Your body has two major nerve centers. While one of these centers receives a lot of attention, the brain, the other, which is your heart, tends to get ignored in favor of rationality and other modern constructs. Ancient mystics have written that our minds are not just our brains but really, are a combination of our brain and heart.
The mind to brain connection is something that you need to pay attention to and nurture in order to live your best life. Let’s look at how to do this but first off, let’s look at what the connection even is.
The heart has always been considered in scientific circles to be nothing more than a muscle. It is the size of your fist and pumps out blood non-stop, day by day, and when it stops, you die. Simple, really. You’re advised to exercise it by performing exercises that help the cardiovascular system and eating healthy. That’s all there is to it, according to science anyway.
However, recent research shows that those ancient monks were onto something. You see, the heart is much more than a blood-pumping machine. It is one of your centers of communication. As much as your brain controls your ability to communicate and make decisions, your heart controls this, to a greater extent.
In fact, your heart creates an electromagnetic field that is sixty times greater than the one your brain creates. The heart is actually an advanced processing center and has functions that enable it to remember, make decisions, and learn. The electromagnetic field that the heart produces can be detected up to several feet away from a person’s body.
Even more significant is that this electromagnetic field can be used to communicate between people. When two people are in close proximity or are in physical contact with one another, communication occurs. Now, this communication is of a very different nature from the type that occurs between brains.
While the brain uses words to encode its thoughts, the primary communication device for the heart is emotion and intuition. Communication occurs between individuals who are in different emotional states. Thus, a person who is in a negative state of mind and emotion can be influenced by someone who is in a positive state or communicating love to the former.
To conclude, a person’s behavior and thought patterns could absolutely be changed by the regular encouragement of positive emotions. Thus, stressful thought patterns and behaviors can be replaced over time by consciously choosing to foster positive emotions, which originate from the heart.
The keyword here is emotion. Positive thoughts don’t carry a lot of weight without the emotional heft to back them up. The heart plays an important role in communicating positive emotions to the brain as it formulates thoughts. Emotions can, of course, be transferred as well from what we’ve seen. A lot of people have practical experience with this. Hang around someone who is extremely negative, and you will feel worse about yourself. Hang around someone positive and optimistic, and you will soon feel that nothing is out of your reach, you can achieve everything.
Studies conducted with a mother holding her baby indicate that often, the mother’s brain waves synchronize with her baby’s heartbeat which makes her far more sensitive to her baby’s needs.
Thus, synchronizing your heart and mind is crucial for a happy existence. Modern culture has marginalized and excluded the human heart from a holistic conversation in favor of rationality and pragmatism. However, all this has done is weaken your ability to deal with the world. In fact, a vast majority of communication is nonverbal (think body language and facial expressions), and by marginalizing your heart, you’re depriving yourself of a powerful means of communicating with the world.
Let go of your brain’s need for rationality and judgment of anything that seems irrational or doesn’t make sense traditionally. The brain loves constructing abstract models and pondering over things. The heart by contrast simply accepts without judgment. It doesn’t complicate things and communicates a lot faster than the brain does.
Nurture it, and you will notice that your life improves dramatically.
The Heart Speaks
While your brain has the ability to perform gymnastics, convince you to avoid certain situations, and justify your actions — whether they’re right or wrong — your heart has no such ability. Instead, the heart only knows truth and love — that is its superpower. Whenever it speaks, it only knows to speak the truth, and it does so out of a deep love for you.
The truth can sometimes hurt, especially if one is lost. This causes a lot of us to simply turn a deaf ear to the voice of our hearts. You must understand that one of the reasons we don’t like hearing things that are unpleasant to us is due to judgment. Our brain specializes in judgment and when we hear negative things about ourselves, what we are really comprehending is that we are less than, we are not enough — good enough, successful enough, ambitious enough, and so on — we believe the judgment being passed onto us.
The heart has no business judging things. It accepts everything the way it is and only seeks to improve things out of deep love. The heart doesn’t need or want anything; it is happy only when you are living your best life and fulfilling your purpose. The heart also knows things that you’re not aware of.
