BY GREGG BRADEN
Creating Your Heart-Brain Connection
In each moment of every day, a conversation is taking place inside us. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most vital communications we will ever find ourselves engaged in. It’s the silent, often subconscious, and never-ending conversation of emotion-based signals between our hearts and our brains, also known as the heart brain connection.
The reason this conversation is so important is because the quality of the emotional signal our hearts sends to our brains determines what kind of chemicals our brains release into our bodies.
When we feel what we would typically call negative emotions (for instance, anger, hate, jealousy, and rage), our hearts send a signal to our brains that mirrors our feelings. Such emotions are irregular and chaotic, and this is precisely what the signal they send to the brain looks like. If you can envision a chart of the ups and downs of the stock market on a wild and volatile day, you’ll have an idea of the kind of signals we create in our hearts in times of chaos.
“The research has shown that when we create rejuvenating emotions, the signal from heart to brain becomes more harmonized to reflect the quality of the emotions.”
The human body interprets this kind of signal as stress, and triggers the mechanisms to help us respond appropriately. The stress from negative emotions increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline—often called stress hormones, which prepare us for a quick and powerful reaction to whatever is causing us stress—in our bloodstreams. This is our instinctive fight-or-flight response.
The research has shown that when we create rejuvenating emotions, such as appreciation, care, gratitude, and compassion, the signal from heart to brain becomes more harmonized to reflect the quality of the emotions. In the presence of a harmonized signal, there is no need for the fight-or-flight response. The stress hormones decrease, allowing the heart and brain to shift and produce the chemistry that supports stronger immune response and greater amounts of DHEA, the precursor to all other hormones in the body.
Whether it’s based in emotions from stress or harmony, the conversation and connection between heart and brain—specifically, between the sensory neurites in our hearts and those that make up our brains—is constantly occurring as a dialogue of very low frequencies.
It’s this conversation that creates the harmony of heart-brain connection and coherence described previously. When the coherence is optimal, the frequency is approximately 0.10 Hertz. This is indeed a very low vibration, below the threshold of 20 Hertz, which is typically the lowest frequency humans can detect with the unaided ear.
The 0.10 Hertz frequency is, however, detectable by other forms of life, including whales and some kinds of fish. And it’s this frequency that’s believed to play a vital role in the subconscious cues we detect when we’re in the presence of other hearts: the “vibes” that we sense from people as well as some animals. What’s important for us here is that the quality of the signal, our heart-brain connection and coherence, is directly linked to the quality of emotion we feel in our hearts.
This is one of those places where science and spirituality overlap beautifully. While the science describes the electrical relationship and connection between the heart and the brain, ancient spiritual practices and techniques have helped people apply the relationship in their lives—and do so without a scientific explanation. It’s probably no coincidence that the rigorous scientific techniques developed by the researchers at IHM closely parallel some of the techniques of ancient traditions preserved in the monasteries and indigenous lore of the past. We all learn in different ways, and my sense is that when something is true, it appears in the world in different forms to reflect the variations in our learning.
With this idea in mind, I’ve chosen to share the IHM technique, with permission, because it’s safe, is based in well- researched science that validates the steps, and has been simplified in a way that makes it accessible and easy to use in our everyday lives.
As with any technique that’s passed from teacher to student, however, the steps for creating heart-brain connection and coherence are best experienced with a seasoned practitioner to facilitate the process.
“We all learn in different ways, and my sense is that when something is true, it appears in the world in different forms to reflect the variations in our learning.”
So while I will describe the principles to create your heart-brain connection and coherence in the following paragraphs, I encourage you to experience them for yourself using the no-cost, online instructions found at heartmath.org/resources/heartmath-tools quick-coherence-technique-for-adults or through the guidance of a certified instructor.20
The technique to create heart-brain connection and coherence is appropriately called the Quick Coherence® Technique and has been refined into two simple steps. Independently, each step sends a signal to the body that a specific shift has been put into motion. Combined, the steps create an experience that takes us back to a natural harmony that existed in our bodies earlier in life, before we began to separate our heart-brain network through our conditioning.
Steps for Quick Coherence®
Heart Focus. Shift your focus into the area of your heart, and begin to breathe a little more slowly than usual, as if your breath is coming from your heart. This step is a powerful technique unto itself and can be used when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the day’s events or simply desire to be more connected with yourself. As you slow your breathing, you are sending a signal to your body in general, and your heart specifically, that you are in a place that is safe and it’s okay to turn your attention inward.
Activate a Positive Feeling. Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeing such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. The key in this step is to first create the feeling, to the best of your ability, and then to embrace the feeling, again to the best of your ability. Your ability to sustain the feeling is what maintains the optimal conversation between your heart and your brain.
Exercise: How to Ask Your Heart a QuestionI want to take this opportunity to share a technique to tap into your heart’s wisdom. And I want this exercise to be personal, so I will offer this section as if I’m speaking to you directly, as if you were sitting with me in my living room.
Your heart’s intelligence is with you always. It’s constant. You can trust it. It’s important to acknowledge this, because it means that the wisdom of your heart—the answers to the deepest and most mysterious questions of life that no one else can answer—already exists within you.
Rather than something that needs to be built or created before it can be used, the link between your heart and the place that holds your answers is already established. It’s been with you since the time you were born and has never left you. It’s up to you as to when you choose to access that link as a “hotline” to the deepest truths of your life. It’s also up to you as to how you apply the wisdom of your heart in the reality of your everyday life.
