Dealing with emotional stress is essential if you are to learn to live a more balanced and harmonious life. Having explored the dimensions of balance in our bodies using physical relaxation techniques, we now move to examine the closely related sphere of our emotional lives. The heart forms a good bridge linking these two worlds. While still a physical organ, the heart also represents for many of us the vital center of emotional tones and textures.
For your heart, as well as for your life, the secret to success is in finding a dynamic flowing balance between phases of working and resting, pulsing and resting, activity and receptivity to be nourished so that it can pulse again. It's doing.... and then pausing to just be. The heart is able to keep going strong and steady for a lifetime without a break because it knows how to focus and then flow and has the flexibility to adapt micromoment to micromoment along the way.
The heart is a powerhouse, a bioelectric miracle generating a bioelectric field that is from forty to sixty times stronger than the field generated by your brain. By biological standards, this is very strong. The bioelectric field generated by the heart ripples through your whole body and far beyond. If you could set up the right kind of sensitive scanning device across town from someone and zero in on him or her, you’d find that the information wave generated each time our hearts beat could be picked up for miles around you. Each time you enter a room, the beating of your heart announces your presence and informs each of the other biological antennae in the room as to how at peace or in conflict you are inside underneath your surface appearance.
The workings of the heart are influenced by the two branches of your autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic system that is associated with the stress arousal response, and the parasympathetic system that is associated with the relaxation response. These two work together to speed up and slow down your heart rate sort of like the accelerator and brake of a car.
When we are dealing with emotional stress, the heart “drives” jerkily, sort of like a beginner driver who is unsure of himself and tends to keep stepping on the brake while he has his foot on the accelerator. Signals of stress, followed by signals of tentative comfort, then another surge of anxiety or doubt, and a moment of gentling reassurance -- the interplay of our conflicting emotional reactions can wreak havoc on our poor heart, not to mention all the other physiological systems that “go along for the ride." All the while, our internal turbulence broadcasts loud and clear to all those around us, affecting them negatively as well.
On the other hand, when we are in a more peaceful, balanced, loving, or appreciative mode, our heart purrs along like a skilled driver on an open road. The heart rate is coherent rather than incoherent, steady instead of jerky, more musical in its waveforms than the noisy signals it puts out when we are dealing with emotional stress. For those fortunate enough to be “in our field," it is clear by the good vibes we are putting out that we are in harmony and balance, and likely safe to approach or depend upon.
With both of your hands now, reach up and touch your own heart. As you breathe, imagine filling your heart with feelings of love directed towards yourself. Imagine what it is like to be here fully for yourself with the same love and care that you might offer to others.
Understanding that it is difficult to receive the care of others if you are unable to give love to yourself, breathe it in now. Feel the sense of genuine love for yourself well up within your entire being. Use the natural cycles of the breath to circulate this feeling of love, moving from your heart out through your arms and hands, and back into your heart again.
As you establish this flow between your hands and heart, begin to extend and circulate this feeling through your whole body now. With each breath, send ripples of love and care from your heart out to every cell and fiber of your body, to every nook and cranny of your mind. Fill yourself with love. Fill yourself with light. Let it move and flow and circulate through every dimension of your being. Send this loving light to those regions that are in pain or that cry out for attention. Let this love flow as light to dissolve any seeds of disease that may lie hidden in your mind or body. Imagine this light vitalizing and strengthening your undeveloped potentials for love, wisdom, power, and understanding.
If you practice this exercise frequently, it will help you tremendously in dealing with emotional stress and learning to live a more balanced life.
[Adapted from the book "Living in Balance" by Joel Levey
and Michelle Levey]