Monday, November 2, 2020

Collecting Tools For Your Spiritual Toolbox -- Heart

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.  I will sing and make melody.  --Psalm 57:7

A body truth that has been learned through modern day research that began in the early 1990's is that the heart produces more stress signals to the rest of the body than the brain does.  We've also learned - or at least conceptualized what has been learned -- that the brain has at least a couple different compartments.  One compartment is the so-called "Lizard Brain."  It is the part of our brain that reflexively responds without thinking to any perceived threat or danger.  The other compartment is our frontal lobe where more complex thinking and analysis takes place.  There are also two branches of the autonomic nervous system - one branch is the "arise react" (sympathetic) side and the other is the "calm down & relax" (parasympathetic) side.  When the brain receives an alarm signal, it's like the fire department- the sirens go off, the lizard brain reacts, and the sympathetic nerves are triggered. Hearts race (sending more stress hormones into action), breathing increases, blood pressure rises, and the whole body becomes hypervigilant.  So-called "negative feelings" trigger this side and is why we usually start feeling drained and exhausted after awhile of that.  Positive feelings, on the other hand, have the opposite effect.  Research confirms that if the heart and breathing rate are controlled, the brain will switch off the Lizard brain reaction and flip on the thinking reflective side of our brain. From that switch calm can ensue.

There are many Psalms, Proverbs, and passages in scripture that mention the heart - some of them address the positive side of the heart (like the above verse) and some address the heart gone bad. Keeping our heart in a positive space is one of the skills/tools we need for our spiritual toolbox.  

Modern times, pandemic times and political turmoil times definitely call for a tool that closes the energy drain, calms anxiety-raising forces, and re-centers on the positive side that relaxes.  Without a doubt we all do better when we can put the "Peace that passes all understanding" back in our driver's sea, and leave the Lizard brain to handle hot stoves and things that go bump in the night..  A very simple tool to do this is heart breathing. Even small children can be taught to do this.  Heart breathing has the power to help us to calm down and improves our ability to concentrate and listen better.  It can be used in every stressful/emotional situation.  The more you practice it the more it will become a reflexive habit that kicks in almost immediately.

Heart Breathing Basic:

  1. Place your hand over your heart.
  2. Begin to breathe consciously more deeply and slowly into the area of your heart.
  3. You can increase the focus further if you use your hand to follow your breath: pushing on your chest as you exhale and letting up on the inhale. 

If you are using this in your meditation time, you can add any or all of the following breath prayers:

  • Be still and know that I am God.
  • Your Presence calms my inner storm.
  • My heart and soul wait for you.
  • Your peace passes my understanding.
  • Christ breathe with me.  

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