Boost your Health and Evolve your Brain

In the rolling hills of Northern California sits the Institute of Heart Math. It’s original mission statement: “To illumine the mind with the heart’s knowing.”

When we care more about others than seeking inner peace, it actually benefits us. EEGs, (a test to track brain-wave patterns) have shown that alpha and theta rhythms in the brain are associated with the calming effects of meditation, yoga and prayer. Heart Math’s research added a new dimension. Measures of HRV (heart rate variability) show that the patterns generated by altruism and compassion are distinctly different from relaxed meditative states. These feelings generate far greater health-promoting effects on the immune system and autonomic nervous system. You experience these feelings when you see someone you care deeply about, like your sleeping   baby, and feel the effects of love come over you before you even have a thought about how  much you love them.

We all know that emotion is faster than thought, because we experience it daily. Like when you get cut off in traffic and feel a wave of fear or anger before you even begin to tell yourself a story about what just happened. This is our emotional heartfelt response to our sensory experience, faster than the cranial brain response. We can in fact utilize this wisdom in reverse by thinking a thought, and then feeling it in our hearts.

The heart is the epicenter of connection and compassion. Exercising our heart energy ultimately strengthens our feelings of connection. Like the cranial brain, the heart has 40,000 sensory neurons. When we feel love and compassion toward another, we feel it in our hearts. Recall a time when you felt truly loved or felt love for another, then bring your awareness into your body, and you’ll notice that you feel it in your heart. Getting into our heart space and then making compassionate decisions from there is key to our evolution. By expanding our heart energy and taking action toward living a compassionate life, we can improve connection between all beings, evolve our brains, and improve our physical health simultaneously.

From a neuroscience approach, Rick Hanson, Ph.D and Richard Mendius, MD, authors of Buddha’s Brain, the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom, point out that each of us have two wolves in the heart, one of love and one of hate. They tell us that, “Everything depends on which one we feed each day. While the wolf of hate gets more press, the wolf of love is actually bigger and stronger, and it’s development over millions of years has been a major factor in driving the evolution of the brain.”

From a spiritual approach, religious historian Karen Armstrong discusses in her book, 12 Steps to Compassion, that the act of compassion has been a primary factor in our evolution. She compares the old reptilian brain, (someone with the concept of me-first, fighting and killing for food, power and self serving behavior) to an evolved brain that instead is loving, caring and nurturing; a brain that instinctively saves the life of a child on the edge of a building. She also notes that we are hard wired for both compassion and cruelty, but it is choosing compassion over cruelty again and again that actually evolves the brain.

Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. One way to expand your compassion regularly, or to choose the wolf of love, is through abstention from animal consumption.

Not ready to stop eating animals?

Try adopting the Buddhist Metta Meditation to expand love and compassion.

Here’s How: (this takes about 3 minutes. It’s very simple. Read it through, before closing your eyes.)

1. Close your eyes. take a deep breath and relax.

2. Now think the thought, may I be well, may I be happy, may I feel loved. Repeat 3 times.

3. Then think of someone you love and care about. Hold them in your mind and think: May they be well, may they be happy, may they feel loved. Repeat that 3 times.

4. Now think of someone you don’t know personally, maybe the person who bagged your groceries or waited on you at the post office. May they be well, may they be happy, may they feel loved. Repeat 3 times.

5. Now think of someone you don’t particularly care for, maybe someone you felt hurt by. Hold that person in your mind. May they be well, may they be happy, may they feel loved. Repeat 3 times.

6. Now think universally, may everyone everywhere be well, may they be happy, may they feel loved. Repeat 3 times.

7. Then take a deep breath, exhale and open your eyes.

May ______ be well, be happy, feel loved. Repeat each one 3 times – you, someone you love, someone you don’t have a relationship with, someone you don’t have good feelings toward already, everyone.

You can change the 3 phrases to any that work for you, make it something you desire for yourself. The beautiful thing is that there aren’t rules. Make it personal and meaningful for you and feel it in your heart.

Sending you love and kindness.

May you be well, may you be happy, may you feel loved.


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Disclaimer Notice: The information provided here is based on my experience and observation. I am not a medical doctor.


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