The Emotional Heart
The heart as an organ of perception and communication
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.
- DOC CHILDRE
The intellect is powerless to express thought without the
aid of the heart.
- HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Only a reductionist science would need to "prove"
the ridiculously obvious: that our hearts are perceptual organs,
crucial to our humanness.
- AUTHOR'S JOURNAL, NOVEMBER 2003
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.
- LINDA RUSSEK AND GARY SCHWARTZ
The organized patterns of energy from the heart, in fact, have
been shown to directly affect the functioning of organisms outside
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
- JAMES HILLMAN
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.
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
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
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,
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
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.
- JAMES HILLMAN
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
The GI tract has its own extensive, elegant, and separate nervous
system. Other practices, such as Heartmath training, focus on
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
- WILLIAM TILLER
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
- WILLIAM TILLER
Thus, a new mode of cognition is activated: the holistic/intuitive/depth
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
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
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
(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.
- ARY GOLDBERGER
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
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
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.
- LUTHER BURBANK
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
- G. SIEGEL
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.
- PAUL GAILEY
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
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
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, 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.
- JAGADIS CHUNDER BOSE
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
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.
- JAGADIS CHUNDER BOSE
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.
- MASANOBU FUKUOKA
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