The Energetic Heart
We have long understood that the heart serves as a pump that circulates oxygenated and nutrient rich blood throughout the body. This life giving function alone is profound. However the heart also possesses intelligence that is consciousness. It plays a significant role in our mental, emotional and physical processes – thus having a direct effect on our health and our lives.
“The heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body. The electrical field as measured in an electrocardiogram (ECG) is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the brain waves recorded in an electroencephalogram (EEG).” – Institute of HeartMath Director of Research Rollin McCraty
These signals have tremendous influence. Our perception, emotional processing and higher cognitive functions all respond to the heart. “The heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions,” McCraty.
The heart’s electromagnetic field contains information that is transmitted both throughout and outside of the body. The Institute of HeartMath’s research shows that “intentionally generated positive emotions” can impact the information in the heart’s electromagnetic field.
The cardio-electromagnetic field information transmitted from an individual under stress or experiencing negative emotions will actually take on life giving attributes when in the presence of positive emotions.
Care, compassion and love are transmitted throughout an individual’s body as the cardio-electromagnetic field radiates through it. This same energy is also transferred externally to people in close proximity and even over long distance. We touch one another physically, emotionally and through the energy field of the heart. The quality of our awareness makes a difference in our health and in the lives of those we touch.
“The Proof of Concept Study: Heart-Brain Synchronization between Mother and Baby “explored the potential to measure energetic heart-brain interactions that may be occurring between a mother and her infant.”
Researchers were able to show that the mother’s brainwaves synchronized to that of her baby’s heartbeat. In the summary of their findings, the study’s authors wrote, “The electromagnetic signals generated by the heart have the capacity to affect others around us. It appears that when the mother placed her attention on the baby that she became more sensitive to the subtle electromagnetic signals generated by the infant’s heart.
These findings have intriguing implications, suggesting that a mother in a psycho-physiologically coherent state became more sensitive to the subtle electromagnetic information encoded in the electromagnetic signals of her infant.”
Coherence is a state of connection where diverse elements are integrated through harmonious relationship. There is a sense of balance, proportion and unity.
Through the laying of hands Reiki works to support the systems general tendency toward balance – creating a state of coherence. BodyTalk, by restoring internal pathways of communication, works toward the same end. When the system finds its way to a state of coherence optimal healing may arise. The same happens when practicing Prana Vinyasa Yoga from an energetic, embodied place as well as when we slip into a natural state of meditation.
“Coherence is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation,” Institute of HeartMath Research Director Dr. Rollin McCraty says. “It is a state that builds resiliency – personal energy is accumulated, not wasted – leaving more energy to manifest intentions and harmonious outcomes.”
Living in coherence allows the underlying consciousness and intelligence of who we are to more dynamically express itself. This happens in part through the autonomic nervous system that regulates heart function, the gastrointestinal tract, the secretion by different glands among other vital activities.
Cognitive, emotional and physiological function synchronize returning us to a state of wholeness. From wholeness we can self generate and sustain psychophysiological balance. We break the stress cycle and harness our innate power to heal.
This is the aim of integrating Reiki, Meditation, BodyTalk and Yoga in The Resilience Project. These practices help us develop resilience so we can respond to life in a way that fortifies our innate healing intelligence. Integrating subtle energetic practices with embodied energetic & physical practices align us to our optimal life flow.
“Through the use of tools and technologies that foster positive emotions and psychophysiological coherence, individuals can effectively initiate a re-patterning process, whereby habitual emotional patterns underlying stress are replaced with new, healthier patterns that establish increased emotional stability, mental acuity, and physiological efficiency as a new familiar baseline or norm,” according to the paper Emotional Stress, Positive Emotions, and Psychophysiological Coherence written by researchers McCraty and Dana Tomasino comprised a chapter in the 2006 book, Stress in Health and Disease, published by Wiley-VCH.
Coherence in part, takes place through the continuous two-way dialogue between the heart and brain. Neurocardiology researchers call this circuitry the “heartbrain”. The brain influences the heart and the heart influences the brain.
“The heart communicates to the brain in four major ways: neurologically (through the transmission of nerve impulses), biochemically (via hormones and neurotransmitters), biophysically (through pressure waves) and energetically (through electromagnetic field interactions)”
The heart’s field changes as we experience different emotions and stress. In states of high heart rhythm coherence, we demonstrate significant improvement in cognitive performance. Positive emotional states increase mental clarity and heighten our intuitive awareness. This has a ripple effect on physiological function and immune response. The brain also responds to patterns generated by the heart during emotional states.
As far back as 1863 it was recognized that the heart “overtaxed by constant emotional influences or excessive physical effort and thus deprived of its appropriate rest” suffers disorders of function and becomes vulnerable to disease (Hilton).
“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease” – Hippocrates
Studies show the direct and profound impact that mental and emotional states exercise on the autonomic nervous system and overall health. Paul Rosch, M.D., President of the American Institute of Stress states that “75 to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians result from stress-related disorders.” We can infer that when we lose coherence the stress response takes over and our health is compromised.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is an indicator of Autonomic Function and Physiological Coherence. We now know that the rhythm of a healthy heart under resting conditions is irregular. Our ability to adapt to the stress and demands of the environment indicates our physiological resiliency and behavioral flexibility.
Research indicates that HRV is altered in individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and panic.
