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Looking at HeartMath

November 26, 2011

A friend recently told me about the HeartMath website and I thought I would check it out.  Here is a link to the Body and Soul show on PBS describing the philosophy and some techniques promoted by the HeartMath Institute.  I found their quick description easier to take in than the huge volume of info on HeartMath’s site.  In a nutshell, HeartMath seems to be an organization that promotes research and education in the area of exploring how the heart and brain interact.  They solicit donations for research and have a store with an extensive selection of products to use with techniques they promote.

In a nutshell, HeartMath institute promotes the view that the heart and brain interact with each affecting the other’s function.  They discuss this both from a physiologic perspective in terms of neurons and hormones and from a more fuzzy perspective I am not sure how to describe.  I come from a scientific background and prefer to discuss body functions from that perspective.  There are aspects of function we do not understand because we cannot adequately measure and study them which sometimes seem to be viewed by different camps as either magical or non-existent.  I prefer to take the more agnostic approach of acknowledging there are things we don’t know and can’t explain, but not ascribing unprovable explanations to them.  So I get a bit uncomfortable when the HeartMath people are saying things about listening to your heart in the metaphorical sense and changing the earth’s magnetic field by changing people’s emotional states.  It just seems like they are making some logical leaps not supported by the research findings they are quoting.  I am not an expert on biophysics, so can’t fully judge this.  It’s just the feeling I get based on extensive experience reading research and reading magical claims by more fringe entities, usually selling products.

The techniques summarized on the PBS site, freeze-frame, cut-thru, and heart lock-in are not new techniques.  Freeze-Frame and Cut-Thru are cognitive behavioral techniques that have been taught for years by psychotherapists.  The visualization may be different, but the main concepts are the same.  Heart Lock-In describes a technique used by Buddhist practitioners known as Tong Len, described here by Pema Chodron.  These are time-honored and well studied techniques that help people achieve peace of mind.  I am happy HeartMath is educating the public on ways to promote well-being, but uncomfortable with their giving the techniques catchy names and selling them with the implication this is brand new information (evidenced by frequent use of the word “revolutionary”).

I am super excited to see more research on the effect of emotions and thought on the functions of the body.  The separation of body and mind is an artificial construct that leads to such destructive practices as stigmatizing people suffering from mental health issues and not assisting them to receive care in the same way we would for a “medical” problem.  I think the concepts presented by HeartMath are interesting and worth a look.  If their terminology appeals to you, all the better.  They have lots of free information and assessment tools on their site.  Just keep a hand on your pocketbook.

Soon I will write an article on Tong Len.  It is an interesting practice that I have found helpful.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    November 26, 2011 11:48 am

    good review!

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