A Brief Look at Heart Coherence

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Heart Coherence and emWave Desktop Hints
From my personal experience and my work with consulting and coaching clients, here are a few -- just a few for now -- quick hints on how to increase access to heart space, to increase amount and depth of heart coherence, or to increase coherence scores on the emWave Desktop (previously known as emWave PC or the Freeze Farmer) (the emWave is also available in a compact portable version called emWave PSR [Personal Stress Reliever] which doesn't have as many features as the emWave Desktop); most are in addition to methods already taught by HeartMath or in the emWave Desktop tutorials:
  • straighten upper back area
  • open chest area
  • allow shoulders to roll back in a relaxed way
  • loosen jaw and throat
  • take three deep breaths (into heart and belly) at start
  • no effort... let go of all trying or strain or vigilance
  • "get out of the way" -- another slant on trying to convey the sense of no effort, not trying
  • a more advanced method of no effort and of "getting out of the way", not for all, is complete surrender to Supreme Heart, a la Ramana Maharshi, aka "Thine Will be done"....
  • if you are feeling really lousy (anxious or tired, or ill) in the moment, can you smile at it a bit and just let it be? (This allows emergence of what I call "grace".)
  • if you are having a really bad day or "bad hair" day, can you just be at peace with it all and allow it to be just as it is?  (again, this allows emergence of what I call "grace")
  • if you cannot summon feelings of love or appreciation, can you just accept what is and accept yourself exactly as is? (this is actually a form of love often called grace...)
A bit more on the whole concept of "getting out of the way"... A friend reminded me recently that Carl Jung was always reported -- by clients, observers and himself alike -- to have "gotten out of the way" at those moments which were the most magical moments in one-on-one therapy with his clients. Jung always reported later that he could not remember anything that he or the client had said during the session.  Much the same has been reported about legendary psychotherapist Carl Rogers; I witnessed him disclose this in several films/videotapes while training in clinical psychology in graduate school.  Rogers was also obviously in a heart-centered state at the time; he mentioned in more than one interview and article that his heart felt very open and that there were tears in his eyes during these sessions.

And, some physiological or practical tips:

  • Have you been drinking enough water?  Lack of water can drastically affect HRV "height" (variance) as well as coherence.
  • Are you tired or exhausted, or just completed a long flight cross-country? These can all be very disorienting on a physical level and markedly depress HRV score "height" (variance) as well as coherence. A nap or a good night's sleep can work wonders.
  • Some folks seem to have their HRV and coherence measures affected adversely by consuming onions or garlic, and indeed, a few healthcare practitioners who use heart coherence and HRV feedback as part of therapy prohibit their clients and students from eating any garlic or onions within 36 hours of a scheduled session or class.
  • Many folks show incoherence or flattening of HRV scores if they have recently drunk more than the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 drinks of alcohol.  This is due simply to mild depression of various biological oscillators in the body... it will pass...
  • If you feel really stuck, get up and take a 15-minute walk outdoors. Your body may need to move....
  • If you consistently feel really stuck or "flat", consider going outside and standing barefoot on the earth (soils, sand, grass, moss, etc.) for about 10 or 15 minutes. Many modern folks in "civilized" countries get far too little barefoot contact with bare earth, and this seems to adversely affect all rhythms in the body.
  • As noted above, a nap can sometimes work wonders.
  • Smoking marijuana is a big no-no in terms of both short-term and long-term effects of deadening the CNS and reducing coherence across bodily systems. Interestingly, almost all spiritual systems, healers and teachers also strongly recommend against the use of marijuana and related substances for much the same reasons.
  • Some healthcare practitioners have reported to me that clients who had exhibited markedly incoherent or flat HRV scores often showed marked improvement within 3 to 20 minutes of ingesting certain fermented antioxidant nutritional supplements brewed with syntropic antioxidative microbes (SAM). This is fascinating, because the beneficial microbes used to make these fermented beverages have accrued a long history of tales of exhibiting all kinds of "coherent" effects, such as anti-entropic, or syntropic effects and bringing increased order, syntropy and harmony to various systems.

