs, that is, visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory stimuli. The incoming sensory perceptions from the heart have the same ability to capture the attention and shift behavior as those five sensory mediums.

When the heart is impacted by events in the external environment, information about those external events is encoded in various cardiac wave patterns (beating patterns, pressure waves in the blood, and so on) that are analogous to the different wave forms that come from visual or auditory stimuli-light and sound waves.

With visual and auditory stimuli, the cortical centers of the central nervous system take in the colors and sounds and allow the patterns of meaning embedded within them to emerge into a comprehensive whole so that they can be understood. The heart's wave forms, experienced as emotions, also have embedded meaning and this meaning can be extracted from the emotional flow just as meaning is extracted from visual and auditory flow.

Because we are trained to ignore these particular kinds of sensory cues and the information they contain, most people do not consciously utilize the heart as an organ of perception. Most of the information received is thus processed below conscious levels of cognition.

Still, because the heart is such an essential organ of perception, because emotions are still crucially important to the experience of being human, so much a part of our environmental history and ecological expression, the heart's power as an organ of perception cannot be completely erased.

Some people remain highly attuned to its perceptions, just as others do not. People's awareness of heart-encoded information is highly dependent on psychological and historical variables: their schooling, past relationship with their bodies, environments, and histories of emotional experiences.

Most contemporary research on external electromagnetic fields is concerned with those we encounter in other people. Here, too, our languaging is extremely limited. We use the word "love" to describe a great many different states in our heart's electromagnetic field.

We may "love" broccoli, a friend, our dog, a book, getting together for lunch, or our spouse, but these various "loves" are all different. Nevertheless, our language provides few ways to easily distinguish among them.

And while we may recognize that the intermingling of our own hearts with the hearts of others produces different electromagnetic states and, thus, different emotions, our sophistication with them and our ability to describe them is severely limited.

The recognition that our electromagnetic fields have a natural capacity to interact and synchronize with other types of electromagnetic fields-that is, with ecosystems and members of those ecosystems-is nearly atrophied.

While scientists are excited about the knowledge they are gleaning about the heart and its functions, none of it is really new. That the heart is intimately concerned with emotions, with who we are and how we experience and are experienced by the life outside us, has been known throughout history to all the world's cultures.

Our language (like all languages) contains wisdom about the heart that we rarely call up into our conscious minds. We have all known, at one time or another, a man who is "big-hearted," a woman who is "good-hearted," and may even have friends who are "kind-hearted." If we tell them so, we may do it in a "heartfelt" way.

We can eat a "hearty" meal, share a "hearty" laugh, or even look "hearty." Our profession or our mate may become the "heart" of our life, or we may work for long years to attain our "heart's desire." And because the heart does in fact act as a specialized brain, it is actually possible to "follow your heart" or to "listen to your heart."

If we are dejected or hopeless, it may be said that we have "lost heart." If a loved one rejects us, we can become "heartsick" or "broken-hearted." If we are being unkind, someone may implore us to "have a heart" or not to be "heartless." People can be "cold-hearted" and cruel or even "hard-hearted." Our hearts are intimately concerned with who and what we are, each day, and throughout our lives.

Our hearts cannot apprehend that they are imaginatively thinking hearts, because we have so long been told that the mind thinks and the heart feels and that imagination leads us astray from both.

Emerging research, limited as it is, has begun to foster the reclamation of our hearts as organs of perception and communication. This research has, in general, focused in two areas: our internal world (our physiology), primarily in the context of helping to maintain health and in the understanding of a number of disease conditions, and our external world, specifically as it relates to our interactions with other people. Most of the research has begun by creating what a number of researchers call a state of coherence or entrainment.

Heart Coherence

Many of the studies conducted on the heart as an organ of perception and communication have focused on what happens when the heart's electromagnetic field is intentionally altered when a person shifts attention from linear, analytical processing (thoughts) to sensory stimuli, whether internal (listening to the heartbeat) or external (noticing how something looks, sounds, feels, or smells, for example). Researchers John and Beatrice Lacy comment, "The intention to note and detect external stimuli results in slowing of the heart. [This can be called the] bradycardia of attention."

