Science and spirituality are finally converging. What were once separate and distinct—and at times conflicting—schools of inquiry and thought, now collaborate in many ways to provide a more holistic understanding of life.
For example, science now confirms the physical existence of the soul, that part of us that lives on beyond the physical death of the body. This evidence supports spirituality’s belief that humans are blessed with the capacity to experience direct connection with God through their soul while alive.
Perhaps one of the most interesting scientific discoveries is that the heart, far from being simply a pump that sustains life, is also an access point to a source of wisdom and intelligence that we can call upon to live our lives with more balance, greater creativity, and enhanced intuitive capacities.
According to scientists, the heart has its own cognition, its own ability to communicate with a deeper source of wisdom, which then is able to send signals to the mind through neurological pathways. These signals ascend from the heart upward to the brain and influence our emotions, thoughts, and physical behavior.
“The heart is, in fact, a highly complex information-processing center with its own functional brain, commonly called the heart-brain, that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs and play an important role in mental and emotional experience and the quality of our lives.”
(Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Science of the Heart, 2015, HeartMath Institute, Boulder Creek, CA).
Our hearts then, do have a brain. And that heart-brain is an important part of our being. It’s designed to serve as a distinct operating system that makes us fully human and connects us with the Divine.
Consistent with what science is discovering, spirituality has long taught that the spirit, our soul, is located in the heart. Some say there’s a small flame that flickers behind our hearts, which is our spirit. The heart is the place through which the Creator infuses wisdom, guidance, and love. In short, the heart is the place, the umbilical cord through which God communicates with us.
Far too often however, we become trapped in the cranial brain as the sole way of functioning, neglecting the heart and its cognition. We develop the monkey mind—that constant chatter in our heads that sends conflicting thoughts. The monkey mind causes us to become overwhelmed, worried, and fearful.
We can quiet the monkey mind, however, by re-centering ourselves and moving our attention from the head-brain to the heart-brain. This allows our minds to sink into our hearts so the two can function together.
Fortunately, we have many scientific and spiritual tools that help us activate our heart-brain and its inner wisdom.
From a scientific perspective, here’s a couple of ways you might try:
Heart Focus. Sit or stand quietly for a few moments. Place your hands on your heart. Take 5-7 deep breaths. Inhale for 5 seconds and then exhale for 5 seconds with each breath. Relax into the quiet of your heart. Notice how this slower rhythm of breathing naturally reduces your heart rate and calms you.
Heart Breath. Experience your breath moving in and out of your heart. Feel the energy, the resonance of each breath as it moves through your heart area.
Heart Perception. Focus on someone or something you appreciate. Recall a special place or the love you feel for a friend, partner, or pet. Feel the positive energy of love flowing in and through your heart-space.
Gratitude List. Make a list of 5-7 things for which you’re grateful. Hold those things in your heart. Then lift them up with gratitude to the Creator. Come back to your gratitude list throughout the day as a way of re-grounding yourself.
From a spiritual vantage, there are also many tools you can use to sink your mind into your heart. Here’s a few:
Centering Prayer. Choose a sacred word or short phrase, such as “Love,” or “I am love.” Speak it quietly to yourself as you sit in silence. When your mind drifts, gently come back to the word or phrase and allow it to re-center you in your heart. Notice how the word or phrase quiets your mind allowing you to simply rest in God.
Seeking Heart Wisdom. When something is puzzling, troubling, or causing you worry, take a few moments to quiet yourself. Then focus on your heart and ask, “What does my heart have to say? How am I being invited to grow?” If an answer comes, notice if you feel it rising upward from your heart. Ponder the response you hear. Consider sharing it with a spiritual mentor or friend for deeper guidance and insight.
Meditation. Set aside 15-20 minutes each day to sit in silence and meditate, to be still and know God’s presence. This quiet time opens our hearts to deeper insight as it creates inner space for God. Click on the following link to try out several styles of meditations: Meditation Link. Experiment and see which style suits you best.
Song of the Heart. Let a song rise up spontaneously within you. Sing the song aloud or silently in your heart. Let it relax you and lift your spirit. Carry it with you during your day.
The convergence of spirituality and science at this point in history may very well be the Creator’s nudge inviting us to return to our hearts, to integrate our minds with our hearts, and tap into the natural source of inner wisdom, love, and guidance that’s been there all along.
Our hearts do have a brain. And God has given us the capacity to access our heart-brain through the gift of infinite love and wisdom.
—brian j plachta