I hear a lot of talk lately about heart consciousness; often described as an opening of the heart to adopt a vibrational resonance of love, acceptance and unity with the world. Heart consciousness is most often portrayed as being diametrically opposed to “being in your head”. Cerebellum, the name of one of the regions of the brain, is a reference to this long held belief. Cere meaning ‘head’ and bellum meaning ‘war’, directly translated as “head war”, or to use the queen’s English, “the war in the head”. Is this war between the head and the heart real, or is the conflict merely a figment of our imagination?
In recent times many of us have experienced shifts in perception to adopt a more expansive and flexible worldview. This new worldview acknowledges the role of imagination and belief in defining our experience of life, it allows for experience and interaction beyond the boundaries of space and time, and it replaces the concept of change with that of transformation. But it hasn’t ended the war in the head. Despite this new worldview, and the idealized concept of being “in the heart”, we humans are still largely dominated by reason, operating on the assumptions that we are bound by space and time, that the course of our lives depends mostly on our physical effort, and that change happens over time. Why? What is really going on is simply a case of mistaken identity. We still identify more strongly with the physical body than we do with the more etheric nature of the mind.
Many things thought impossible a century ago, or even 30 years ago are now taken for granted as part of our daily reality. How is this so? How did we stumble onto the information that made these things possible? Is it more likely that the information itself didn’t exist, or that we simply didn’t have access to it? In my experience, we are able to access more information the more we evolve and expand our awareness. One of the most debilitating illusions humanity has created for itself is that we are somehow separate from the natural world. We are part of the universe, an expression of it, and as such our being expresses all of its universal qualities.
I would argue against the idea that “mind” and “heart” consciousness are at odds. I believe that the metaphors ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ representing inseparable and equally valid aspects of our mind, each perform their unique function regardless of our awareness of them. After viewing loads of confusing and contradictory information on the subject I discussed it with my mentor, Don Miguel Ruiz. When I asked him about being in my “head” as opposed to my “heart”, and perhaps not being fully present, he smiled and asked if my mind is a part of my being. Of course, a simple answer. We have many aspects to our consciousness. “Being in the heart” does not make us any more spiritual. It is not that we have relocated our being to the heart, we cannot be anywhere else but in our heart, whether we are aware of it or not. It is merely that we have expanded our awareness to include that aspect of our being. The advantage to this greater awareness is that we discover a sense of peace that “being in the head” alone cannot access.
“Spirituality” has generally been viewed as something other than daily life, something to strive for, like a carrot at the end of a stick. Many have been enamored by this idealistic concept, realizing the shortcomings of the “age of reason” by discovering that a materialistic view really does not bring lasting fulfillment, and changing their tactics. Expecting to float along in “the golden age of spirituality” is simply flipping to the other side of the coin, and racing from one extreme to the other. Today there are “gurus” everywhere, transformation movements springing up across the globe, and dislocated eastern philosophies everywhere we look. Is it really working? Or are we just performing a new dance, still largely unaware of what this life is all about? Heart consciousness produces more than a just different way of thinking; it is essentially a different way of being.
Let’s review some deeper insights
As a whole the universe is in a constant state of harmony, maintaining a conservation of both energy and information. As has been the belief for millennia, it has both subtle and gross aspects, or the unseen and the seen if you like. Space-time is the domain of the seen – the domain of energy, while consciousness is the domain of the unseen – the domain of information. These two interdependent domains are really aspects of an even more subtle reality, but that is a whole other topic. Our being too includes aspects of both the seen and the unseen domains.
Transcending fear to access heart consciousness
As a quantum phenomenon, our minds are also in a constant state of balance despite our superficial perception of reality. According to both modern quantum physics and the mystical traditions, the seeing, the seer and the seen are always the same, so any judgmental perception is merely a type of ignorance. We have been taught to view things as either good or bad, but we seldom reintegrate the polar opposites this creates, saddling ourselves with the illusion of duality and conflict. In the bible story, eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil resulted in a loss of the direct awareness of the Divine. Through judgment we separate ourselves from the awareness of universal harmony, and we disturb our inherent inner peace. Sure, if we look at individual challenging events they don’t make sense to us; we perceive these experiences in our lives to be hard, unwarranted or unfair. However, if you care to look without bias, you’ll find we are always being supported to the same extent that we are being challenged in our lives, whichever form that may take. Often in time, when no longer consumed by our initial reaction, we come to see these experiences as “blessings in disguise”. Consider one individual musical note from one of Beethoven’s symphonies, that note on its own won’t hold any specific meaning for us. But when heard together with the rest of the notes, we hear the most beautiful music. The experiences of our lives are similar. Looking at isolated circumstances and events is shortsighted, but when we put all the pieces of our journey together, we see a bigger context. The more we do this the more we see how everything in our lives is interrelated; everything is relevant and meaningful in some way. We begin to see fear for the irrational response that it is.