You can get a sense of this dynamic by sitting comfortably and looking at something that attracts your attention. Just let yourself look at it a moment, noticing its shape and colors. Then, let yourself notice how it feels to you. At that exact instant your entire physiological functioning will alter in a very noticeable manner. (But for it to happen you have to pay attention to the thing you are focused on, not the alteration you are expecting.)

This shift in the focus of awareness, from thinking to external sensory perception, significantly modifies and slows the duration of the cardiac cycle, producing a transformational cascade that affects all physiological and cognitive functioning. Simple attention to these external stimuli is sufficient. There need be no physical activity in response. Unlike linear, mental functioning, such as that required for mathematical calculations, there is no acceleration of heartbeat when focusing on external stimuli.

The immediate alteration in heart function that occurs with this shift in attention sends specific messages to the sensory-detecting areas of the brain and acts to facilitate-to enhance-these sensory perceptions. And the enhanced perception that comes with heart-focused perception does not habituate-in other words, perceived external events remain fresh and new each time this kind of dynamic is experienced.

This attention to the environment, whether internal or external, leads to a sympathetic-like dilation of the eyes, which become soft-focused instead of pin-point focused, with increased peripheral vision, at the same time that the heart slows-a parasympathetic activity. (Oversimply, the sympathetic part of the nervous system is concerned with flight or fight, the parasympathetic with rest and ease.) This indicates that both systems are at work but in a uniquely balanced manner.

Soft-focused eyes and bodily relaxation increases as the attention-interest value of a thing increases. The more interesting it is, the more this physiological state is enhanced.

The shift in cardiac function that occurs when one views external visual stimuli does not depend on the pleasantness or unpleasantness of what is viewed, but rather on its complexity, potency, one's personal evaluation of its nature, and its activity. These are common dimensions of meaning in a thing, along with novelty, surprisingness, and puzzlingness.

The more meaning inherent in a thing, the more interesting it becomes and the greater the number of physiological alterations that occur. And these alterations are always accompanied by softer-focused eyes and a slowing down and relaxing of the body. It is by this that you can recognize the state of being

William Libby remarks, "An interesting, attention-getting stimulus, whether simple or complex, whether conveying a sense of activity and strength, or of passivity and weakness, evokes an autonomic response-pattern characterized by pupillary dilation and cardiac deceleration."

Mental activities cause an almost immediate cessation of these physiological dynamics, with concomitant increases in heart rate and pupillary constriction. Any internal manipulation of symbolic information results in cardiac acceleration, an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, and pupil constriction. So, too, does any verbalizing, or any requirement to store, manipulate, and retrieve symbolic information. Linear thinking breaks the state.

This shift in information processing and heart function initiates the beginning of what researcher Rollin McCraty calls a state of coherence. "It is the rhythm of the heart," he notes, "that sets the beat for the entire system. The heart's rhythmic beat influences brain processes that control the autonomic nervous system, cognitive function and emotions."

Coherence, he goes on to say, "is the harmonious cooperation, and order among the subsystems of a larger system that allows for the emergence of more complex functions. [It is used] to describe more ordered mental and emotional processes as well as more ordered and harmonious interactions among various physiological systems. [It] embraces many other terms that are used to describe specific functional modes, such as synchronization, entrainment, and resonance."

In deepening this shift to coherence, most heart researchers emphasize a focus on personal emotional state as well as detection of external stimuli. Many ask study participants to intentionally generate the emotions of caring and affection.

Just as the communications embedded within the electromagnetic field of an organ or organism are experienced as emotions, if new emotions are intentionally created through conscious decision, they alter the form of the electromagnetic field, becoming embedded as new communications that then affect physiology.

These intentionally created emotional states initiate a repatterning of the heart's electromagnetic field, encoding new information. And this new information is used by the heart-or whichever other organism or organ it is directed toward-to alter its functioning.

The heart's basic rhythm, McCraty reports, "is modified by the autonomic nervous system which is, in turn, modified by how we mentally or emotionally perceive events in the moment. . . Our emotions are reflected in the patterns of our heart rhythms.

These changing rhythms appear to be modulating the field produced by the heart, similar to how a radio wave is modulated so that the music we hear can be broadcast." Heart researcher Valerie Hunt clarifies, "Every experience has concomitant emotions, and every emotion temporarily restructures the field."

