In our world of knowledge and wisdom, there are two meanings for the word “heart”; as an emotion that is open to the spiritual realms and an important power plant for the biological structure. Our Lord, Who has created everything in pairs, has created the heart as a dual structure too, as both the material and the spiritual heart. The spiritual heart is a spiritual gift; the spiritual soul is the essence and hidden depth of this gift and the biological soul is its transport. The biological heart is one of the three centers (the head, the heart, and the abdomen) of the biological soul, like the brain. The heart is a two-sided core lit with divine light; with one aspect it looks upon the realm of souls and with the other the realm of objects. When we look at it from this point of view, we see that the material and spiritual hearts are related to one another. But since the content and nature of the relationship between these two hearts has not yet been fully revealed, it is still open for research. Below, we summarize the latest research that indicates the fact that the unity of heart and mind, a unity that is a potential in all human beings, needing to be cultivated, a unity which has to be realized on the way to truth, can in fact be observed within the physical structure of human beings.
Modern medicine, which tries to understand the biological structure of human beings, has been carrying out research in recent years that reveals the manifestations of the above fact. For instance, in classical text books the heart is introduced as a mechanical system that pumps the blood, a center to which all the organs of the body are directed; but recent research shows that there is a nerve system in the heart, just as there is in the brain, and that the heart assumes responsibility, to the same degree as the brain, in the control of the body. It has been revealed that the harmonious functioning of all the other bodily systems is regulated by the heart to the same degree as done by the brain. In recent years, the heart has been depicted as the sage and master of the palace that is the body. Alongside the abstract, analytical, and logical intellect of the brain, the heart is equipped with emotional and communicational intellect. Emotions are first produced in the heart; the signals produced in the heart are then carried very rapidly over to the limbic system of the brain. It is then through the brain that the emotional response is carried over to the body and communicated to those around it. Research which has been carried out in the framework of studying the heart-brain relationship has revealed things that may change our attitude toward the heart, as well as affecting our presuppositions about humanity and how our health can be protected.
The two-way communication system that exists between our heart and brain is one of the most complex communication systems in the world. For a start, the heart is made up of 40,000 nerve cells which pertain to it alone. This number of nerve cells is close to the average found in various centers of the brain. It has a complex and mysterious nervous system unto itself and this nervous system is defined as the “brain in the heart.” There is clear and sound proof that the heart communicates with the brain along four different pathways. The first is via the nerves (the neurological pathway); the second through the hormones and neurotransmitters (the biochemical pathway); the third is made up of the pulse waves created by blood pressure (the biophysical pathway); with the fourth being the interaction of the electromagnetic fields (the energy pathway). The sympathetic nerves that envelope the heart like a web are one of the four important communication and regulation branches of the heart-circulation system. The heart operates in a system which produces one of the most powerful and broadest electromagnetic fields in the human body. The bioelectromagnetic fields that are produced can be measured by SQUID (Superconductor Quantum Interference Device) from 50-70 cm away. The electrical field in the heart measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG) is on average 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrocephalogram measurements taken from the brain; the magnetic component of the heart is 5,000 times stronger than the one in the brain. Consequently, these forces cannot be absorbed by the tissues and disappear; similarly the blood pressure that is produced by the rhythmic activity of the heart, the sound pressure, and the changes in the electromagnetic waves are not only carried over to each part of the body, but at the same time the scattering of that field of energy is felt by the people who are experiencing it. All these observations show that the heart has been given the role of a signal station, providing and regulating the synchronicity within the entire body. When people experience different emotions (fury, happiness, fear, and despair) the heart beat changes along with the rhythmic patterns produced by the pulse (Figure l and 2).
The Emotional State of the Heart Affects the People around
The quality of the electrical signals that emanate from the heart affect all the cells of the body in a negative or positive way. It has been observed that the electromagnetic fields produced in the heart affect the emotions and thoughts of other people who are in physical contact or 50-70 cm away from a heart that is producing these emotions (Figure 3).
This shows that the emotional state of educators in preschool environments and mothers has a direct effect on the development (especially that of heart and mind) of the children. In particular, if the people who work in preschool environments are under stress, temperamental, unhappy, or depressed, this will not only affect the educator, but also the development of the children under their care. When those who are working with children have positive emotions, are affectionate, and smile, this has a positive effect on the development and learning curve of children.
