May 1, 2009

There is no instinct like the Heart. - Lord Byron, Don Juan.

Why is it that when I get scared, or excited, my heart starts beating faster?

Why is it that when I feel sad, or filled with love and compassion, my heart squeezes?

People used to think that emotions came from the heart. Yet, along with the rise of science, came the conviction that all our emotions are the product of our brain, of the chemical changes and release of hormones instigated by it. And that the heart, is just a muscle whose only purpose is to circulate blood (yes, Count Dracula and his vampiric horde, I’m sure, are very grateful for this essential tool that keeps their drinking founts alive).

But is this fact entirely true?

“Although scientists over the past 30 years have never disputed the fact that the human heart is indeed a pump, they have also discovered it to be much more besides. It is now known to be a hormone-secreting gland responsible for producing chemicals that balance the autonomic (or involuntary) nervous system. It is also an organ littered with receptor sites for molecules of emotion.” (The Human Antenna, Dr. Robin Kelly)

So technically, we have 2 brains in our system (put that way, it sounds a little creepy). Although one could argue (based on a previous post) that we have three brains. Which could explain why I so often argue with myself.

Now that I mention this, I wonder whether those stories of people who’ve received a heart transplant and suddenly find a change in their behavior (kind of like in the movie Return to Me) could be linked to this whole brain = heart thingamajig?

But that’s not all of it. (Thought you could get off that easy, huh?)

No, what’s really intriguing is that it has been found that “[t]he heart is our body’s energetic center, with an electromagnetic field 5000 times stronger than our brain.” (The Human Antenna, Dr. Robin Kelly)

How cool is that? So not only does our heart work as another brain, but it also has its own electromagnetic field which, as it turns out, is way stronger than the one around our brain (for the sake of avoiding arguments, let’s just call the brain in our head the “Main Brain”). And it extends a lot further too.

Which is probably why evidence suggests that “the electromagnetic signals generated by the heart have the capacity to affect others around us. [The Institute of HeartMath’s] data indicate that one person’s heart signal can affect another’s brainwaves [(even when not directly touching, as long as they are close to each other)], and that heart-brain synchronization can occur between two people when they interact. Finally, it appears that as individuals increase psychophysiological coherence, they become more sensitive to the subtle electromagnetic signals communicated by those around them.”

A lot of blah-blah to say that we communicate through our electromagnetic field (just as I suspected), and that the strongest of those fields is the one created around our heart.

So perhaps Professor X's secret to his incredible power (see previous post) was not that he had a super powerful Main Brain, but that his heart was really strong.

And maybe that is another reason why we should generally follow our hearts rather than our minds (is anyone else thinking about The Lion King right now?).

"Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perception, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart." (Doc Childre, Founder, Institute of HeartMath)

-- Alessa

PS: Of all the vampires here, which is your favorite?

NB: For those of you interested in this particular topic, I recommend reading, on top of the book mentioned above, this site here (where I also found the electromagnetic field surrounding the heart):


  1. It seems a distinction needs to be made here. There are feelings that are caused by external factors, and then there are feelings caused by internal factors. An easy example of the former is listening to some form of music (without lyrics) which triggers through its waves some type of reaction in our bodies which ultimately results in feeling excitement, or sadness, or contentment, or whatever other feeling there is. It follows the same principle as that used for the “mood machine” found in the movie “Blade Runner” with Harrison Ford. As for the latter, i.e. for the internal factors, it covers all the feelings that we ourselves produce as we get caught up in our thoughts (I already talked about this in some early comment on a previous post).

    Also, it is important to note that right by the heart is the thymus. Now the thymus is an endocrine gland which is basically the motor of the immunological system, and it regulates physical growth and the energy flow all throughout the body. It is also the first gland to react to changes in our moods. This is probably part of the reason why the heart’s magnetic field is so strong. Furthermore, according to the Tantric traditions, the fourth of seven chakras is located right by the heart and directly controls the thymus. Like each of the seven chakras, it produces its own magnetic field. Since the fourth chakra is the one linking the first three chakras to the last three, maybe it has some extra degree of importance? But who knows really – the human body is just as complicated is the whole universe so it’s not like we can come up just yet with any grand conclusions here.

    And while I definitely don’t deny the fact that our heart or whole body can experience feelings without our minds being too involved (if the whole body’s reacting then so is the mind), if we are going to talk about mental powers, they are mental powers and nothing else. Maybe our heart needs to be in some specific state for us to be able to use or develop mental powers. But that’s another question and even if it is so, then it would still probably mean that we would need at first to have our minds get us into specific body and mind state. What’s your take on all of this?

  2. Why would mental powers only be linked to the mind? Isn't everything linked together already? So how can you disassociate the mind completely from the rest of the body? It's like when people say our solar system is completely separate from the rest of the universe, and then they're surprised to find out their mathematical equations (such as the one for precession) doesn't quite match what's going on in real life.

    I think that, if the magnetic field around the heart is bigger than the one around the mind, then there has to be a good reason for it. It's just that we don't know what it is now.

  3. I think both comments are right in their own way, and I found this passage in "Everyday Zen" by Charlotte Joko Beck which I think answers some of these questions rather well:

    "When we become upset, we don't just plan; we obsess. We twist the problem around 1,000 ways. It we don't know what it means to practice with our worried thoughts, what happen next? The thoughts produce an emotion and we become even more agitated. All emotional agitation is caused by the mind. And if we let this happen over a period of time, we often become physically sick or mentally depressed. If the mind will not take care of the situation with awareness, the body will. It will help us out. It's as if the body says, 'If you won't take care of it, I guess I've got to.' So we produce our next cold, our next rash, our next ulcer, whatever is our style. A mind that is not aware will produce illness."

  4. I didn't know about this whole chakra thing that it's linked to some glands and all that. It's interesting.

    I like Spike the best. He has a cool accent :)