Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Heart-Focused Breathing

I recently became aware of the Emwave computer software by the HeartMath Institute, and bought it for my Mac. It's been being used in a number of different settings to help people learn to quiet the mind, be more centered, and enter what they call a state of "coherence," where we are at our most creative, happy and productive.

Apparently not only our heart rate, but more importantly the fluctuations in our heart rate, are very accurate measures of coherence. After putting a sensor on the earlobe, the program measures how heart rate changes as we breathe. Our heart rate naturally goes down when we inhale and up when we exhale. Ideally the heart rate fluctuations should be very regular. When a person is stressed or nervous, the heart rate fluctuations jump around and make a very jagged pattern.

The software graphics indicate at any moment whether you are in the green zone, which is the highest coherence, the blue zone, which is less coherent, and the red zone, which means the heart rate fluctuations are irregular. The graphics are fun, showing the zones and graphs in real time.

The instructions are to gently focus on the area of the heart, then begin to breathe into and out of the heart, and then to hold a positive feeling, such as one of gratitude. The idea is that when we do this, our heart rate fluctuations become more regular and we become more grounded. HeartMath Institute has some really interesting ideas about coherence on a personal as well as global level. I encourage you to check their website if you're interested in learning more.

I've been using this software for about 3 months and I'm still amazed at how quickly and easily it knows when my mind is starting to wander. I will be sitting at my computer breathing into my heart, at green, just breathing, and then my mind will start to jump around and pretty soon the bar moves over to blue, or maybe the red. As I bring my attention back to my heart the bar moves back to the green. It works much like other biofeedback tools, but the technology is very sensitive. It's really fun watching how I can shift my attention and instantaneously affect my heart rate.

I've started using heart-focused breathing in my meditation, without the computer software but just practicing the three steps: focusing on the area of my heart, breathing into and out of the heart, and holding a thought of caring or gratitude. What I've noticed is that, like other techniques, it's a great way to quiet my mind and enter into a state of relaxation and body awareness. When I practice heart-focused breathing, I can feel myself letting go of the striving of the particular moment. In that space, no condition is better or more desirable than another; I'm not as limited by my preconceptions; my body exists as a vehicle to experience creation unfolding in perfection, as it always is despite what the mind might be thinking. With heart-focused breathing I see the small, fleeting nature of my thoughts and know they need no response; they are not me.

A few minutes spent spent in touch with that quiet, never-ending part of myself that knows everything and needs nothing is a healing beyond words.

May this tool be a blessing. . .

1 comment:

  1. Amazing. Thank you for speaking of this ....