Enter the concept of gratitude
True gratitude is the result of perceiving this underlying harmony and order in our lives. It cannot be achieved by making endless lists of perceived good in our lives. Rather, it is born of the realization that we are supported by the universe around us even when our circumstances don’t appear to support this, and regardless of our “goodness”, hard work, spiritual rituals or enlightened views. Viewing the challenges we experience with the same appreciation that we have for the enjoyable moments replaces fear with gratitude. It is more than a feeling; gratitude is a deep sense of knowing that everything around us, every experience is supporting our growth and empowerment. It influences the way we think and act in the opposite way that fear does. Fear contracts us, while gratitude expands us. Being in a state of gratitude keeps our awareness open to a wider scope of opportunity, but it also affects our direct communication with the universe around us. We now know that our state of being affects the frequency at which we resonate. It is the awareness of this universal harmony and support that transforms our thinking from being focused on survival to the task of living our greatest potential. The less we are consumed by inner conflicts the more our awareness of ourselves expands to include more of our subtle interaction with the universe. This new awareness is generally what is meant by heart consciousness.
Keeping a level head
It is important to keep in mind that all world views, and thus all identities, are essentially illusions. Rather than seeking some ultimate truth, some final solution, we are seeking an ever more refined understanding and wisdom regarding ourselves and our interaction with the world. As we evolve, that interaction becomes more complex, so that there is no finite limit to our potential, and thus no ultimate truth. In my humble opinion, claims that we now come from the heart (as opposed to anywhere else) miss the point, fundamentally assuming the rather dogmatic position that some people do things right and others don’t. Over the millennia, beliefs of right and wrong, good and bad held many people in an abyss of suffering, as any judgment inevitably turns on us as we judge ourselves according to these same beliefs. This causes inner conflict which dissociates and separates our being, as opposed to unconditional acceptance which creates integration and coherence. We have always had an active heart consciousness, but it has until recently only been known to and understood by a handful of mystics.
Research in the new discipline of neurocardiology indicates that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated center for receiving and processing information. The nervous system within the heart, or “heart brain”, enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Thanks to modern research we now know that there is a constant flow of communication between the heart and the brain. In fact the heart sends a lot more information to the brain than the brain sends back to the heart. Numerous experiments have shown that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain influence the function of higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing.
The heart generates an electromagnetic field, electrically 60 times greater, and magnetically 5000 times stronger than the field produced by the brain, which can be measured some distance from the body. It is known to vary in frequency and intensity according to our thoughts and emotional state. There is also insurmountable evidence that this electromagnetic field emitted by the human heart communicates with that of other human beings, with the electromagnetic fields of the earth, and even with the sun.
Even more astounding is recent evidence that the heart field is directly involved in intuitive perception, communicating with energetic and information fields outside the bounds of space and time.
With all this in mind (excuse the pun), I propose that heart consciousness, or “being in the heart” is nothing more than an expanded and more integrated awareness of ourselves, our interconnectedness with other human beings, with the world around us, and with the universe as a whole. It is not a different mind, or even a different part of the mind, it is merely differing activity of the mind. Heart consciousness therefore does not supersede the consciousness of ‘being in your head’, it incorporates it, advancing us yet another step in our constant personal evolution. We do not need to “get to” the heart. We simply need to realize we’ve always been there.
Enlightenment has become a ubiquitous concept in modern society, often mistakenly represented as a particular state of being. But rather than any definable state of being, enlightenment is simply the process of growing in wisdom, gaining deeper insight and broader perspective and context with regard to the meaning and purpose of our lives. It does not change what we are, but it does change our idea of who we are. This journey, the constant expansion and updating of our identity empowers us to be ever more independent and expressive, and to enjoy our lives more fully. The heart has always been recognized as the domain of love, and it is ultimately true self love which unlocks the heart and expands our awareness into this unfamiliar domain of consciousness.