The Heart's Story
Once revered as the seat of the soul and the locus of wisdom, over the course of many hundreds of years, the intelligence of the heart has been been divorced from, and rendered subservient to, knowledge about the world as generated through the brain (understood in modern times as the seat of knowledge and rational thinking).
While the heart and benevolent heart qualities such as love, kindness, non-judgment and compassion are often alluded to within every day conversation, the practical role that the heart could play is consistently, and frustratingly, left unaddressed in contemporary society. While we may intuitively or unconsciously be aware that heart knowing could be helpful to navigate the challenges of daily life, the traditionally accepted lens of empiricism, which labels the heart a biological pump, creates barriers for us to consider this idea; labelling our heart's wisdom and desires as irrational, irrelevant or merely sentimental, silencing them and consequently enabling us to do untold damage to ourselves and the wider world. The heart is now calling us back to itself, to help us write a new story for our collective future.
A Call From the Heart
The heart urgently asks us to understand that our modern view of it as a biological pump is the result of a cultural perspective that embraces us so comprehensively that we do not realise that it is merely a perspective. Whilst this is a valid perspective through a scientific narrative, it is not the heart's full story. In this sense, our awareness is freed up to consider the heart in other ways; that is, as a locus of knowledge that could support us to better engage with daily life and address global challenges.
Ground-breaking research from the Heart Sense Research Institute is asking us to contemplate the importance of moving our awareness beyond the physical, pumping heart narrative, and to give equal status to seeing and engaging with the heart as so much more...
Many of the planet’s oldest civilisations including the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Japanese, Hindus, Hebrews, Greeks and early Christians respected the heart’s wisdom and intellect. For the ancient Egyptians the heart was the central organ of the body, the seat of conscience, the site of mind or intelligence. In the Mayan culture, the heart was the source of life. In the Medieval period the heart was the seat of the soul in respect to the act and power of life, occupying a position of primacy in everyday existence. In Christianity and many other traditions (including aboriginal traditions), the heart is understood to be the centre of the human being.
Although we may dismiss these ideas now as scientifically incorrect, this actually misses the point. Whilst we may know through our scientific eyes that the heart is a pump, no-one actually experiences it in this way. Therefore, we need to understand that other ideas of the heart are not wrong, they simply operate under a different vision; a vision that is just as valid, and just as important, as perceiving the heart as a biological pump. The heart has many different narratives, many different truths.
The Heart's Behaviour
New ideas emerging from modern medical discourse are re-framing the heart as having a spiralling muscular structure that in turn influences the blood streaming through the heart as loops and vortices. As the heart moves between contraction and expansion, moving rhythmically between poles, “mediating and balancing between extremes” (Holdrege, 2002, p. 16), the pulsating heart in the centre of our chests can be seen as a qualitative representation of the spiral flow of life – a physical organ that keeps us alive and, if we allow ourselves to see, connects us to a sense of the wider cosmos. In this way, the heart is our own personal, physical reminder of the primordial spiral pattern that directs life, and subsequently the organ through which we can navigate our way through the contrasting forces that express themselves in each and every minute of our lives. The pattern of the spiral is within us, given expression through the heart, connecting us to disparate realms, to ‘others’ - in whatever forms these ‘others’ may take.
Reference: Holdrege, C. (2002) ‘The Heart: A Pulsing and Perceptive Center’, in Holdrege, C. (ed.) The Dynamic Heart and Circulation. Fair Oaks: The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, pp. 1-21.
The heart is generally associated with:
Taking these ideas about the heart into our awareness, how could we contemplate life differently? How could taking the heart seriously - with its intelligence, characteristics and qualities - affect our perception of, and consequently engagement with, life?
These are the challenging questions that we are engaging with here at the Heart Sense Research Institute.