“A randomized controlled single-blind trial of the efficacy of Reiki at benefitting mood and wellbeing demonstrated a significant reduction in the pain, depression and anxiety experienced by chronically ill patients with a range of medical conditions who received Reiki compared to sham Reiki. These beneficial effects were still seen three months after completion of the Reiki treatments.” Bowden, D., Goddard, L. Gruzelier, J. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, 2011. Published online 2011 March 27. doi: 10.1155/2011/381862
Dressin, L.J. and S. Singg (1998) – The effects of Reiki on pain and selected affective and personality variables of chronically ill patients. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine 9(1):53-82 showed positive effects on mood consistent with previous studies.
The effect of Reiki on pain and anxiety in women with abdominal hysterectomies – Vitale A.T. and P.C. O’Conner (2006) Holistic Nursing Practice 20(6):263-272 “showed that Reiki significantly improved preoperative relaxation and reduced postoperative pain in women undergoing hysterectomies. The Reiki group reported significantly less anxiety pre-surgery and significantly less pain 24 hours post surgery than the control group”.
“Emotional stress plays a heavy role on secretory immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) levels that directly relate to immune system performance. S-IgA is the predominant antibody class found in mucosal secretions. It serves as the first line of defense against pathogens in the upper respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal system and the urinary tract. Cells that produce this antibody (B-lymphocytes) are a major component of the immune system. Wardell D.W. & Engebretson J. Biological correlates of Reiki. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 33(4), 439-445, 2001 reported anxiety was significantly reduced. Salivary IgA levels rose significantly, possibly showing an increase in immune function while there was a significant drop in systolic blood pressure.”
“The risk of developing heart disease, for example is significantly increased for people who impulsively vent their anger as well as for those who tend to repress angry feelings. (A. Siegman et al. J Behav M.Ed. 1998; 21(4) D. Carroll et al. J Epidemiol Comm Health. 1998; Sept.) Further of 1,200 people at high risk of poor health those who learned to self regulate unhealthy mental and emotional attitudes were more than four times more likely to be alive 13 years later than an equal-sized control group.” (R. Grossarth-Maticek & H. Eysenck. Behav Res Ther. 1991; 29(1))
Heart rate and blood pressure both increase during stress. These responses are caused by increased activity of sympathetic nerves in the heart. Increased activity of the parasympathetic or vagal nerves causes the heart to relax. Studies have shown that Reiki can reduce the stress response of the heart. “Friedman (2010) found that when nurses gave Reiki to patients recovering from acute coronary syndrome, a disease involving blockage of the coronary arteries, the vagal nerves became more active, indicating a relaxation effect, as reflected by changes in the heart rate variability.”
Tsang K. Carlson L., Olson K. Pilot crossover trial of Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue. Integrated Cancer Therapy., 6 (1):25-35, 2007 “showed there was significant change in all areas pre and post-treatment in the Reiki condition and no significant changes in the resting group. There was a significant difference in change scores between the Reiki and rest conditions in the general cancer assessment test pre- and post-treatment indicating that the Reiki condition resulted in overall improved quality of life over and above that associated with rest alone. The beneficial effects of Reiki on fatigue, pain and anxiety lasted longer than the monitored washout period of 7 days.”
“We are coming to understand health not as the absence of disease, but rather as the process by which individuals maintain their sense of coherence (i.e. sense that life is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful) and ability to function in the face of changes in themselves and their relationships with their environment.” – Aaron Antonovsky (1987). Unraveling the Mystery of Health: How People Manage Stress and Stay Well
Park, J., McCaffrey, R., Dunn, R., and Goodman, R. Managing osteoarthritis. Holistic Nurse Practitioners. 25 (6):316-26 (2011). “Reiki seemed to improve psychological well-being. Focused group data indicated Reiki provided a sense of relaxation and as such could be an effective way to improve overall psychological well-being for older adults with OA.”
Shore, A.G. (2004) Long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 10(3):42-48 “This study showed that 30 people needing treatment for mild depression or stress, and who received hands-on Reiki or distance Reiki once a week for six weeks, experienced significant reduction in mild depression and stress and the beneficial effects lasted for at least one year following treatment.“
Birocco, N., Guillame, C., Storto, S., Ritorto, G., Catino, C. et al The effects of Reiki Therapy on pain and selected affective and personality variables of chronically ill patients. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Published online 13 October 2011 DOI: 10.1177/1049909111420859. “Overall the sessions were considered helpful to improve well being (70%), relaxation (88%), pain relief (45%), sleep quality (34%) and reduce anxiety (70%).“
Going it alone and feeling separate can prove to be deadly. Numerous studies show that people who are – “self-absorbed, cynical, and hostile to the world – are more likely to die from a heart attack”. Feeling like you don’t belong can make you ill.
Feelings of isolation have more to do with cardiovascular illness than every so-called lifestyle risk factor. In this sense, heart disease can be seen as a disease of alienation. An enormous body of research reveals that the root of stress and ultimately illness is a sense of isolation. When we pit ourselves against others we negatively impact our health. The bonds we make with others generate our most authentic state of being and illustrate the most powerful need we have – the need to belong.
The Resilience Project is a community of heart where we access feelings of connection. We tap into our inherent state of peace and love and radiate this energy out into the world. By brining hearts together we are helping to change the face of health care.
Institute of HeartMath Director of Research Rollin McCraty
The Proof of Concept Study
Emotional Stress, Positive Emotions and Psychophysiological Coherence
Efficacy of Reiki
Reiki & Dementia
Reiki & Alzheimer’s
Reiki Touch Therapy
Psychological influences on Cancer and Heart Disease
Reiki, Mood, Well-Being
Reiki & Coherence
Reiki, Depression, Stress