Science is proving more and more that our experience of the world is first perceived by our heart, which thinks about it, responds accordingly, and sends information to the brain for further processing.
Around 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells, clustered in ganglia and connected to the neural network of the body through axon-dendrites just like in the brain. The heart is a specialized brain hooked into the central nervous system making and releasing its own neurotransmitters and with its own memory. The neurons in the heart store memories. That’s why people who heart transplants experience new preferences and changes in behaviors and feelings.
In Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature, he explains that the neural cells in the heart have a direct connection to the brain and are constantly chattering back and forth with the brain and the two, together, decide how to respond to incoming information. Neurons in the brain alter their behavior according to the signals embedded in each heartbeat and send information to the central nervous system to make physiological and behavioral changes almost instantly.
The heart’s ability to perceive meaning from the world is called aisthesis which literally means “to breath in.” Aisthesis is that moment when the life force of one living organism communicates with and moves into another one. We live in a world that’s alive with awareness and intelligence, and it’s up to us to acknowledge and allow this intimate exchange. This communication is not unlike when the Navi in the movie Avatar plugged their tails into something to connect with it.
Even though we are trained out of using our heart as organs of perception early on, the skill still exists and can be developed. Think of what it feels like to see the Grand Canyon or any postcard-worthy scene. There’s a real, palpable reaction in the body as the energy, the power of the setting is experienced and absorbed.
The brain is an organic computer processing data and acting as a clearing station for central nervous system functioning. Unlike the heart, the brain is linear and to use it as the primary organ of perception reduces life analytically to a mechanical process with little meaning.
Because of a brain injury I sustained from a pill-popping suicide attempt, I was forced to rely heavily on the perception and intelligence of my heart and learned to trust and listen to it. You know what? I found that it’s much wiser than my brain ever was. Using heart intelligence and perception, I feel connected, know what is right for me at each turn, and have faith in my intuitive wisdom. I used to feel hopelessly disconnected, lost, and was always looking externally to others to give me answers.
Great power and wisdom exists in the world all around us. Our challenge is to notice, develop, and invite it to play a bigger role in our lives. To begin to use the heart as an organ of perception, intelligence, and communication allows us as a species to become, once again, a respectful, integral part of the web of life on planet Earth and allows us to begin to live more fulfilled and authentic lives as individuals.
The problem is our heart intelligence is in kindergarten while our mind intelligence has already graduated from college. We have to get the two more in sync.
image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40033576@N03/