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Thoughts on Intentional Living
A Newsletter from Brady Mikusko, Life Coach
In This Issue
The Heart is a Marvelous Pump
Exercise: HeartMath's Lock-In Technique
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Issue: #2
March 2009
Activating the Power of the Heart

My intention for my newsletters is to provide readers with information/ideas and everyday tools and practices that help us design and build a more intentional life.  My strategy  is to select information and techniques from my Life Coaching business that have helped my clients move away from living out of habit, reaction and default mode and into a more authentic, intentional and actualized life.  Annie Dillard captures my sentiment exactly when she said:

How we spend our days 
is how we spend our lives. 

If we spend each of our days with intention, purpose and authenticity, our lives will reflect that.  Read on and enjoy  your life!
The Heart is a Marvelous Pump
heartMost of us have been taught to view the heart as biological. It has been defined primarily as a ten ounce muscle that pumps blood and maintains circulation throughout our body until we die. This mechanistic and biological view of the heart is "correct" yet simplistic and incomplete. Over the last several decades, researchers and scientists have discovered that the heart is an organ with a much greater role and each one of us can activate the very real power of the heart to live more intentionally and to increase our well-being.

So in keeping with this Newsletter's mission, I offer a few new ideas about the heart and an intentional practice. The source of this information and practice is the Institute of HeartMath which engages in research, publishing and workshops on the heart.

The heart is more than a marvelous pump

I admit that from a biological perspective, the heart is an amazing pump, beating one hundred thousand times a day, approximately forty million times a year.  It pumps two gallons of blood per minute, through a vascular system approximately 60,000 miles in length - over two times the circumference of the earth!

With such efficiency and power, what more could the human heart possibly do?   Neurocardiologists and researchers from the Institute of HeartMath have established that the heart is also a sophisticated center for information encoding and processing. Some researchers consider it to be the body's "second brain". We know that the heart works with the brain, but we now understand that it also processes many types of information independent of the brain. 

An example of that independence and interdependence is when we are feeling stressed, angry, or some other negative emotion. In such moments, our powerful and brilliant heart responds quickly --  as it is very sensitive and responsive to all changes in our emotional state. If you were connected to a  Heart Rate Variability machine in that moment, it would show a  jagged, disordered and incoherent pattern to your heart rhythms!  This kind of pattern, a signal from the heart to the brain, triggers a range of corresponding and appropriate physiological responses such as a narrowing of brain functions, a triggering of the fight/flight response, and a rise in blood pressure, to name a few.

How is this relevant to intentional living?  We can in fact consciously and intentionally activate the power of the heart and shift our heart rhythms from jagged, disordered, and incoherent ones to smooth, orderly and coherent patterns. And by doing this, we can change our physiology (i.e., health) for the better, i.e., lower blood pressure, calm our  nervous system, increase our brain function, etc.

An Exercise: HeartMath's Lock-In Technique

Like a pebble that creates a ripple of waves when dropped into a still pond, so love and positive feelings in the heart create a rhythm that spreads health and well-being throughout the body.    

-- Dr. Stephen Rechtschaffen, Omega Institute

The essence of this technique is to focus on finding a positive core heart feeling such as sincere appreciation, true care, compassion or love and to stay/maintain this state for a period of time (three-five minutes is what I suggest). With continued cultivation of this practice, one can more easily move to a coherent state at times of stress and stay in a coherent state. 

  1. Get quiet. Close your eyes. Take a few moments to begin to breathe more deeply than your usual breath.
  2. Gently shift your attention  and your breath to the area around your heart, and on your heart. If you can, place your hand on your heart, as you continue to breathe through & focus on the heart for at least 15-20 seconds.
  3. Now, generate a feeling of warmth, love, or gratitude. Think of someone you love - for example, a child. Or a wonderful, warm and loving memory. Or one or two things for which you feel gratitude.  Whatever focus you choose, try to actually FEEL the sensation of warmth, love, gratitude. Continue to focus on this feeling and breathe through the heart. 
  4. Lastly, send the core heart feelings (love, care, compassion, appreciation,) to yourself and to others. That is, send the feelings throughout your body and cells and/or send them to other people in your life (those you love, those you are in conflict with, those you dislike, etc.). This last step is powerful for many reasons (perhaps the subject of a future newsletter) , but at its simplest, it helps you lock into the positive feeling state (and thus the coherence state) longer.

I encourage you to experiment with this practice. I have found that a favorite picture of my children when they were young, taped on my printer, right next to my computer monitor,  helps move me to this core heart place very quickly!

Any time not spent on love is wasted.    -- Tasso

Pass It On
I am committed to reaching out and sharing skills, ideas, and practices that I believe can lead people to living their best and intentional life.  Please pass this newsletter on to others if you are so inspired, and ask your friends and colleagues  to sign up for the newsletter if these ideas interest them.

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Wishing you well,

Brady Mikusko, ACC, Life Coach
author of Be Smart: Prepare Yourself for Divorce Mediation