Heart-Centered Living

Heart-Centered Living

By Lauren McClain

Every November, I get sad. I don’t know if it’s the decreased number of light hours, the energetic move toward slowness, or some self-fulfilling prophecy I’ve developed.

In any case, I’ve found that some of this sadness can be mitigated with attention to the lasting things in my life, like love, my body, and my mind.

We know that what we think affects our hormone production, our muscle tension, our blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, and what we see and hear and feel. That’s a lot.

So how can we feel better?

Nothing makes me give up the idea that the mind is separate from the body more than the new research we now have about the heart.

We used to think that our mind was in our brains which did the thinking, processing and decision making with its neurons and grey matter. Now we know that 60-65% of the cells in the heart are just like those neural cells in the brain, which means, the heart thinks, too! According to researchers, our heart makes its own neurotransmitters and stores memories, especially emotional memory.

When the heart receives a message from your brain, the two of them have a little back and forth and they decide together what to do. Sometimes they agree on something easily and your course of action feels right and simple. Sometimes they don’t come into alignment as easily…

It’s my perception that anxiety comes from our intellectual need for control.  

Anxiety, then, is the feeling we get when we experience the brain’s power overriding the needs or inputs from the heart. We work best—body and mind—when the brain and heart are connected and ‘entrained.’

I’ve always felt good about big decisions in my life when I can say that they make sense and feel right. In other words, when in my mind and heart, it’s a go.

Sadly, most of us (including myself) live in and grow up in very brain-centered societies. Our schooling focuses exclusively on brain function and development. Feelings and their wisdom rarely acquire much of our attention.

After years of this, our hearts start to close up as we age. But that doesn’t stop the heart from trying, however down beaten it may feel. It keeps that conversation with the brain going, pinging our consciousness with a call for a different mindset.

At some point, listening to our hearts feels right especially during strong pulls when everything feels out of control. But listening to the heart is like taking a leap. Heart-centered living feels like trust. And we are, by and large, not great at trust. We want guarantees. We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to ensure the outcome we want. We’re workaholics with an intellectual superiority complex.

During the letting go time of autumn, our hearts tug a little harder. “Come,” they say, “take a break, you’re OK. You don’t have to do anything. Stop and consider the lilies.”

We can make an extra effort to listen to our hearts, which tell us that love, trust, and calm are more effective than work, than changing ourselves, our environment, and our world.

How can we do this? All living things exchange electromagnetic energy. Heart energy can be scientifically measured from about five feet away.

The kind of energy your heart is making and emanating is shared with those near you. Other people’s hearts are affected by your energy, and you are affected by theirs.

Especially when you feel positive, loving thoughts for the world or another person, your heart sends out harmonious signals that push out feelings of loneliness and separation (sadness). You feel better, and so does the person feeling your loving heart energy.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, “When you feel unloved, it is not because you are not receiving love; it is because you are withholding love.” This makes even more sense in the context of heart energy. Your loving feelings heal you.

For your own sake, at least, find someone to practice loving with your heart’s silent, energetic field. Louis Armstrong knew it when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do…They’re really saying I love you.”

Give it a try. See if you can stem the tide of loneliness, sadness, or anxiety in this darker time with heart-centered living. Listen to your feelings, follow your heart, and practice love.

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Lauren is a childbirth educator (Birth Boot Camp) and the author of the Breech Baby Handbook. She owns Better Birth Graphics, a shop full of practical, intuitive birth media for professionals. Her work has been published in Mothering, Holistic Parenting Magazine, Birth Issues, True Birth, Mama Birth, and elsewhere. She lives in Maryland with her family of five.