Last month, I had the honor of presenting with Arianna Huffington at Wisdom 2.0, a fascinating annual conference of some of the most innovative and caring minds and organizational leaders I’ve met. The mission of the conference is to address the challenge of not only living connected to one another through technology, but doing so in ways that benefit our own well-being, make us more effective at work and in the world.
Speakers included tech executives from LinkedIn, Google, Facebook and Twitter and mindfulness luminaries like Jon Kabat Zinn, Marianne Williamson and Jack Kornfield. I was delighted to discover that many in this eclectic array of speakers are realizing mindfulness heart qualities need to be brought into the workplace and into our daily lives. The high-tech world, the government and big business are starting to acknowledge that humans have a heart and it’s more than just a means to pump blood. There is actually a movement afoot. For example, Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, talked about managing compassionately, and that his personal vision statement is to expand the world’s collective wisdom and compassion.
What HeartMath contributes to this important conversation about mindfulness as a lifestyle is the powerful addition of shifting from head to heart. So often when we talk about mindfulness, which starts with self-awareness of thoughts and feelings and holding attitudes of loving kindness, we don’t always acknowledge that involves the heart.
How does the heart relate to mindfulness? Mindfulness is about being present to what you’re feeling, thinking and sensing. Connecting to our hearts enables us to be in “the heart of the moment” and if you don’t want to get hooked into those thoughts and feelings, you let them pass through. Our research at the Institute of HeartMath confirms that attuning to the heart can enhance mindfulness practice.
At HeartMath, we train people to first get into heart coherence – generating a stable, sine-wavelike pattern in one’s heart rhythms. When the heart rhythm is coherent, the body, including the brain/mind and nervous system synchronize to the heart’s coherent rhythm and we gain greater mental clarity and intuitive discernment, which improves our decision-making. You lose coherence when you’re not present. Some mindfulness practitioners have reported how HeartMath’s Inner Balance and emWave heart coherence technology signals you when your mind starts to wander or go into a story and helps you maintain attention to the present.
Coming up – Quick Coherence Technique
Although the heart and mind are in constant communication, we can intentionally align heart, mind and emotions with our spirit (higher self, higher intelligence, etc.) to increase self-awareness. When we experience sincere positive emotions, such as loving kindness, compassion or gratitude, the heart’s rhythm becomes more coherent and harmonious. The heart’s rhythm affects the brain and the entire body neurologically, biochemically, biophysically and energetically. You can learn to shift into this state of heart to bring your mind and emotions into harmonious alignment and have more access to intuitive discernment often in less than a minute. It can take a little practice to do this on demand, but it gets easier and quicker the more you do it.
Here is how to get started in adding more heartfulness to your practice, using an adaptation of our Quick Coherence Technique:
- Shift your attention to the area of your heart.
- Imagine your breath passing in and out through your heart area or the center of your chest as you slowly inhale and exhale.
- Breathe in an attitude of calm and balance as if you were taking in an emotional tonic that takes off the rough edges. You can also try breathing in a feeling of loving kindness, gratitude or compassion – or whatever attitude you find most soothing.
- If you had been experiencing any tension or stress, you may feel former uncomfortable physical sensations replaced by comforting, relaxed ones.
In this state of heart coherence, you are now ready for your mindfulness or other meditation practice. I’ve found connecting with my heart in this way really helps me quiet my mind quicker than just observing it.
As I shared HeartMath’s discoveries at Wisdom 2.0 on stage, many people in the audience looked inspired. Geshe Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s chief English translator of his books, seemed to be relating to everything I was saying as his head was bobbing up and down throughout my talk. And when I shared an old Indian saying, “The longest journey a man (or woman) will ever take is the journey from head to heart,” the whole audience nodded. Whatever wisdom practices the people in the audience used, there was a common feeling and understanding that the heart is where we are all going. So why not start there?
Mindfulness has been a mainstay of monasteries and esoteric schools for eons. What I think is happening now is its emergence into the mainstream, as regular people, leaders and organizations wake up to its incredible benefits for work, life, health, profitability and sustainability. My hope is that this quickening interest continues to recognize heart-based understanding and heartfulness as central to mindfulness.