Some Observations on Variables: HRV Variance, Heart Coherence
 I had listed above some quick hints on how to increase access to heart space, to increase amount and depth of heart coherence, or to increase coherence score on the emWave Desktop.  Let's move on now to look at some factors which seem correlated to increased (or decreased, as the case may be) variance in HRV score over time.  As you may be aware if you have gotten this far in exploring the concepts of coherence and heart coherence, higher variability in HRV score over time (one hour to 24 hours) is inextricably linked in the scientific literature with high vitality, greater health, and reduced morbidity and mortality from all causes.  Conversely, low indexes of HRV over a period of time are linked with reduced health and vitality, and with increased morbidity and mortality from all causes.  As has been noted before, people generally show a slow decrease in indexes of HRV as they age.  Indeed, some researchers have gone so far as to proclaim various indexes of HRV over time to be the single most powerful non-invasive method of predicting morbidity and mortality from all causes. Here now is a look at some of the factors which -- at least in my observations -- seem to be related to both good variance, aka "high variance", in HRV (approximately, this is the height of the HRV trace in the FF top screen) and also to the ability to enter states of high coherence.  I will offer two lists:

  • one listing the apparent positive correlates, e.g., those which seem to be associated with both high HRV variance and ability to attain states of high coherence,
  • one listing the apparent negative correlates, e.g., those which seem to be associated with both low HRV variance and poor ability to attain states of high coherence.
Introduction and CAVEAT!
However, first, a BIG word of caution. These are observed correlates only. A correlation does not prove causation. For example, the sale of umbrellas reaches a massive peak in New York City only when it rains and just before a rainstorm, and slows down markedly when it is not raining. Does this mean that sales of umbrellas cause rain, and that low sales of umbrellas cause droughts?  No!  To assert such would be to confuse correlation with causation.  Likewise, in the apparent positive correlations and negative correlations which follow, it is important not to confuse correlation with causation.  For example, it has been observed in general that folks who take lots of pharmaceutical drugs seem to often show low HRV variance (rather flat HRV trace) and poor ability to achieve heart coherence.  Does this mean that taking lots of pharmaceutical drugs produces this effect? No!  A far more likely explanation is that folks who take lots of pharmaceutical drugs have lots of health problems (whether physical or behavioral/affective, or both).  These underlying health problems not only led a physician to prescribe lots of drugs, but these same underlying health problems contribute to overall low vitality, and will usually contribute to low HRV variance and to relatively low HRV coherence. Yes, it is true that some pharmaceutical drugs will also depress both factors as well, but in the aforementioned example, the greater depressive effect on HRV variance and coherence is likely due to the underling illnesses.

Now, the Lists
Apparent positive correlates, e.g., those which seem to be associated with both high HRV variance and ability to attain states of high coherence:

  • Youthfulness, esp. thru mid-twenties.  In other words, scores seem to slowly decrease with age, due to the slow shifts in vitality and health which occur with aging.  In general, younger people exhibit higher HRV variance and higher ability to access heart coherence, and this seems to gradually decrease with age.  This effect has been noted for years (especially for the HRV variance) by many researchers, including HeartMath researchers and top cardiologists, some of whom have worked with IHM researchers.
  • Getting regular exercise, including walking, although harsh or severe exercise does not seem at all necessary.
  • Eating diets which are at least partly-raw and/or partly-Paleolithic (ancestral or caveman).
  • People who seem to exhibit a wide range, over time, of emotional states, including the so-called "negative" states, such as anger, crankiness, irritability or sadness. The key here does not seem to be the negative emotions in particular, but rather the ability to allow and accept a wide range of feelings, versus suppression or repression.
  • Drinking sufficient water, at least 1/2 gallon to 3/4 gallon per day.
  • Being well-rested.
  • Recent history of eating foods in the diet which are high in antioxidants, such as dark green or orange vegetables, dark berries, cherries, etc.
  • Recent history of taking antioxidant nutritional supplements (e.g. in no particular order, vitamin E, C, alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, ginko biloba, selenium, COQ10, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, MegaH-, fermented syntropic antioxidant microbial supplement products such as EM-X, AEM, Fervita, Sootheox, Fermalive, BEM Supplement, etc.)
  • On an inner level, being able to "let go" or surrender, to Supreme Heart / Being / God / Spirit (whatever term works for you.)
  • Being able to be at peace with what is.

