By Anne Marie Chiasson
This article first appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Massage & Bodywork.
The heart center, located in the chest, is the most important energy center for healing work. The energy generated, amplified, and filtered by the heart center is intrinsically healing. When focused, the transpersonal love energy of the heart center can give clarity to a healing dynamic, a personal dynamic, or an event much more quickly than the energy of the other chakras can.
Without question, the energy of the lower chakras has a big impact on healing, yet the heart center is the pinnacle of transformation. Just as the lower-chakra energies are the most important for ongoing vitality, the heart center is the most important for healing.
The heart-center energy is healing for the mind as well as for the body. How we view the world affects how we perceive the experiences that happen to us. When we view the world over and over through the same filters, such as the filter of “me and mine,” we can end up with repetitive thoughts and views that no longer serve our circumstances or life and that can drain our vitality and energy field. Some of our thoughts, especially repeating thoughts or thought forms, are just reflections of the energies moving through the body, or patterns of stored or stagnant energy in the body that continue to be reflected up to the mind. In other words, much of the worry and anxiety we experience stems from an unbalanced energy body, which affects our thoughts, which affect our nervous system, which then affects our mind. The thoughts aren’t primary; the body is.
Exploring the heart center allows us another perspective on any event or reality we are living. Working with the heart center long term can allow this to become one of our primary assemblage points through which to constellate reality.
The Energy of the Heart
The energy of the heart center is an electromagnetic or vibrational field of the heart, and the heart center is the underlying field of the actual physical heart. The two influence each other the same way the energy body influences the entire physical body. Our overall energy field responds to and serves the heart center first and the other energy centers second.
The Institute of HeartMath has documented that the electromagnetic field of the heart is the strongest in the body overall, specifically for concordance and entrainment.1 Concordance is the synchronization between cardiac function, respiratory rate, and the autonomic nervous system. Entrainment is the concept that we are transmitting energetic information via our energy field, consciously and unconsciously, to others and to the environment around us all the time. Entrainment affects our autonomic nervous system, especially our fight-or-flight reaction. The concept of entrainment is well demonstrated in music. In music, one string of an instrument vibrating at one frequency can affect another string, bringing the second string into a harmonic vibration. In the same way, when I teach clients how to toe tap or meditate, I do the exercise with them, and in doing so, I actually transmit the vibration of the experience to them.
When we say that the heart is the strongest energy field for entrainment, it means the heart has the capacity to entrain other people around us into its energy field more quickly and more effectively than any other center or electromagnetic field of the body. This fact is important for healing ourselves and others. Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath have documented that the heart contains an “intelligence” and that “the energetic information contained in the heart’s field isn’t detected only by our brains and bodies but can also be registered by those around us.”2 This means that when we send heart-center energy to other parts of our body—a kidney, a knee, the lungs—the individual energy fields of those parts will register the heart’s energy and attune themselves to it. This also means that when we send heart-center energy through our energy field to others, their energy fields will register this energy and automatically adjust to harmonize with it.
The Four Attributes of the Heart Center
When we first begin to actively connect to and explore the energy of the heart center, it’s helpful to connect to its attributes. The Western mind needs words or attributes in order to connect to certain energies; words allow us to begin our journey into these universal and collective energies. When we meditate on words that capture the attributes of the heart center, we entrain our energy bodies to the vibrations of those attributes and the center as a whole.
The heart center has four main attributes: compassion, innate harmony, healing presence, and unconditional love.
The word compassion is from Latin and means “suffering with.” Compassion is the loving desire to alleviate another person’s suffering, combined with deep respect for that person’s experience. It means that we hold the experience with the person, alongside him, instead of trying to change the experience in order to help him feel better. In compassion, we touch the truth that all of life, including painful or difficult parts, is sacred. Compassion can be transformed into many things, but it is not pity or feeling sorry for someone. It is tapping into a deep ocean of feeling—an ocean that is transpersonal and can be shared between individuals.
Innate harmony is the state of being that encompasses calm in the midst of chaos. This is the still point inside of us, the internal eye of the hurricane. It is a total calm, no matter what is happening in external reality. We have to return to it over and over. Practicing moving to innate harmony is helpful not only to quiet an inner emotional storm or a chaotic mind, but also because during times of difficulty or chaos, including illness, this is the attribute for inner support. Innate harmony provides stabilization during tumultuous or difficult times, if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation, or during collective or group hysteria.