This is where discernment comes in. While your heart’s wisdom may be true for you, it may not always be true for someone else. Our friends, children, siblings, life partners, and families all have their own heart wisdom.
We can’t possibly know with certainty what’s true for them. And we can’t always know how our well-intentioned sharing may affect the experience of another person. I’m mentioning this now as a point of consideration.
“While your heart’s wisdom may be true for you, it may not always be true for someone else.”
When you find yourself wondering if you should share what your heart intelligence has revealed to you, as a guideline I recommend asking yourself the following three questions:
1. What is my intention in sharing what I’ve discovered?
2. Who will benefit if I share this information? Or specifically, How will _______ benefit if I share this information? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person you’re considering sharing your revelation with.)
3. Who can be hurt by my sharing of this information?
The key to using these questions is to be absolutely clear with yourself about the very first question. To be conscious of your intention is the foundation of your personal responsibility. With your intention firmly in place, it becomes easy to evaluate your answer to the next two questions to see if they honor your stated intention. Whether they do or not, you will have the answer to your question as to the appropriateness of sharing your deep knowing.
With these ideas in mind, let’s apply the steps of coherence from the previous section to access your heart’s intelligence. I recommend doing so in a place where it’s safe to close your eyes and direct your attention inward. (You wouldn’t want to try this exercise while you’re driving or doing anything that requires your full and undivided attention!) The following steps will lead you directly to your heart’s deepest knowing.
The steps for accessing your heart’s intelligence are as follows:
Step 1: Focus Your Heart
Allow your awareness to move from your mind to the area of your heart.
This sends a signal to your heart that a shift has taken place—you are no longer engaged in the world around you and are now becoming aware of the world within you.
Step 2: Slow Your Breathing
Begin to breathe a little more slowly than usual, allowing five to six seconds for your inhale and exhale.
This simple step sends a second signal to your body that you are safe and in a place that supports your process. Deep, slow breathing has long been known to stimulate a relaxation response of the nervous system (the parasympathetic response).
Step 3: Feel a Rejuvenating Feeling
To the best of your ability, feel a genuine sense of caring, appreciation, gratitude, or compassion for anything or anyone.
The key to success here is for your feeling to be as sincere and heartfelt as possible. As described previously, it’s the quality of this feeling that fine-tunes and optimizes the coherence and connection between your heart and your brain. While everyone is capable of this experience, it’s one of those processes that you
Step 4: Ask Your Heart Intelligence a Question
The previous three steps create the harmony and connection between your brain and your heart that enables you to tap into your heart’s wisdom. As you continue to breathe and hold the focus in your heart, this is the time to ask your question.
Heart intelligence generally works best when the questions are brief and to the point. Remember, your heart doesn’t need a preface or the history of a situation before the question. Ask your question silently as a single concise sentence and then allow your heart’s wisdom to respond in a way that works for you.
I’m often asked to interpret the symbols that show up in people’s dreams or the meaning of an experience that they’ve had in their lives. While it’s possible for me to offer an opinion, it’s just that. It’s my sense of what the image or experience may mean in their lives. The truth is that I can’t possibly know what others’ dreams or experiences means for them. It’s also true that they can!
“If you are empowered enough to have the experience, then you are empowered to know for yourself what your experience means.”
The key is this: If you are empowered enough to have the experience, then you are empowered to know for yourself what your experience means.
A mysterious dream is the perfect opportunity to apply heart wisdom to a real-world situation. From the heart-brain connection and harmony established in the previous three steps, simply ask the following kinds of questions, filling in the blank with the names of the people, symbols, or identities of what you’re asking about. These are example formats only. You can choose one that fits for you, or create your own using any of them as a template.
1. From the place of my heart’s deepest knowing, I ask to be shown the significance of _____ in my dream.
2. From the single eye of my heart that knows only my truth, I ask for the meaning of the _____ that I saw in my dream.
3. Please help me to understand the significance of _____ in my life.
Step 5: Listen
Become aware of how your body feels immediately as you are asking your question. Make a note of any sensations such as warmth, tingling, ringing of the ears, and emotions that may arise.
Everyone learns and experiences uniquely. There is no correct or incorrect way of receiving your heart’s wisdom. The key here is to know what works best for you.
For people who are already attuned to their bodies’ and their hearts’ intelligence, this step is the easiest part of the process. For those who may have less experience in listening to their bodies, this is an exercise in awareness.
As I mentioned before, I tend to receive my heart’s wisdom as words while at the same time I’m feeling the sensations in my body. Other people never hear the words but experience a nonverbal communication only, such as warmth radiating from their hearts or their gut. Sometimes people feel a wave of peace wash over them as they receive the answer to their question. What’s important here is to listen to your body and to learn how it communicates with you.
This article on the heart brain connection is excerpted with permission from Resilience from the Heart: The Power to Thrive in Life’s Extremes by Gregg Braden.
About The Author
Gregg Braden is a New York Times best-selling author and geologist who is internationally renowned as a pioneer in bridging science and indigenous knowledge to create real-world solutions for today. Following successful careers in the energy and defense industries, he became the first technical operations manager for Cisco Systems in 1991. For three decades, Gregg has explored high mountain villages, remote monasteries, and forgotten texts to merge their wisdom with the best science of our time. Based in New Mexico, Gregg has shared his discoveries with Fortune 500 companies, the United Nations, mainstream universities, and audiences throughout the world. Visit his website: greggbraden.com