Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
Nobody views the heart merely as a blood pumping station, anymore. We know that the heart is an emotional organ and has a relationship with the "emotional brain." Beside the emotions, could the heart also be an organ of intelligence that works in unison with the brain?
To answer this, let's start with the example of the colon. Once, the colon was seen only as an organ of digestion. We know better now. Michael Gershon, M.D., the author of The Second Brain, says, "Your gut has a mind of its own." Gershon, who spent 30 years studying the human bowel, claims that there are nerve cells in the gut that act as a brain. He advises that our two brains, one in our head and the other in the bowel, must cooperate.
In support of the mind-gut connection, one could say that sometimes the "gut feeling" is a lot smarter than the "brain droppings" The latter is a fancy name for such brain activity as thinking and reasoning. Gershon says, that the digestive system has its own nervous system and constantly communicates with the brain. It learns and it remembers.
Does the heart have a similarly strong connection with the mind? According to a study published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, memory, attention and concentration somewhat declined immediately after the bypass surgery and similar decline was observed five years after. Here are the two obvious explanations: 1) A bypass may affect the brain blood flow. 2) The heart lung pump used during the surgery may cause mental impairment. So, we know there is heart-mind connection through blood circulation.
While some experts might find it outside the mainstream of scientific thought, researchers based at the HeartMath Institute, claim that the heart plays a role in the functioning of human intelligence, emotions and personality.
According to folk wisdom, the heart is the seat of intuition, love, creativity, wisdom, gratitude, faith and the like. The finest values and qualities are associated with the heart rather than the mind. How do we know this? We know it in our heart. But, is there a scientific basis for this intuitive knowledge?
The heart physically communicates with the brain and the rest of the body. The communication pathways, which originate in the heart, travel through the emotional memory section of the brain and go all the way to the top of the brain responsible for thinking and reasoning. The heart has a complex nervous system, with the capability to learn and remember.
The pulse created by the heart is actually like a "blood pressure wave" that reaches and energizes every single cell of the body and brain.
The heart also radiates powerful electromagnetic energy. It permeates every cell of the body including those of the brain. The electromagnetic signal from the heart is so powerful that it radiates beyond your skin, all around you, the 360-degree sphere, and as far as ten feet into the space around you. Nothing else in the body has such strong electromagnetic force.
The heart is also a hormonal organ. Among other hormones, it produces one which is labeled by some as the "balancing hormone," because it contributes to the balancing of other hormones. This same hormone can facilitate the reduction or increase of stress hormones. The heart may also be responsible for the production of "Oxytocin," fondly referred to as the "love hormone."
The love hormone plays an important part in our emotional and social development. For example, Oxytocin is in action when a mother feeds and tends her child. Compassion, caring, love, appreciation, gratitude, forgiveness and other behaviors that are the fabric of our family and society, may have a lot to do with how well the heart is functioning at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
So why am I telling you these esoteric and the scientific facts about the gut and the heart? So that you will have a little more appreciation of what you have, and so that you may become even more motivated to take care of this wonderful mind-body system of yours.
Intelligence without involvement of the heart may be dangerous. Brain intelligence without involvement of the heart can be dangerous. There are indeed many heartless but very smart people in the world. The world is not going to benefit much from their short or long lives. Brain intelligence can produce a nuclear bomb but building in the safeguards and utilizing the energy for the good of the people is function of the heart.
Expressions such as, "Open your heart," or "My heart goes out to you," may be more than symbolic. Some people have habitually visualized their heart opening and reaching out to others. They report that they have become more calm, confident, compassionate and creative.
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