The heart-mind connection may well have more than psychological or spiritual implications when it comes to the way we live and how we choose our livelihoods than we ever imagined. I saw Crack in the Cosmic Egg author and educator Joseph Chilton Pearce speak last year about his 2007 book The Death of Religion and the Rebirth of Spirit: A Return to the Intelligence of the Heart and what really struck me in his discussion of current neuroscientific discoveries about the brain and the heart was this comment:
“The idea that we can think with our hearts is no longer just a metaphor, but is, in fact, a very real phenomenon. We now know this because the combined research of two or three fields is proving that the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings.”
Pearce states that more than 65% of the cells of the human heart are actually neural cells, not just muscle cells as once believed, and that they are identical to brain cells with the same connecting links and neurotransmitters. He goes on to talk about the way the brain and the heart are engaged in a constant communication that we are not consciously aware of, a process that keeps the body working as a harmonious whole. Pearce believes the emotional brain makes a qualitative evaluation of our experiences, sends the information to the heart, and then the heart assists the brain in making an appropriate response.
It’s my opinion that Pearce’s supposition is bolstered by this little factoid from the world of brain research. Acclaimed neurologist, neuropsychiatrist and author of over fifteen books on the brain Richard Restak talks about science’s recognition of a cognitive unconscious: “Brain research was leading to the counterintuitive notion (that)…Our actions originate outside of our awareness; consciousness plays little part in determining how we respond to many aspects of the world around us. This is a heady and sobering thought: We don’t so much make decisions as our brain makes them for us.”
So what happens when you combine the idea that our heart is more than just a pump and our brain acts in ways of which we are not conscious? You get a whole new picture of how we really make choices in our lives. Both Pearce and Restak contend that the mere recognition that we may not “own” all our actions at a fully conscious level is just the beginning of the unraveling the mysteries of the human mind. Advances in technology for measuring and imaging brain activity, coupled with a growing curiosity about just how much we can raise our awareness of this mental/physical process that occurs below our normal conscious radar are taking researchers in a number of fascinating directions. It will be interesting to see just where the exploration of the heart-mind connection in practices such as meditation, new and improved biofeedback techniques and mindfulness training takes us.
The jury is still out whether our hearts are more intelligent and actively involved in our decisions than we think, but I’m betting there’s more wisdom in the heart-centered metaphors that have been passed down in our language for eons than we have ever acknowledged. My guess is we just have to remember to always make room for our heart’s point-of-view. I like Jacques Benigne Bossuel’s take on the whole heart-brain issue–“The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.” Sometimes we just have to let our brain get out of the way.
Joseph Chilton Pearce Workshop–more available on YouTube
Richard Restak on Neuroscience and Advertising