You see, the heart is simply the body’s connection to the soul and as such, is its primary communication device. Remember that the soul has access to infinite knowledge which is communicated to the heart. Your heart realizes that everything around you is simply a manifestation of the things you deeply believe in.
Thus, the conditions around you are not someone else’s fault, but indicators of things within you that need to be addressed. It will always communicate this truth to you, but whether you choose to listen or not is up to you. A lot of people don’t. They rationalize away their feelings and resist them, thereby hindering their ability to adapt and evolve, as we saw in the previous module.
Some of you might think that I’m advocating that one must only listen to their hearts and ignore their brain, but this is not the case. Instead, you need to take your brain and heart side by side and listen to both of them. The heart can be impetuous at times and needs the brain’s help to slow it down. The brain, on the other hand, lacks the ability to decide quickly and doesn’t have access to full knowledge. This is where the heart excels.
Always listen to the voice of your heart, even if you don’t like what is being said. Never be afraid to open your heart to someone else for fear of being hurt. Remember that an open heart is far more powerful than anything else in this world. If you feel hurt or some negative emotion, this is simply a reminder to love yourself more and to stop running away from things, confront them instead and start taking ownership for all your emotions — they all have something to teach you.
Your heart speaks in whispers. These whispers speak and manifest as inexplicable feelings and intuition. This communication is beyond logic and reason since these are constructs of the brain. It will not make sense, and that is precisely the point. Sometimes, people struggle to differentiate between intuition and fear. The way to separate them will seem complicated at first.
Fear usually manifests itself as a physical response such as sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, etc. The only response that fear generates, when you retreat, is a relief. Intuition, on the other hand, will result in you feeling comfortable, whether you fully know what is going on or not.
So really, the key is to get familiar with the differences between the feelings of relief versus comfort. At first, these will seem the same but relief is felt to a far higher degree than comfort is. It is almost always in reaction to some negative experience, as opposed to comfort, which is felt as being at peace with things.
The key is to open up and listen to your heart. Be aware of your feelings and reactions. Also, recognize that your heart cannot speak to you when you’re using your brain in a deep manner. If you attempt to access your intuition in such times, you’ll end up activating your ego instead and end up being dictated by its norms and needs, which is exactly the thing to avoid.
Choosing Your Goal
When you start listening to your heart, questions about your purpose and goals become a lot clearer. Our lives are profoundly impacted by this single most pivotal question (even if we choose to ignore it): What is our true purpose in this world? Think about it for a moment; why do you get out of bed in the morning? What is your reason? What is your ‘why?’
Studies conducted on lifespans reveal that the places on earth where people tend to live the longest all have one thing in common: a blue zone. Every such place has a philosophy much like the Japanese goal-setting system of Ikigai. Okinawa in Japan happens to be one of these blue zones, and this is where the concept of Ikigai originates from.
Ikigai helps clarify your life’s purpose. While there haven’t been any studies proving that this particularly contributes to a longer and happier life, there have been numerous studies proving that a loss of purpose does lead to shorter life spans. Your personal Ikigai lies at the intersection of these four elements.
The first element is what you love doing or your passion. The second is whether the world needs this or not. The third is whether you’re good at it vocationally and finally, whether you can get paid for it and thereby make a living doing it. As you can see, these are not easy questions to answer, and at first glance, a lot of us will not have these four elements intersect with one another.
We’ll explore goal setting the Ikigai way in detail in the next section, but the key to figuring it out is to listen to your heart. It has a way of pushing your thoughts in a particular direction and getting you curious about things. Follow its lead and indulge your curiosity. You never know where they will lead you.
A classic example of this is when Steve Jobs decided to attend a calligraphy class in college, purely out of curiosity. Later, the lessons he learned in this class were applied to the font on Apple’s computers, and this soon became one of the major selling points for their products.
Curiosity and our sense of wonder are just a couple of things we lose as we grow older and become indoctrinated with societal conditioning. Indulge your inner child and always be curious. Never stop exploring or take the world for granted.
Technique #7: Listening to your Intuition
The first practice which will enhance your brain and heart connection is to simply listen to your intuition. This is something which is difficult to describe since intuition is a metaphysical experience and is better felt than explained. A way of increasing your ability to be intuitive is to practice meditation or mindfulness.
Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment and thereby eliminates distractions that cloud your judgment. Paying attention to your gut, literally, is a good way of enhancing your ability to be intuitive. Your gut is one of the places that reacts to intuitive impulses and biologically speaking, your gut health is an important marker of your overall health. As such, it is a major energy point in the body, so pay close attention to it.
Make every effort to listen to your dreams and record them as soon as you wake up. Memories of our dreams fade soon after waking, so it is crucial you do this as close to waking up as possible. Dreams are just a manifestation of our brains processing information throughout the day. A good way to make your dreams work for you is to consciously think about the possibility of success and abundance before going to sleep. As you sleep, your subconscious mind, which has an open connection to your heart, will go to work, and upon waking up, you’ll find yourself with new insight.
When your intuition strikes, make sure you listen to it. Remember, in order to listen to your heart, you need to actually open yourself up to it. If you receive a message, don’t simply ignore it or dismiss it. This will simply result in you becoming deaf to your intuition and missing any messages it’s trying to send you. How do you know when your heart is speaking to you?
Well, your feelings are your best guide. If a decision you’ve taken doesn’t make logical sense, but you feel happy or light in your heart or gut, then your heart is communicating to you that this was the right course of action, even if your brain hasn’t quite understood this as of yet. Increasingly lucid dreams are another indicator of your heart talking to you.
Sometimes, events in your life will set themselves up in strange ways. For example, you will find that a particular series of events constantly occur, pushing you to take a particular course of action. This is your heart asking you to do something, and the more the pattern occurs, the more you’ve been ignoring it. Your thoughts will also wander over to a particular pattern repeatedly.
Your heart is in constant communication with your brain, and if you don’t understand what you’re feeling, it then uses your brain to influence your thoughts and push you toward a particular direction. If you find this happening to you, take the time to investigate and understand what is being communicated.
If you keep ignoring the signs, eventually you might even fall sick. Ignoring what your heart is telling you and ignoring your emotions will only add stress to your life and you will succumb to it. Other physical signs include creeping anxiety or nervousness. This sickness is simply your heart communicating with you in an extreme manner so you can awaken and do what it truly wants you to do.
Technique #8: Goal-setting with Ikigai
Once you begin relying on your intuition to a greater degree, you’ll find that setting your goals becomes a lot easier. The Ikigai process can become complicated by worrying too much about what the world needs. Instead, simply focus on what moves you and worry about the world later. What is it that you’re curious about? Focus on this instead and move toward it.
A helpful tip to find your Ikigai is to stay active and engage your brain. This could be done by simply learning new things as much as possible. The brain loves to exercise and is capable of learning, understanding, and storing so much more than we give it credit for. Doing so will keep your mind fresh and alert while also strengthening the heart and mind connection. Stop trying to hurry things and really take the time to be present when completing any task.
Being present and grounded in your task will not only enable you to complete your work to a higher quality but will also keep you open to receiving intuitive flashes. Adopting a slow and steady pace of work is frowned upon by our societies where everything needs to be accomplished at a hurried pace and delivered “right now.” This alone should convince you that adopting the opposite of this is the right way of doing things.
Ensure a good quality of life for yourself and be kind to yourself. A lot of people seem to think that goals require sacrifice and that struggle is necessary. This is simply adopting the attitude of fighting against the current, as we saw in the first module. You gain nothing by this and will only exhaust yourself. You’ve chosen to walk along a particular path, so embrace it fully and take in everything that it has to offer.
Surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy and connect with nature. Adopt simpler means of living and practice minimalism. Keep yourself active and physically fit, and be present in everything that you do. These nuggets of wisdom might not make sense from a goal-setting perspective but really, what you’re doing here is simply reconnecting with the way life ought to be lived — in harmony with oneself — body, soul, and mind.
By living in a way that feels authentic to your body, mind, and heart, you are opening the connection your heart has to infinite knowledge, and you’ll receive what you need to know when the time is right. Remember that finding your Ikigai is an emotional process and there isn’t a step by step rational plan to follow here. You need to feel your way to it, and once you receive it, then comes the time to implement those insights and nudges from your heart by structuring it into rational plans using your brain.
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