Recently I have learned that there is much more to a heart than what I understand on the surface – or even the sub-surface. In fact, I think there are so many layers to understanding what the heart is truly capable of that I don’t even know if anyone really knows (scientifically speaking) what a heart can do, especially if you consider both physical and spiritual capabilities.
Disclaimer: I am not what I (or anyone else) would consider a medically knowledgeable person. I am not in the medical field nor do I want to be, and I tend to get queasy as soon as someone even starts to talk about injuries, anatomy, blood, or participating in any type of activity that would be somewhat related to blood or that could result in the accidental viewing of an injury, appendage, or especially organs that belong on the inside of a person. I just found this particular topic to be extremely interesting.
Physically I understand that it pumps blood to the rest of my body, and for every day activities, that is all I need to understand right? That’s what I thought – until I discovered neuroradiology and was made aware that:
- The heart acts as if it has a mind of its own and profoundly influences the way we perceive and respond to the world.In essence, the heart affects intelligence and awareness.
- The heart has its own logic, and sends meaningful messages to the brain that are not only understood by the brain, but also obeyed by it.
I didn’t just learn that my heart had a brain (although that was new); I learned that my heart is a brain. And not just a brain, a brain that tells the brain in my head how to perceive and process emotions and intelligence. In fact, the number of neural connections going from the emotional centers (the heart) to the cognitive centers (the brain) is greater than the numbers going the other way. This goes some way to explain the tremendous power of emotions, in contrast to thought alone, and the role they play in how we act and what we do.
In summary, the heart is the most powerful generator of rhythmic information patterns in the human body. It functions as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center, and possesses a far more developed communication system with the brain than do most of the body’s major organs. With every beat, the heart not only pumps blood, but also transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body. The heart is the most powerful entry point into the communication network that connects body, mind, emotions, and spirit.1
As amazing as that summary is; it’s only a summary of the first two items I learned – we aren’t finished yet:
- The heart’s (electromagnetic) field permeates every cell, and acts as a synchronizing signal for allthe cells in the body.
- This electromagnetic field acts to bind and synchronize the cells in the body and functions effectively as a carrier wave that organizes the higher-level regulatory functions of the body’s energetic system.Thus the heart provides the encompassing energetic field that binds the whole system together.
The heart is not only is the most powerful source of information patterns, it is also the synchronizing signal for the entire body, which leads to motivating behavior (giving us the why we act the way we do). I had thought all along that the brain in my head was in charge of who I am….
And there is still more:
- This binding/synchronization facilitates an intentional change in the conformational state of a DNA molecule and experiments with these DNA changes have resulted in the ability to cause changes in a biological target (DNA) external from the body.
Stop and read that again. The heart, and its powerful force can literally change your DNA – physically. Scientific experiments to that end have even seen changes in DNA that is outside of or away from the body (IE cells that are located far away in separate labs). This puts a whole new meaning on “the hearts mighty change”3 doesn’t it? It means that the power (through repentance and focus of effort and Christ centered living) of your heart can literally change your DNA and help you to become “a new creature”.4 Not just a spiritually new creature, but an actual change in the conformational state of your DNA. That’s a real life “new” creature brought about by the heart. Powerful.
And there is still more:
- DNA molecules can act as “antenna”, essentially functioning as a conduit through which higher dimensional epigenetic information is transduced at the level of the physical organism.2
This means that our “new creature” and our “changed heart” with it’s powerful electromagnetic force functions as a conduit to God (through the spirit) – resulting in a stronger force that we are able to generate on our own. These are things which we knew (grace, made possible through the atonement as a strengthening power for improvement), but now there is some scientific explanation for the resulting betterment. This also means that when we want to speak to our Father – and I mean really speak to him – it might be most effective through how we feel to him and not what we say to him. He is able to feel or hear our hearts in a perfect way – just like he encourages us to do – in order to truly become “at one” with us and to help us unite with his ways and his truths. This thought is so amazing and it explains why in those moments of extreme trials or extreme need that he feels so near to us and we just melt with emotion – because those trials and needs trigger forceful feelings in our hearts and we are able to feel his heart and his arms around us in a way that our brains just cannot understand.
We are still not done:
- Sincere feelings of appreciation, love, or care increase coherence in the cardiac field.
Showing or giving away your love is the best way to feel more love. Giving all that love away is the best way to increase your ability to receive more love, and the overall coherence and happiness of your entire being. When we focus on ourselves, our coherence and force of our heart is out of balance and its force of influence is weakened. Yet when we love other people, our lives seem to be the most clear and meaningful and we are able to lift other people to feel the love we have for them and the love our savior has for them – confirming what we already knew spiritually.
And at last:
- The heart is a prime generator, organizer, and integrator of energy in the human body. 5
The heart really is the center of each one of us. At our core, it is who we are and what we desire to be. Each of these eight scientific items provide us with support for the following spiritual description of the heart as: “a symbol of the mind and will of man and the figurative source of all emotions and feelings”.6 It is not an appendage of the brain or physical pump that just circulates blood – it is the literal source of who we are and what we desire. This knowledge helps us understand why so frequently the heart is listed as the desired receptacle of spiritual truths, and not just our mind or ears. It helps us to understand why “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”7 and “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”8 and that “a man speaks from the good or evil in his heart”.9 It also increases the challenge to “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart”.10
The charge and the invitation for all of us is to become like our savior, and as an elevated challenge, “the Lord sought a man after his own heart”.11 What this means for all of us is that we need to feel more often, and to feel more powerfully. Let the effects and the awe of the atonement sink deep into our hearts, and let it change our DNA. Let the spirit speak to our hearts, which can then motivate us and change us much more quickly and thoroughly than anything else. I think this is why Elder Packer said that “True doctrine, understood, 12 changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior”13 because it will literally change our hearts and help us want better things. Striving to be close to our savior, to empathize as he does, and to feel as he does is a monumental task to be sure – but the blessings that we enjoy all along the way make the effort more than worthwile. When we slowly but surely feel ourselves changing, and the desires of our hearts become increasingly more in line with his and we feel an increase of his love for us and for each other, we feel even more gratitude and love and wish for that feeling all the time.
1 See “Science of the Heart, Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance”, an overview of research conducted by the Institute of HeartMath
2 Items 2-6 on this list are all taken from the article Modulation of DNA Conformation by Heart-Focused Intention by Rollin McCray, Ph.D. Mike Atkinson, and Dana Tomasino, B.A.
3 Alma 5:12
4 Mosiah 27:26, see also Gal. 6:15 and 2 Cor. 5:17
5 Items 7-8 on this list are all taken from the article The Electricity of Touch: Detection and measurement of cardiac energy exchange between people by Rollin McCray, Ph.D. Mike Atkinson, Dana Tomasino, BA and William A. Tiller, PhD
6 The Guide to the Scriptures – Heart
7 1 Sam. 16:7
8 Prov. 23:7
9 Luke 6:45
11 1 Sam 13:14
12 Please note the use of ‘understood’. This is different from just knowing. See here for a few details.
13 Boyd K. Packer, “Do Not Fear,” Ensign, May 2004, 79.