Heart coherence begins when the location of consciousness is shifted from the brain to the heart, either through focus on the heart itself or on external sensory cues and how they feel.

[Psychology] has stumbled into the heart without a philosophy of its thought.

The heart is a tightly interconnected part of an oscillating, nonlinear neuronal network that is always processing electromagnetic waves within which information is encoded. During coherence, these interconnected networks couple with one another and begin working as one synchronized system.

When linear systems lock or couple together, the resultant patterns represent a simple mixture of the two systems. But when nonlinear systems, like the biological oscillators in our bodies, synchronize to a common frequency, the combined system resolves around a single oscillation.

The difference between the oscillation frequency of the two (or more) systems begins to move toward zero. Unlike linear oscillators, when synchronized, nonlinear oscillators essentially become one oscillating pattern, in the waves of which ride information about all the nonlinear oscillators that have synchronized.

This combination of two (or more) nonlinear oscillators has impacts; at its simplest, the amplitude of the combined waveform is significantly larger than that of either oscillator alone. This gives the coherent signal much more depth and power.

The electrical system of the body, produced by the body's natural oscillators, forms a coupled system of long evolutionary design with elegant feedback mechanisms among all the oscillators.

When any one of these oscillators becomes the focus of consciousness, the other systems begin to entrain with it and boost its power. (The Chinese practice of qigong, used by Falun Gong adherents, focuses on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as the primary locus of consciousness.

The GI tract has its own extensive, elegant, and separate nervous system. Other practices, such as Heartmath training, focus on the heart.)

Against the background of the normal noise of the body, the electromagnetic field that emerges during coherence is highly detectable by the body's cells and organs, which entrain with it, amplify its signal, and use it to alter cellular and organ functioning.

Wide-ranging physiological impacts begin at the moment of coherence. When a person begins focusing on the heart, allowing him or her to immerse perceptions in its functioning, the coherence or synchronization that occurs begins in the heart. (Focus on the GI tract initiates these changes in that system.) Heart rhythms begin to take on a smooth, sine-wave-like pattern as all of the heart's electromagnetic frequencies start to synchronize.

Normally, when our consciousness is phase-locked with the brain, the other biological oscillators in the body begin entraining with it. The result is much less coherent, because we seem evolutionarily designed to let the heart, the most powerful oscillator, be the primary system to which the others normally entrain. This coherent heart rhythm immediately begins to affect reticular neuronal activity.

The reticular neuronal network affects physiological functions, including respiration, somatomotor systems, and cortical activity. As the heart becomes more coherent, respiration, somatomotor systems, and cortical activity begin to entrain to the coherent heart rhythms.

The three branches of the autonomic nervous system-sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric (the GI tract)-also begin to synchronize with this more coherent heart rhythm or wave pattern. Overall physiological functioning begins to be dominated by the parasympathetic, rather than the sympathetic (flight or fight). Sympathetic tone decreases; the body relaxes. There is a functional reorganization of autonomic balance.

The respiratory system, at this point, begins to phase-lock to heart rhythms. Eventually, the heart, brain, and GI tract all couple together and demonstrate frequency-locking. Their oscillations shift to a frequency range that is the same for all three and the overall amplitude increases.

As coherence begins and deepens, the entire hormonal cascade of the body alters. This hormonal shift is initiated by the heart making and releasing significantly different amounts of its hormones and neurochemicals.

As only one example: At coherence there is an average of 23 percent reduction in cortisol production (a stress hormone with negative impacts on immune function, memory and hippocampal function, and glucose utilization) and a 100 percent increase in DHEA production (an adrenal gland hormone essential in tissue repair, insulin sensitivity, sense of well-being, and sexual hormone production).

During heart coherence, ANF-induced alterations immediately occur at multiple target sites throughout the body: kidneys, adrenal glands, immune system, brain, posterior pituitary gland, pineal gland, hypothalamus, lung, liver, ciliary body (which secrets the lymphlike aqueous humor of the eye), and small intestine. ANF alterations immediately readjust the complex balance of our whole, interconnected physiology. Blood pressure lowers, muscle cells throughout the vascular system relax, eye function alters.

Atrial naturetic factor binds to a number of sites in the eye, affecting ocular pressure and eye focus. With this alteration in ANF and its immediate impacts on the eye, the eyes become soft-focused, peripheral vision is enhanced.

