Our heart is hands down our hardest working organ. It never sleeps, beating over two billion times in a life time and circulating 50 million gallons of blood. It is the first organ structure that comes to life in the embryo and holds us until our last breath.
It is hard to imagine how we could ever take this life-sustaining organ for granted, but so constant is the heart that we rarely stop to celebrate its function or recognize and listen to it’s needs. Unless of course you, or someone you know is struck by heart disease, which is the number one cause of death for women in the United States.
The heart’s amazing capacity goes well beyond its physical fortitude and constancy:
- Most people are unaware that the heart is actually a thinking organ, with over 40,000 neurons and an entire network of neurotransmitters.
- Our heart speaks and listens with the brain, sending information that can activate and inhibit various areas of the brain depending on our emotional and physical needs.
- Recent advances in technology show that the heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body, 60 times greater than the brain.
Often when we refer back to ourselves with others, we instinctively place our hands over our hearts. As though we know in a primal way that this is where our true self lies.
All spiritual teachings point to the heart as the access point to universal consciousness. What keeps our heart healthy throughout life’s roller coaster of loves and losses is our ability to remain open and willing to feel the full breadth of emotions that emerge and resolve in the thinking heart.
Anyone who has spent time trying not to feel knows how much our hearts strain under the weight of repressed emotion and isolation. We feel a tightening – not only physiologically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
The heart brain knows when it is being ignored and won’t stand for it. Either through illness or estrangement, the voice of our heart streams through our life when we ignore its call.
As I have walked through a grief journey, that has many times threatened to swallow me, I know what it is to want to turn away or be overcome by what my heart brain needs to be heard. It is only through loving witness that the heart digests, releases our pain and renews itself. The French translation for courage means heart. It is where our life begins and ends.