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February, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 02 >> Philosophy

The Heart of the Matter

By Rita Woods, LMT

February is famous for matters of the heart, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate time to share some interesting information with you. The heart is viewed in a variety of ways; from a muscle that pumps blood, to the seat of the soul and the emotional center of our being.

In reality, it probably fills all of those job descriptions, but there are some fascinating facts about the heart that I feel are especially important to us as massage therapists and healers. The premise of this article is that the heart regulates far more activity in the body than previously believed, and there is a continuous two-way dialog between the brain and the heart that allows each to influence the other. The heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: neurological communication (nervous system); biophysical communication (pulse wave); biochemical communication (hormones); and energetic communication (electromagnetic fields) .

The body always is adjusting to maintain homeostasis. One term used to describe the synchronization and balance within the central nervous system is coherence. Simplified, it means that the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the central nervous systems are working together in a healthy and balanced way.

The Institute of HeartMath (IHM) measures cardiac or heart rhythm coherence by looking at heart rate variability (HRV). This includes shifts and changes that happen between heart beats that help regulate the body. Stress can offset this balance quickly and drastically. When stressed, your body can soon feel like it's driving with one foot on the gas pedal and the other foot on the brake. When this happens, it is no longer coherent. Anger, worry, fear and anxiety are all emotions that contribute to the production of stress chemicals that degrade and break down healthy tissue and interrupt psychological wellness. On the other hand, positive emotions such as gratitude, love, peace and contentment contribute to the production of life-building chemistry and promote a sense of well being.

You heart has the ability to both send and receive information. This is the part that gets really interesting for us as healers. The heart's electromagnetic field, by far the most powerful rhythmic field produced by the human body, not only envelops every cell of the body, but also extends out in all directions into the space around us. The cardiac field actually can be measured several feet away from the body. The brains waves naturally want to synchronize to the heart so various emotional states will affect brain patterns and processing. The brain-heart patterns are more synchronized during states of positive psychological and physiological coherence. As individuals learn to sustain a heart-focused, positive emotional state, their brain can be brought into entrainment with their heart.

As individuals increase their psycho-physiological coherence, they appear to be more sensitive to the subtle energies and electromagnetic fields generated by others. This unseen exchange of information between people occurs every time they interact and is influenced by their emotions. Think of the implications of this information. Not only does your emotional state affect your own brain and all of your bodily functions, it also affects those whom you touch and are in close proximity to. You are a walking, talking beacon of energy that influences all with whom you come in contact. There are many healing modalities that use some form of energy. Understanding that we can and do influence others with our own energy field can be a valuable asset in learning to use new healing techniques.

I encourage you to visit the Institute of HeartMath Web site (, look at its research and read "Science of the Heart." The Institute has been instrumental in providing clinical data on heart-based living. They published the following report: The electricity of touch: detection and measurement of cardiac energy exchange between people, by McCraty, et al.

This report states, "When people touch or are in proximity, one person's heartbeat signal is registered in the other person's brainwaves. ... The fact that the heart generates the strongest electromagnetic field produced by the body, coupled with our findings that this field becomes measurably more coherent as the individual shifts to a sincerely loving or caring state, prompted us to investigate the possibility that the field generated by the heart may significantly contribute to this energy exchange. Signal averaging techniques were used to show that one person's electrocardiogram (ECG) signal is registered in another's electroencephalogram (EEG) and elsewhere on the other person's body.

"While this signal is strongest when people are in contact, it is still detectable when subjects are in proximity without contact. Evidence that the cardiac field changes as different emotions are experienced, combined with this study's finding that this field is registered physiologically by those around us, provides the foundation of one possible mechanism to describe the impact of our emotions on others at a basic physiological level. One implication is that the effects of therapeutic techniques involving contact or proximity between practitioner and patient could be amplified by practitioners consciously adopting a sincere, caring attitude, and thus increasing coherence in their cardiac field."

I am reminded of a quote I heard years ago: "People don't remember what you say. They remember how you made them feel." And with that perspective on healing, I wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day.

Click here for previous articles by Rita Woods, LMT.


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