Apparent negative correlates, e.g., those which seem to be associated with both low HRV variance and poor ability to attain states of high coherence:

  • Chronic use of pharmaceutical drugs, esp. intake of lots of pharmaceutical drugs. See warning vis-a-vis interpretation in the Introduction above.
  • Recent ingestion of more than the equivalent of 2 drinks of alcohol per day.
  • Folks who never seem to show a wide range of emotions and affect, including at least minor irritability, anger, crankiness, sadness, etc. Likely emotional suppression or repression.
  • Recent (past 5 hours) of more than 1 to 1.5 drinks of alcohol.
  • History of recent use of marijuana and related substances.
  • Lack of exercise, of even gentle slow walking outdoors.
  • Chronic or frequent use of so-called "magnet therapy" products. Again, see warning vis-a-vis interpretation or mis-interpretation in the Introduction above. It may well be that folks who use lots of magnet therapy products are people who have lots of health problems (whether physical or behavioral/affective, or both).
  • Recent history of frequent or chronic consumption of large amounts of coffee or other caffeine-containing products. Again, see warning vis-a-vis interpretation or mis-interpretation in the Introduction above. It may well be that folks who ingest lots of coffee and other caffeine-containing products may be people who have lots of health problems (whether physical or behavioral/affective, or both) and who are simply trying to self-medicate.
  • Being tired.
  • Having completed an airline flight, or a drive of over 2-3 hours duration, within the past 24 hours.
  • Feeling ill.
  • Some healthcare practitioners who use heart coherence and HRV feedback as part of therapy report that clients and students have their HRV and coherence measures affected adversely by consuming onions or garlic within 36 hours (esp. 5 hours) of a scheduled session or class.  I have not noticed this myself, although I have not performed any structured organized studies.
  • Adherence to a true raw vegan or vegan diet for 7-8 months or longer. (I say "true" because many self-claimed "raw vegans" actually eat a much wider range of foods, including cooked foods and animal foods, but keep it hidden in order to gain community acceptance.)
  • Excessive consumption of dairy products, including gross overconsumption of raw dairy products. This effect may vary quite a bit from person to person, due to genetics and their resultant biochemistry.
  • Recent history of sungazing, esp. within past 8 to 10 hours. Now, this may seem counter-common-sense to some, since sungazing has become extremely popular in certain alternative health and spiritual circles and New Age circles in the past year, often as a way of becoming healthier. If you wish, please feel free to read a more detailed footnote1 below on this topic.
  • The above-noted sungazing-related effect seems to be even more severe in folks who sungaze without standing barefoot on bare earth (or sand, moss, or grass, or even rocks) at the time, in other words, in folks who sungaze while wearing shoes or standing on a patio or floor.
  • General tendency or traits of refusal to forgive and/or let go.
  • Harboring chronic grudges or blames.

1. More on sungazing and HRV: Although sungazing is slightly controversial (but less so every day, it seems...), and was an extremely obscure health and spiritual practice in the Western world until early 2003, it has suddenly become very popular and trendy among many spiritual seekers, health seekers and New Agers. However, my research seems to clearly show that HRV for folks who have sungazed in the past 8 to 10 hours is often extremely flat (low variance) or very incoherent, with very poor ability to enter or maintain states of high heart coherence. The effect seems to be far stronger with morning (near sunrise) sungazing and less with late day (near sunset) sungazing. Indeed, many sungazers report that their heart rate seems to be very erratic or "jumpy" for many hours after sungazing. And, in general, it seems that a history of sungazing (within past 4 weeks) also seems to contribute to flat (low variance) or very incoherent HRV, with very poor ability to enter or maintain states of high heart coherence. This may seem surprising, given the fact that many folks sungaze for the express purpose of increased health or spiritual growth.  And, it may be true that this "noise" and flatness which I have observed in myself and in other sungazers may be temporary and simply due to "healing" or "cleansing" of old physical trauma or physical/emotional "toxins".  However, I simply do not know yet.  I do know that the effects can persist for many weeks after sungazing... I consider myself fortunate to be in contact with a great many sungazers from across the world, including (fortunately or unfortunately, however that may be!) several of the self-styled sungazing gurus from India, who tend, for the large part, to be fanatical and fundamentalist zealots. (Can you tell that I am rather allergic to such things...?)
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