We've all heard about the many benefits of meditation. It can calm the mind and body, reduce the negative effects of stress and release tension. Meditation also helps us gain more inner balance and peace. More medical professionals are now recommending meditation to patients as a way to decompress and relieve stress.
A 2004 Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that 19 million people in the United States practice some form of meditation. While meditation has become an accepted way of reducing stress and anxiety, there are still many people who either have little time to dedicate to the art of meditation; or have been told by their doctor they should meditate but don't know how. Perhaps they feel frustrated trying to sit still and quiet their mind.
A key goal of meditation is to calm a racing mind. When we can learn how to turn down mental noise and tap into an inner stillness, we connect with deeper feelings and the intuitive guidance of our heart. However, quite often many of us find that we spend a good portion of our meditation trying to chill and quiet the persistence of the mind. It's hard to unplug when your mind won't turn off. Many people tell us they are so fatigued that they fall asleep during their meditation time.
While we all need to unplug and recharge, the most common struggle is finding something that works and making time for it. There is a solution that can give you a lot of the benefits of meditation within a few short minutes.
Through 20 years of research on the effects of emotions on physiology, the Institute of HeartMath developed a simple yet powerful technique called Quick Coherence(R) that enables you to recharge in as little as three to five minutes. Using this technique a couple times a day brings you more inner clarity and balance.
You're probably wondering what "coherence" is. It's a term used by researchers to describe a highly efficient psycho-physiological state in which your nervous system, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems are working together efficiently and harmoniously. How do you get into this state of coherence?
Research has found that the pattern of your heart rhythm reflects the state of your emotions and nervous system dynamics. For example, when you are feeling tense, irritable, impatient, frustrated or anxious, your heart rhythm shifts into a disordered and incoherent pattern, like the diagram below. No wonder you can't calm your mind in this state.
Your heart signals "incoherence" to the brain, which inhibits your higher brain functions and triggers a stress response. You can't perceive as clearly and old emotional issues can start coming to the surface.
On the other hand, when you're feeling positive emotions, like sincere appreciation, care, compassion or love, your heart rhythm shifts into a more harmonious and coherent pattern, reflecting the emotional balance you feel inside. Your heart sends coherent signals to the brain and the brain synchronizes to the heart's coherent rhythm. You get into this state of coherence by learning how to shift your emotional state, and then heart coherence helps to calm your mind.
Heart coherence also triggers positive hormonal releases. This makes it easier to experience peace, positive feelings and a deeper meditative state more quickly.
You can use the Quick Coherence techniqueto bring your heart rhythms into coherence and enable your brain to synchronize with your heart's coherent rhythm. Start by learning how to shift into a heart-focused, positive emotional state through three simple steps.
Quick Coherence Technique
- Heart Focus: Focus your attention in the area of your heart, in the center of your chest.
- Heart Breathing: As you focus on the area of your heart, imagine your breath flowing in and out through that area.
- Heart Feeling: As you continue to breathe through the area of your heart, recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and try to re-experience it. It could be feeling appreciation for the good things in your life, or the love and care you feel for someone.
The next step is to take this technique and make it a habit. Do this by picking certain times of the day when you can give yourself a guilt-free three to five minutes to focus on your heart: Start of your day, right before lunch, just before bed. Waiting in line is also a great time to use this technique instead of getting aggravated. You'll be amazed at how different your experience of waiting can be. Instead of draining your energy by focusing on the negative you're using the time to recharge. The more you practice, the more quickly heart coherence emerges and the easier it is to sustain.
Think about where else you can fit in a Quick Coherence moment. At a stop light? Right before lunch? Doing the dishes? There are many little opportunities throughout the day; it is now just a matter of doing it.
Now that you have this powerful recharge tool, you may want to see for yourself how it affects your physiology. HeartMath has developed the emWave (emotion-wave) technology that actually tracks your coherence level using lights, sounds and visuals, training to help people increase coherence for longer periods. Using this technology leads you to periods of high coherence, a state that many people who meditate spend years trying to achieve.
Adding coherence to your meditation - or whatever method you use to unplug and recharge - can enhance your results. Some people use the emWave handheld device at the start of or even during their meditation, to help them activate heart rhythm coherence. John Gray, the author of the popular book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, uses the emWave and told us, "The emWave can take people quickly to where they try to get to through years of meditation."
Remember that taking mini breaks to "get in coherence" can go a long way in helping help you gain inner balance and save a lot of energy along the way.
Note: There are a number of additional ways that you can learn to increase your coherence. You can check out the free webinars that HeartMath provides or if you prefer personal coaching you can find a licensed HeartMath Provider in your area that will work with you as you are building your new skills. There are also an increasing number of healthcare clinics and hospitals around the country that are now offering stress reduction classes using HeartMath tools and the emWave technology.
We welcome your insights and comments. Put your comments in the section below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doc Childre is the founder of HeartMath, co-author of The HeartMath Solution and From Chaos to Coherence. Deborah is a behavioral psychologist and business executive, and co-author with Doc of Transforming Stress, Transforming Anger, Transforming Anxiety and Transforming Depression. You can find out more about Doc Childre, Deborah Rozman, and HeartMath at www.heartmath.com.