By Diane Goldner
It's no wonder that we celebrate the power of the heart on Valentine's Day. The heart is truly a mystical gateway, the seat of the soul.
On Valentine's Day we revel in the beauty of romantic love, with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, cards, ruby red roses, and candle-lit dinners for two. Yet mystics and saints tell us that this love is just a taste of the divine love that we can find in our own hearts. A Hindu saint once summed it up: "The heart is the hub of all sacred places," he commanded. "Go there and roam."
In every religion the heart is celebrated as precious and magical, a place of harmony, compassion, love, and healing. In Catholic art, Jesus Christ is often shown with a heart so illuminated it is on fire. In Sanskrit writings, the blazing light of the heart is said to be so great it can burn away all impurities. In the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism, the light associated with the heart, tiferet, is at the very center of the tree of life. It is where everything comes into perfect balance.
In the East the heart is considered to be the seat of consciousness. After all, it is when we strip away the chatter of the mind that we can live in the wisdom of the heart. The Tibetan mantra om mani padme hum means, in translation, "The jewel of consciousness is in the heart's lotus." And the Chinese word for heart, xin, means both "heart" and "mind." In acupuncture, the heart is viewed as the seat of the spirit.
Since I first began exploring this mystical terrain, I have been continually awed and inspired by the power of our hearts. I used to think romantic love was the apex of it all. Romantic love is stunning, of course. But the deeper I delved into the heart, the more I learned that love can be transcendent. I found that the love in our hearts can shine the way the sun shines--on everything and everyone and at all times. The love we feel for our beloved and our children and family members can be brought to everything and everyone.
For me, a deeper understanding of the heart began when I started to investigate spiritual healing. I watched as healers laid hands on people and caused profound changes and insights. Naturally, I wanted to know how that could possibly happen. Being a diligent, persistent reporter back then, I asked every healer I interviewed: "How does healing work?" They would often answer. "Through love. It's love that heals."
I always wanted to say: "Yes. Yes. But how does healing really work?" Their answer didn't make too much sense to me. I thought of myself as a loving person. But I knew that if I laid hands on another person, not much would happen. For a long time, I was completely baffled by the healings that I witnessed.
Then I began to have experiences of a more subtle realm than the physical. I discovered that I could shift the rhythm of my heart just by shifting my thoughts and focus. When I did, the whole world changed. At first, this seemed to happen by accident. One of the first times I noticed it happening, I was at a writers' conference. I was in a room, trying to sleep, listening to two people chatting outside, four floors below. The longer they talked, the more enraged I got. Finally I decided to meditate to pass the time.
At some point, I realized I had expanded so much I was present with the people talking outside. I no longer wanted to kill them. I felt only a sense of presence. I was everywhere, radiant. It felt great. I realized that the man doing most of the talking felt lonely. He was just trying to fill himself up. I felt so much love and compassion for him. Our hearts touched. Then he and his friend were saying goodnight. He finally got the connection he needed-from me!
Later I began to experiment more consciously. One of the most vivid experiences occurred in an electronics store, of all places. I went to return an alarm clock and, lucky me, ended up with a very unpleasant sales clerk who seemed intent on giving me a hard time. My first impulse was to be nasty right back. The situation began to escalate. Then I decided to try connecting to my heart center. I didn't know if anything would happen or, at that point, if the energy in my heart was really "real," but immediately, as if by magic, the sales clerk's mood shifted and she became very pleasant and helpful. It was as if I had flipped a light switch. I was amazed to see my inner state reflected so quickly on the outside, and in another person.
You can turn to the energy of your heart just as easily. All you have to do is imagine a radiant white light in your heart. You can even imagine the light in your heart connecting to the light in another person's heart, whether you are in the room with this person or in another part of the country. You will probably see some kind of effect. Don't worry if you don't see the light; just trust that it's there. You can do this to enhance a loving relationship or even to create more harmony and a higher flow in a difficult situation. The more you do it, without pushing or trying for a result, the more harmony and ease you will begin to notice.
Being in an expanded heart space is a spiritual experience. But there is also some science to help us understand how the spirit of the heart works. Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath (an organization in Boulder Creek, California, devoted to studying the heart) have found that when people focus on a state of appreciation and love, their heart rhythm quite literally expands and becomes more harmonious. To measure this, researchers use EKGs and computer analysis to graph the heart-rate variability of a person and map it as a sine wave. During a state of love and appreciation, the sine wave of a person's heart rate rhythm may become twice as big as usual, and much more even and orderly.
Physiologically, what is occurring is that a person's breath slows down and the heart synchronizes to the breathing. During the inhalation, the heart beats faster than usual. On the exhalation, the heart slows. "I'm not saying we can measure the frequencies of love," says HeartMath researcher Rollin McCraty. "But when we feel love, it causes real changes in our body that we can measure."
Researchers at Harvard Medical School found the same kind of expanded heart rhythm occurring in long-time meditators during meditation sessions. One of the Harvard researchers called it an "exuberant" rhythm. In their report in Psychosomatic Medicine, the Harvard researchers speculated that humans might have a special "resonant frequency" at which many different biological rhythms--such as the heart rate and the breath--become synchronized. We humans seem to reach this resonant frequency, which creates harmony in the body, when we feel peace, gratitude, love and appreciation.
As I became more attuned to my own heart, I found I could sense other people's heart rhythms in my own heart. It turns out a person's heartbeat can be measured by delicate electromagnetic sensors from as far as four feet away. So what I began to experience is actually quite natural. At first, it seemed to happen only when I was doing a hands-on healing. Now, connecting my heart to my client's heart is the basis of my healings. As I work, I can literally feel my client's heart unwind and expand and come to rest in my heart rhythm. I can't force it. I just invite it. I allow. I accept the person's heart right where it is. As soon as I do, his or her heart usually opens. It melts into mine. I think a lot of healers work this way, sometimes even when they don't know it. There are even a few studies that show the client's heart comes into synchronicity with the healer's heart.
Once that union occurs, we're together. I'm not really "doing" a healing anymore. We're in the same psychic space. If I hold a healing state, a state of deep peace and harmony, a state of total unconditional acceptance and presence, a person will accept it--just like if you pluck a guitar string, the sound will resonate through the whole room. In that space of the heart, people's pain, physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, can melt away.
Over time, I found that I could put my hands anywhere on a person, and our hearts will unite. Recently, I was visiting with my nephews when one of their friends got his finger slammed in a van door that closed automatically-and too quickly. The mom dropping the kids off couldn't react fast enough to stop the disaster. The kid, a boy of about ten, was absolutely hysterical from the pain. I didn't have time to go to his heart first to calm him down. So I worked directly on his finger. As I started the healing, my heart slowed down and expanded, as it does when I'm doing healings. The boy's heart began to "float" on my heart. Soon he was calm and quiet. After perhaps ten minutes the swelling and bruising in his finger had subsided, along with the pain. "I'm okay now," he said to me. He ran out to go play with his buddies.
Healing doesn't come from forcing something to change. It actually comes from accepting and loving what is. Things melt in that radiant love, whether its physical pain or emotional, even anger and broken bones or hurting guts or poverty consciousness. If you ever want to help someone grow or change, love them. Love them as they are. Hold for others the same awe and appreciation you feel when you look at something beautiful, like a mountain or an ocean, for each of us is beautiful in a profound way. Truly, that kind of unconditional love is the ultimate magic. You can even help yourself to grow and change by holding that state of love for yourself as well.So this Valentine's Day, why don't you try a dose of that unconditional love? It will do wonders for your romance and your heart.