“New research shows the human heart is much more than an efficient pump that sustains life. [R]esearch suggests the heart also is an access point to a source of wisdom and intelligence that we can call upon to live our lives with more balance, greater creativity and enhanced intuitive capacities. All of these are important for increasing personal effectiveness, improving health and relationships and achieving greater fulfilment.”
If our hearts are such an incredible source, how can we access the wisdom and intelligence within them on a day-to-day basis? How do we learn to recognise and trust the guidance we receive? I believe 'heart-centred living' (HCL) is the solution to this. HCL is a way of bringing your physical, mental, and emotional systems into balanced alignment with your heart’s intuitive guidance. Before we dive into this in more detail, I’d like invite you to consider a few questions.
What proportion of your choices are decision-based i.e. coming from your knowledge, understanding, or critical thinking?
How many of your choices are coming from your intiuition or 'knowing'?
Do you think thoughts, decisions or actions that come from the head will be the same as choices made from your heart? In your experience, how often do these align?
In a recent Women's Circle session we discussed 'Heart-centred living' and - as often tends to happen - I've been conscious of it's potential impact since then. Consequently, it's something I wanted to share with those who weren't able to come to our monthly gathering. If you are interested in what I term 'intentional' living I hope this concept, and the exercises in this post, might be helpful.
In the report cited earlier, HMI researchers observed that the heart "acted as though it had a mind of its own and could significantly influence the way we perceive and respond in our daily interactions." In fact, it appeared "the heart could affect our awareness, perceptions and intelligence" and showed heart-coherence to be an optimal psychological state with "increased cognitive function, self-regulatory capacity and resilience."
With this is mind, I believe HCL begins with the day-to-day choices we make. When we are able to access choices that include this 'coherence' - in other words, when we bring our innate wisdom and intelligence into play - it enables us to consciously create a very different life to the one that we might otherwise build using only a logical or analytical perspective. It can impact our relationships, wellbeing, career, and every other aspect of life. So why aren't we already accessing this wisdom by default? What is standing in our way?
Most of us are taught from a young age to indiscriminately apply learning, critical thinking, and logic to decision-making, and while this might be the best approach when solving equations or deciding on the best materials for a project, it is not the appropriate one in all circumstances - for example when your child's emotions need to be acknowledged, or you are feeling upset or judgmental.
Our days are made up of thousands of choices - both large and small - and I believe most are treated as 'decisions' which are solved entirely in the head. This is an important distinction. On Dictionary.com, a decision is defined as the act of or need for making up one's mind. A decision is a mental process, including analysis and a way of picking or eliminating options. However, a choice is defined as the right, power, or opportunity to choose. There's no mention of action or process, only the approach taken. If we have the 'power' to choose, there is an implication that it is up to us how we make that choice and that our values, perceptions or beliefs might all play a part. It is my belief that most of us do not even consider that there may be an empowered choice available to us - or that such choices can be made in a way that is 'emotionally coherent' or from our heart-space.
It's not only our choices that are impacted by our heart. It also affects also our brain-function, bodies, and other life experiences. Here's another quote from HMI:
"The heart is, in fact, a highly complex information-processing centre with its own functional brain commonly called the heart brain, that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences affect brain function and most of the body's major organs and play an important role in mental and emotional experience and the quality of our lives."
How might your life and experiences differ if you were able to make heart-centred choices and true heart-connections with friends, family and co-workers? What wisdom or intelligence might already be in your heart, just waiting for you to access it?
Following the meditation, there is a written exercise designed to help you tap into anything your heart wants you to know right now. You may like to print the PDF (link below) or get your journal ready BEFORE the meditation, so you can go straight into it when you're already connected into your heart.
GUIDED MEDITATION (VISUALISATION)
Start by getting really comfortable, with your back supported and your spine straight.
When you're comfy, take some deep relaxing breaths.
As you breathe in and out, notice the rise and fall of your chest and bring your attention to your heart.
Imagine your heart as a beautiful flower and as you breathe, it is slowly unfurling, petal by petal.
Perhaps it’s a beautiful pink rose, or a peony with layer upon layer of beautiful petals.
Watch as they slowly open with each inward breath.
With each out-breath, release anything that you’ve been holding in your heart, anything that has been stuck or preventing it from opening.
Continue to visualise this for a few moments as you breathe.
Now, imagine that you are breathing in and out through your heart.
Place one hand gently on your heart and the other on your belly.
As you continue to breathe gently in and out, notice the rise and fall of your hands and how comforting this feels.
Know that you can do this anytime and anywhere, whenever you need to bring your attention back into your heart-space.
You can always make yourself feel better with simple this gesture and focused heart-breathing.
Notice how it calms and comforts you.
It gives you a feeling of safety.
As your heart-flower fully opens, recall a time you felt really good inside - remember how it felt.
Notice how your remembering fills your heart.
Continue to breathe.
Now remember a special person, animal or place that makes you feel good and hold that memory in your heart.
As you continue to breathe in through your heart, feel the love and appreciation there.
Remember how good it feels to open up and connect from this heart-space.
With your heart fully open, make room for all the good of the Universe to come in.
All is well.
When you are ready, open your eyes.
From this relaxed and connected space, you are invited to complete the following heart-inquiry exercise:
As you complete each sentence, let the answers come from your heart rather than your head. Resist the urge to think, to correct yourself, or to judge whatever you are writing. The first few answers may feel strange, silly or stitled, but don't worry about that (those judgments all come from head), just keep writing from your heart.
You can repeat this guided meditation and exercise as often as you like, although you'll soon find that you won't need to as you will start to access your heart-space quickly and easily, using just your breath.
You can find the audio version of this and previous posts here or access them via Anchor.fm, iTunes, or your favourite podcast player.