The development of the brain and heart in children is dependent on their mothers and educators having a healthy heart. For these hearts to be healthy they have to possess positive emotions (such as affection, compassion, and love). In one study carried out at Harvard University, it was observed that adults who had not received sufficient amounts of love during their childhood or who received no affection became ill more frequently and also died sooner. It is now understood that the general heath of human beings is more dependent on our living with positive emotions and having a strong spiritual dimension than on living with logical and rational thoughts. From these we understand much better the importance of controlling the emotions that emanate from the heart through a sound education. The heart is one of the centers that regulates the general health of the individual. Behavior patterns (overworking, the performing of hasty actions, anxiety, or being temperamental) are risk factors that deteriorate the health of the heart and that can lead to heart attacks. Some research shows that an intense episode of negative emotions, like fury, anxiety, or despair over a long duration can lead to sudden death related to heart disease. The risk of stress that is related to poorly managed chronic negative emotions causing cancer and heart disease is six times greater than the risk involved in smoking, high cholesterol, and hypertension. Disliking or being unsatisfied with the work that one does is also considered to be a great risk factor when it comes to heart attacks.
The Heart Rate Variability
According to messages emanating from the sympathetic nerves in the autonomous nervous system, one of the four pathways used in the control and regulation of heart activity, the heart rate and secretion of adrenal hormones increase. The stimuli that come from the parasympathetic nerves, on the other hand, slow down the beating of the heart. The balance and harmony between the two is very important for the health of the heart. The changes that are observed in pulse patterns over time are a key measure of the balance between the brain and the heart. Heart rate variability (HRV) shows whether or not the electrical stimuli in the sinoatrial knot (the group of nerve cells that are responsible for the production of the electrical current in the heart) are being regulated as they should. Since the HRV parameter forms a window through which we can measure the ability of the heart to respond to the regulating signals that travel from the heart to the brain and from the brain to the heart; in recent years the determination of the percentage of heart rate variance has gained importance. The HRV measurements are carried out via tacograms; these measure and analyze the HRV for the duration of an hour. Normally, the HRV parameter is the capacity of the heart rate to respond to changing circumstances and to adapt to the required pace. The decrease and increase in this capacity in situations such as stress, temper, excessive joy, and panic disturbs the capability of the heart to adapt; it causes a decrease in this capability and can result in the collapse of the whole system. An HRV which has decreased, due to either material or emotional causes, could be a harbinger of arrhythmic cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, the speeding up of atherosclerosis, or heart failure. Patients whose HRV decreases may die sooner than patients whose HRV is normal or high. If the HRV does not keep within the normal, balanced limits, it is highly probable that those patients may die due to a sudden heart attack.
In the biological working of the body, the brain obeys the heart. When the changes in the heart rate are harmonious, the waves (alfa or lower wavelengths) that are produced in the person’s brain are also in synch with the rhythm of the heart. In other words, there is a harmonious cooperation and an excellent unity in the compatibility of heart beats and the relationship between the heart and the brain. The research that has been done in this field shows that the activity of the brain has been programmed in synch with the activity of the heart. For instance, in embryonic development, the brain follows the heart. While the child is developing in the womb, the heart develops before the brain. The development of the brain is completed only after a child reaches one year of age. According to recent research, when a person’s emotions change, the quality of the signals that emanate from the heart to the brain change automatically as well. In other words, if the psycho-physiological state of the individual is balanced and positive, the HRV rhythms of the heart are accordingly harmonious and consequently the electrical activity in the brain is synchronized with this balance and harmony that is produced in the heart.
Research shows that humans live 80-90 percent of their lives automatically and mechanically; in their daily lives they make most of their decisions and do most of their activities unconsciously, according to habit and subconscious directives. Consciousness and will have a very weak hold on our emotions, whereas our strong emotions (for instance passion) have a greater capacity to control and direct our will and consciousness. The automatic way of life conducted through habit is dominant over the way of life led through conscious choices and will; emotions (especially passions) have, in that sense, a natural superiority over reason and logic. This natural condition and tendency of humanity makes it essential to find the answer to the question of how one may live a life that is governed by reason, logic, and will, yet maintain health at an optimal level. The key to finding the answer to this question is to take the education of the heart (or the education of “emotional reason”) seriously and giving it priority. Education which does not take emotion or passion into account, which overlooks them, has to be abandoned immediately. In its place, an education and life philosophy that gives due importance to the heart and the emotions, a philosophy where reason and logic help emotions and show them the way must be adopted.
- Gulen, M.F., Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, The Light, Inc., NJ: 2004.
- McCraty, R., M. Atkinson, D. Tomasino, Science of The Heart, Institute of HeartMath, California: 2001.