Healing presence is the longing and desire toward healing. When I write, “toward healing,” what I mean is that the longing and desire moves energy in the direction of healing. Healing presence is love in action. The body is wired to heal itself, and much of this impulse comes from the energy of healing presence. Healing occurs in the presence of love and the desire for healing.
Unconditional love is a radiance of love that is both unconditioned and unconditional. It is divine love or love that comes from a source beyond ourselves; it is an energy from the unified field of energy around us, and we can tap into it. It is also the energy field of love that surrounds us and runs through us. Unconditional love encompasses the ability to appreciate each and every thing, from creation to destruction, exactly as it is. Unconditional love can view each thing or event with reverence for the part it plays in life. It is the shift from judgment to awe. We do not live from this place of unconditional love moment to moment, as we are individuals with different journeys and personal preferences, yet experiencing unconditional love daily allows for deeper healing than any other energy or meditative state.
The Heart-Center Meditation
The Heart-Center Meditation is my primary form of meditation, even though I have been a student and practitioner of multiple other forms. This daily meditation practice will help clear your energy body and infuse it with healing energy. The heart center is the wellspring of healing energy.
The placement of the hands during this meditation is important. The hands run energy into the heart center while we meditate. You may have seen paintings or sculptures of the Buddha or other religious figures with their hands in distinctive positions. These are mudras, hand positions that move energy and balance energy in the body. In this case, the heart-center mudra augments the meditation dramatically. Once you’re familiar with the mediation, you can try moving your hands to other locations while practicing it to see how doing so shifts the meditation. Then bring your hands back to your heart chakra and see if you experience any changes in your meditation.
Head position also influences the flow of energy and your focus during meditation. Try tilting your head in different ways to find a position that helps bring you into the deepest meditative state.
Practice the mudra by placing your right hand over your heart area, above your sternum, between the breasts. Place your left hand over your right hand, thumbs touching(see image to the right). If you experience any difficulty maintaining the position as illustrated, try gently pressing your hands into your chest. In the beginning, you can also prop your elbows up with pillows. This hand position becomes effortless over time, so stay with it.
This meditation includes a generative component (creating feeling—in this case, compassion); a receptive component (receiving what is happening—in this case, unconditional love); a Zen-like component (creating a quiet mind—in this case, innate harmony); and an active meditation (in this case, healing presence). Because it spans multiple forms of meditation, people usually can find their way into the meditation through the attribute or form they are most akin to. Practice all four attributes when you meditate. Over time, the other attributes will open up as well.
Before You Start
Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. You may want to keep the heart-center attributes written down beside you so that you can look at them until you can recall all four without effort. If you like music, find a piece that suggests the heart center to you and play it during meditation. Whatever you choose, I suggest you use the same piece of music each time you meditate—a piece of music you use only for this meditation. This will allow you to instinctively move into the heart center as the music begins, as the music becomes the initiator for the state of consciousness you are exploring.
Sit in a comfortable position. Place your hands over your heart chakra in the mudra and close your eyes. Invite in each attribute for the meditation. Focus using image, word, and feeling to stimulate and invoke each attribute.
• Compassion: Oceanic, limitless compassion.
• Innate Harmony: Calm in the midst of chaos, the still point. Infinite, still bliss.
• Healing Presence: Longing and desire toward healing. Love in action.
• Unconditional Love: Unconditioned, unconditional love. Reverence. Awe.
Then focus internally on the heart, your breath, and the four attributes. Move if you feel movement. Some people notice a circular movement, or they find that they need to shift position from time to time. Trust that your body is a mudra, too; if it wants to move, assist it in moving to a place of comfort.
The heart center is not about personal preference, nor is it about accepting everything that comes our way. The heart center’s energy is a collective energy that allows for the reverence of all life. To fully understand this, practice this meditation for 5–20 minutes daily. If you use the meditation for only five minutes a day, also do one 20-minute meditation each week to kindle and experience the specific quality of the heart-center energy.
1. Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution (New York: Harper Collins, 1999), 34.