The Spiritual Heart, A Scientific Inquiry
In her article, The Spiritual Heart, Micheline Anderson applies HeartMath science to a correlation of spiritual practices. She suggests that the heart may be the temple of the soul, and that the related emotional keys of spiritual aspiration reflect increased longevity and wellness. Given the historical association between the metaphorical qualities of the heart and the many spiritual practices throughout history, there is increasing evidence that substantiates physical well-being with identification and appeal to a transcendent being, including our personal and collective higher self.
There are numerous definitions of spiritual, it would be fair to include most of them in the realm of those beliefs or practices that are not bound by the body. These can include religious beliefs but also secular practices that are not necessarily related to a given deity. The idea that one can be atheistic or even agnostic and still highly spiritual is not incompatible with a heart-centered focus, and its benefits.
Spiritual Practices Promote Good Health
Emotions of spiritual reflection and inspiration come to us with form, but the formless attributes of a deep moral and ethical conviction also elicit qualities of compassion, appreciation, and a sense of wholeness that echoes a collective conscious – even transcendence. We experience these feelings even in environments not traditionally associated with spiritual practice, in fact – through great art, music, dance, poetry, literature – even deep connections to nature and discovery through learning and research. For many, such secular experiences become sacred, a form of spiritual renewal. Regardless of source or association, these emotional and spiritual qualities are reference points of the heart. Science now demonstrates that there is a physical correlation of spiritual practice that promotes and sustains health and resilience.
Throughout the history of major civilizations – Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome and China and the cultures of western Judeo-Christian societies, the heart is considered the master organ. We promote good health through attributes of the heart that prove substantive, including forms of spiritual practice, either religious or secular.
The Physical and Spiritual Heart
We know that the heart produces a number of hormones, including oxytocin, and plays a critical role in modulating many areas of the brain involved in self-regulation; but it also plays a vital role in emotional experience. The heart-brain connection for emotional balance extends to spiritual practices, where feelings of wonder, joy, and compassion are common. The notion of reverence to a power higher – or as an extension of one’s higher self – helps calm the mind and body, reflected through healthy heart regulation or heart rate variability (HRV).
By contrast, we are also held in awe and experience a sense of reverence when we attune our conscious minds with our intuitive selves. In moments of self-discovery and solving a problem without an external reference, the intuitive realm of the heart reveals an intelligence that is deeper than our normal state. This inner source of knowledge echoes those attributes that inform deeper, spiritual awakenings.
The Spiritual Heart Connects Us
Anderson also suggests that there is evidence that the spiritual heart connects us to each other, where groups of people strengthen all individuals through spiritual practices. The idea of the knowing heart resonates between and among people – as vibrations, the way trees or plants can be sensitive to each other. The frequencies of emotion and thought occur in wavelengths that may be imperceptible to measurement, but the effects of their power and impact are nevertheless experienced. This group dynamic is why many religions and spiritual practices advocate collective prayer or meditation – the vibration of the whole affects each individual and provides a heart-felt sense of synchronicity.
Beyond preventative cardiac and emotional self-regulation, Anderson further cites studies that spiritual practices, led by a heart-centered focus, contribute significantly to renewal and recovery. These adaptive healing attributes of the heart help align a balanced spirit-mind-body response; one that can mitigate emotional and even physical dissonance.
The Spiritual Heart Affects The Planet
Moving out an order of magnitude, the energies of the heart reverberate beyond individual and group dynamics. The practiced attitude and commitment to loving and caring for all life increases the therapeutic potential of the planet, the larger vibrations of global coherence, according to Anderson’s research.
The vibrations of the heart emit electromagnetic currents that continue to circulate within the collective conscious of humans. The unfolding of the heart in thoughts and feelings of spiritual or emotional well-being – love, compassion, gratitude, appreciation, wonderment, even humor – these vibrations benefit the body and immediate circle of our own domain, but they also aid in others who suffer or may operate in frequencies of low spiritual resonance.
This phenomenon is why many religions and even secular practices advocate praying for the poor or those in dire circumstances, globally – the heart’s emotions are empathetic and create spiritual tides that aspire to lift all boats.
Summary and a Spiritual Practice
The scientific evidence that connects our positive emotional states directly affect the autonomic nervous system that regulate our physiology and metabolism. The associative psychological effects from emotional identification of moral, ethical, and altruistic characteristics substantially connect us in ways that we can cultivate; in ways that affect those around us; and in ways that affect the global consciousness and state of humankind. Attunement with those qualities that bring us joy, that inspire us, that enrich our sense of purpose and meaning – these are the emotional alignments that give strength to the spiritual heart.
Practicing the HeartMath techniques, placing one’s focus in the area of the heart, and learning to breathe slower and in rhythm can very much augment one’s attitude and approach to any spiritual practice. Like physical workouts that build stamina, emotional and psychological workouts build spiritual stamina. Even a few minutes a day in heart focused meditation, prayer, focused attention of one’s blessings – these small spiritual deposits add up over time, strengthening us in times of doubt, fear, and hesitation.
The spiritual heart is a birthright, a dispensation that awaits our rightful claim to emotional strength, psychological balance, and physical self-regulation.
Read the full article, The Spiritual Heart, by Micheline R. Anderson, click here.