In addition, coherence affects levels of other heart hormones, brain naturetic factor and C-type naturetic peptide, which also shift physiology and brain function, especially in the hypothalamus, adrenal glands, and pituitary gland. Secretion of beta-amyloid precursor protein increases, protecting neurons from stressors throughout the brain and especially in the hippocampus. Changes in levels of ANF, CNP, and BNF directly affect the hippocampus, enhancing its functioning. These changes increase dopamine production in the heart, improving the transfer of information from neuron to neuron in both heart and brain.

Heart-Brain Entrainment

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.

One becomes aware of an inner electrical equilibrium.

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.

The major centers of the body containing biological oscillators can act as coupled electrical oscillators. These oscillators can be brought in to synchronized modes of operation through mental and emotional self-control and the effects on the body of such synchronization are correlated with significant shifts in perception.

Thus, 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 rhythms 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 new 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 maintain 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. Because 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 diseases, 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 more healthy 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.

I declare that a meal prepared by a person who loves you will do you more good than any average cooking, and on the other side of it a person who dislikes you is bound to get that dislike into your food, without intending to.

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, not 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 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.

Thus 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.

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.

Thus, 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.

Because 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, not surprisingly, there is an alteration in his or her own cortical function. At this point, personal 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.

Because 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, respond with significant shifts in their electromagnetic field if the practitioner's technique is elegant enough.

(If the practitioner entrains him-or herself 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 tend 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. Because 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.

We have all some electrical and magnetic forces within us; and we put forth, like the magnet itself, an attractive or repulsive power, as we come in contact with something similar or dissimilar.

Beyond People

But heart-centered communication is not limited merely to the body and other people. The heart, through its electromagnetic field, continually senses electromagnetic patterns from its environment and works to decode the information contained within them. Perturbations that can affect the dynamic equilibrium of the whole oscillating, self-organized systems that we know as ourselves come not only from within, but also from without.

The tendency to focus emerging research solely on the interrelationship of electromagnetic fields to internal health or the interactions that occur between people are an expression of our anthropocentricism, our human-centeredness.

This narrowing of the understanding of electromagnetic fields is a prime example of our application of a hierarchy of values that places human beings at the top and our belief that the rest of the world is filled with things put here for our use-a reflection of our belief that we are the most important organisms on the planet and the only organisms with intelligence and soul.

But all living organisms produce electromagnetic fields, all encode information, and all merged electromagnetic fields exchange information. The Earth itself is a living organism that produces electromagnetic fields filled with information. We are affected by the information encoded in these fields just by living on the Earth.

Many periodic rhythms in our bodies are a function of our entrainment to the oscillations of the electromagnetic field of the Earth. Circadian rhythms are the reaction of living organisms to periodic electromagnetic fluctuations in the environment.

If all external inputs are severed (by putting people in space or in a sealed, enclosed environment, for example), the rhythms continue in our bodies, but in a very different manner. These rhythms are generated internally in all living organisms but their periodicity-their timing-is shifted by the electromagnetic fields in which they are nestled.

When a human is placed in an environment in which there are no time cues, the daily activity cycle gradually lengthens. This means that our normal 24-hour day involves an external entrainment of our endogenous circadian generators . . . body temperature and autonomic functions adapt also, but more slowly. The biological importance and omnipresence of autogenous rhythmicity have been largely underestimated. Such periodicities must be considered as a phylogenetic adaptive mechanism to the time structure of our environment, which has been maintained genetically.

Oscillating external electromagnetic fields can entrain or phase-lock heart cells so that the organism that we know as ourself moves into synchronicity with those electromagnetic fields. We are, in fact, supremely able to perceive and be affected by extremely weak electromagnetic fields from the environment.

There is no fundamental lower limit with respect to the magnitude of the perturbation that is still capable of influencing a nonlinear oscillator.

There is a tendency among many reductionists to mechanomorphize, to project onto the world around them the belief that there is no intelligence in anything other than human beings, that life is merely the result of mechanical forces.

Thus, when these kinds of researchers examine Nature, they tend to see and find what they already believe is there. However, all life gives off electromagnetic fields, all life has been bathed in such fields for the nearly 4 billion years that life has existed on this Earth.

