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Posted: October 06, 2006

Spiritual Caregiving

The Heart as an Organ of Perception - Part 2

(Editor’s Note: It turns out that the heart does much more than simply keep beating to keep us alive, It is a most "intelligent" body organ that sways moods, motivates, and even acts as a life compass. Take a wonderful journey through the heart of our hearts in this second installment in a 3-part series from the editors of Spirituality & Health magazine.)


The Field of the Heart

The heart contains pacemaker cells that set its beat. At the moment of self-organization, the first pacemaker cell begins pulsating and oscillating at a regular rhythm. Every new cell "hooks" itself to this one and begins beating in time with the first. This is called entrainment. As individual pacemaker cells couple by the millions, new and unique perceptual capacities come into being. As Goldberger notes, "Nonlinear coupling generates behaviors that defy explanation using traditional (linear) models."

When the heart is fully online, it produces an electromagnetic field much larger than that which is created by the aggregate of the individual cells. The field is 5,000 times stronger than the brain's and can be detected by sensitive scientific instruments up to 10 feet away. It is strongest from the body's surface to 18 inches away, but continues indefinitely into space, like radio waves, according to biologists like Mae-Wan Ho at the Institute of Science in Society.

Not only do heart cells entrain with each other; the heart also entrains with other electromagnetic fields it encounters. When two heart fields oscillate in unison, there is a rapid exchange of information, resulting in alterations in heart function, hormonal cascade, and physiology generally. A kind of dialogue begins.

When the heart field of a healer and a patient meet, for example, the electrocardiograph (ECG) or heart pattern of the healer can be found in both the ECG and electroencephalograph or brain patterns of the patient, according to research by Rollin McCraty. The heart field of the healer literally paces the patient into new patterns of health.

Heart entrainment is natural to us, occurring at the earliest stage of life. In the womb, the infant's heart entrains with the mother's and continues to do so after birth, writes Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book The Biology of Transcendence. The mother's electromagnetic field is filled with information and meaning, including how she feels about her infant. In fact, our feelings always affect the information encoded in our hearts' wave patterns. Babies, like all living systems, take in and decode this information. We remain sensitive to these fields after birth because we have gestated in the midst of this kind of language. Once born we routinely, often unconsciously, scan encountered fields for information. The way we as humans encounter these fields is unique: we experience them as emotions.

In essence, the heart is an extremely sensitive organ whose domain, we instinctively know, is feeling. Recent research reveals why: our heart processes a particular and unique EM bandwidth with complex signals that we experience as unique emotional complexes. These EM signals, taken in through the heart, are processed in the brain in the same manner as our conventional senses such as sight and smell. Unfortunately, this kind of emotional perception of the world starts to atrophy in most of us when we begin locating consciousness in the brain, rather than in the heart.

The Heart-Mind Information Superhighway

Living organisms possess extremely complex electromagnetic fields that encode everything about the organism: its health, history, potential, and more. When the EM field passes into and through the heart, the information is then routed to the brain, which analyzes the information and extracts the meaning from the EM signature.

The heart can act as a "mind" or an organ of perception because approximately 60% of heart cells are neural cells, which function similarly to those in the brain. They cluster in ganglia and connect to the neural network of the body through axon-dendrites. This is not an accident. The heart has direct connections to specific centers of the brain and these connections create a direct, unmediated flow of information from the heart, according to research by Gary Schwartz, professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, and Linda Russek of the Heart Science Foundation. The heart, in fact, is hard-wired into the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, and cortex -- brain centers involved with emotional memories, sensory experience, the extraction of meaning from sensory inputs, problem solving, reasoning, and learning. To enhance communication with the brain and central nervous system, the heart also makes and releases its own neurotransmitters as it needs them.

The mind-heart connection is further enhanced by a state called "heart coherence," according to McCraty. During coherence, the heart's rhythm sets the beat for the entire body and the heart waves increase in amplitude, giving the heart field greater depth and power. Coherence also brings an immediate change in brain function. Large populations of cells in the forebrain begin to oscillate to the heart's rhythm, and the brain waves ride on top of the heart waves. The perception of those brain cells the kinds of information they process is very different than when consciousness is located in the heart.

As brain function changes, so does what we see and learn. What people perceive when they live from the heart is quite different from what they perceive when they live in the head. In coherence, a whole new world opens, and things not normally perceived become commonplace.

When someone in a state of heart coherence allows his or her heart field to entrain or merge with another EM field, the rapid download of information between the organisms happens naturally. While this information download occurs in a language of its own, it rarely happens in words. In one sense, it can be thought of as a direct conveyance of meaning without language. Information flows through the heart first and is then routed to the brain where it is translated, much as radio receivers convert radio waves into music. But in humans, the process is more complex, as the brain translates sensory data, memories, experiences, and knowledge into sound, image, touch, taste, odor.

From these translations of sensory forms, which are shaped by the culture in which we are raised, come meaning.


 (The third installment of this story will appear in next week’s Spiritual Caregiving column. You can read the first installment by clicking here.)


Stephen Harrod Buhner is an herbalist, psychotherapist, and teacher. He is the author of many books, including The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature and Sacred Plant Medicine.

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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