These electromagnetic fields are not merely the unconscious expressions of mechanical functioning. Living organisms, over long evolutionary time, have learned to use these fields as a communication medium, to intentionally insert information into them.

The constantly interblending flow of information-loaded electromagnetic fields is part of the communication dynamic of living organisms within ecosystems, an aspect of their coevolutionary bonding.

Electro-magnetic fields are used not only for supporting the integrity of the organism-for strengthening physical structure and healing it when damaged-but also for deterring hostile organisms (like the unfriendly, defensive fields that an attack dog expresses even without growling). Perhaps even more important, these fields are used to strengthen cooperative interactions among organisms within ecosystems.

Because of our anthropocentrism, this is more obvious within small organism groupings, such as cells within bodies or members of human families, whose interwoven loving bonds represent the long-term intermingling of supportive, cooperative, coevolutionary electromagnetic fields that are continually embedded with complex information designed to enhance those connections.

But such families and their individuals are nested within and encounter a wide variety of such fields, including fields from plants.

Plants, like all living organisms, generate and respond to electromagnetic waves. They use a great many internal electromagnetic communications, just as we do, for healing and for normal physiological functioning. For like us, they are composed of millions upon millions of cells. But what is less well known is that like us, plants also have very sophisticated central nervous systems.

The characteristics of conduction in the plant nerve are in every way similar to those in animal nerve.

In many respects, plant nervous systems are nearly as sophisticated as our own, and in some plants, nearly as rapid in their actions. Plant nervous systems possess synapses, just as our brains do, and they make and use neurotransmitters that are molecularly identical to those that are found in our brains. They use these neurotransmitters to facilitate the function of their central nervous system, just as we do.

Plant nervous systems perform many of the same duties ours do-they help process, decipher, and coordinate external and internal impulses to maintain the functioning of the organism. And a major element of this functioning is their recognition of signals, their decoding of meaning, and their crafting of responses.

The great Indian researcher Jagadis Chunder Bose conducted perhaps the most sophisticated exploration to date into the nervous systems of plants. In his book, The Nervous Mechanism of Plants, he comments,

In light of the results summarized in this chapter, it can no longer be doubted that plants, at any rate vascular plants, possess a well-defined nervous system.

It has been demonstrated that excitation is conducted by the phloem of the vascular bundle, and that conduction in this tissue can be modified experimentally by the same means as it is in animal nerve. The conducted excitation may, therefore, be justly spoken of as nervous impulse and the conducting tissue as nerve.

It has been further shown that, as in the animal, it is possible to distinguish sensory or afferent and motor or efferent impulses, and to trace the transformation of the one into the other in a reflex arc. The observations involve the conception of some kind of nerve center.

Plant nervous systems are as highly sensitive to electromagnetic fields as ours. This is necessarily so, since they use the electromagnetic energy of the sun in photosynthesis. They emerged as an ecological expression of Earth specifically to work with the electromagnetic spectrum. But the range of their sensitivity goes far beyond the spectrum of visible light. They can, in fact, detect and respond to broadband electromagnetic signals, as can all organisms.

There is no life-reaction in even the highest animal which has not been foreshadowed in the life of the plant. . . The barriers which seemed to separate kindred phenomena will be found to have vanished, the plant and the animal appearing as a multiform unity in a single ocean of being. In this vision of truth the final mystery of things will by no means be lessened, but greatly deepened. [For] that vision crushes out of [Man] all self-sufficiency, all that kept him unconscious of the great pulse that beats through the universe.

And we, like plants, are evolutionarily designed to encounter such fields, just as the generators of those fields are designed to encounter us. The meanings embedded within those fields, experienced by us as emotions, affect the heart's rate, hormonal cascade, pressure waves, and neurochemical activity.

Directed emotions-intentional, informational electromagnetic embeds sent outward-affect those external electromagnetic fields in turn. Through such directed communication and perception, a living dialogue occurs between us and the world.

Such interchanges are a part of what it means for us to be human and have been a part of our interaction with our environment since we emerged out of the living field of this planet. But without a flexible heart, they cannot be perceived.

Only to him who stands where the barley stands and listens well will it speak, and tell, for his sake, what man is.

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