Chapter 1
"Living From the Heart"

by Puran Bair

Chapter One

The Heartbeat

The purpose of this book is to teach Heart Rhythm Meditation: how to be conscious of the beats of your heart and in harmony with your most basic rhythm and your deeper feelings. You will be able to tune your attitude, approach and actions to express this harmony and the other qualities of heart, especially love, creativity and courage. You can learn this by yourself or with a group, and apply it to your health, relationships and accomplishments. Success in what you choose will then come more easily, allowing you to take on larger challenges with less stress.

If I were to ask you, "Do you think you can feel your heartbeat?" You might say, "Of course I can," and grab your wrist. If I said, "Do you think you can be aware of your heartbeat in your chest?" you would ask for a stethoscope. But do you imagine that you could feel your heartbeat directly, in your chest, without any instruments, just by your awareness? I have found that you can learn to feel your heartbeat, the fundamental clock of your body, anytime you want, for as long as you want. I call this method of self-awareness, "Heart Rhythm Meditation."

If you learn Heart Rhythm Meditation it will change your life.

First, it will expand your concept of who you are and the scope of your awareness. You will have done something that you didn't think was possible, and that will lead you to challenge other limitations.

Second, it will create a profound state of stillness with alertness, filling you with peace and contentment. This is excellent therapy for the stress of life which is so hard on one's heart. Because awareness of your heartbeat physically strengthens your heart and stabilizes its rhythm, because the relaxation opens your circulation system, and because the full-breath pattern creates much greater oxygenation of the heart, Heart Rhythm Meditation will give you much of the cardiovascular benefit of exercise without having to leave your house, change clothes or break a sweat.

Third, it will create brilliance in your mind, producing frequent Ah-Ha flashes and peaks of insight. This is a by-product of linking the conscious and unconscious mind. Once the door is opened to your inner consciousness, inspiration begins to flow both ways. The images of the creative and intuitive faculty of the unconscious can then be seen in your conscious mind, and they are exciting!

Fourth, feeling the incessant beat of your heart gives you an unstoppable self-confidence, and thinking about your heart will make you heart-centered. This will transform your health, relationships and accomplishments. Keeping your attention on your heart increases your magnetic field, producing personal magnetism, or charisma. You will learn to project your heartbeat into the space around you, which makes your atmosphere into a presence that harmonizes, heals, and facilitates growth. Success at whatever you choose will come easily, with less stress, when powered by your heartbeat.

You can do this without buying any equipment, and without any monthly fees. You can do it at work, even during a meeting, and everyone will be able to see the effect (without knowing the cause) because you'll be more self-confident, inner-directed, open and helpful to others, insightful and courageous. You can do this with your heart, using the rhythm of your heart.

Peace comes when self is in harmony with the rhythm of the heart. This is accomplished in silent meditation by entering into the life-stream in the heart.

If there is any form of concentration to be used in meditation, it consists in first getting into the rhythm of the heart, by watching the heartbeats, feeling them and harmonizing with them. Then one centers all feeling in the physical heart and out of feeling selects love, and out of love, Divine Love. [Hazrat Inayat Khan]

The practice of listening to your heartbeat makes you conscious of one of the key functions of your unconscious mind, and that brings about a working connection between your conscious and unconscious resources. Your unconscious mind directs your heart to beat and adapts the heart's rhythm to your physical and emotional condition, usually without any conscious attention. When you are aware of your heartbeat you are witnessing directly a behavior of your unconscious. Some of what was unconscious becomes conscious, and a doorway opens between your conscious and unconscious mind. Through this portal you can glimpse the power of your vast unconscious and begin to harness it to your purpose.

Your unconscious mind is vast and powerful, and you rely upon it constantly. While you are making conscious choices, like where you want to drive, your unconscious is controlling the many small motions that you make to control your car. Your unconscious continues to look for your car keys after you've given up. It remembers your life experience and stores away every event, every face, every disappointment and attainment as resources for future use.

It also tries to make connections between your various and probably conflicting desires to integrate the many elements of your life into a cohesive whole.

I think we each have a mission in life, and that mission includes and requires learning about ourselves, in depth. Why do we feel the way we do; what is the relationship between our attitude and life's events; where is the limit of our influence and vision; how can we contribute to the larger mission of humanity? If you share this aspiration of self-knowledge, you will delight in using your heartbeat to probe your depth and height. Conveniently, the heart has a beat that you can feel clearly and dramatically, to make it clear when you have really directed your thoughts to your heart instead of somewhere else.

The questions about your purpose can't be answered with your logical mind, but you can feel the answers rising out of the depth of your unconscious mind, especially that part of the unconscious called the "heart". The great spiritual search -- the journey to your Self -- begins with the discovery of the heart, which is so hard for people to find. The practice of heart-rhythm offers a simple guiding principle: you can find your heart by meditating on your physical heart. It's so obvious - it's in the right place and the name's even the same.

I have a true story to illustrate the way of the heart.

Joan was walking the halls of the court house, breathing through her heart as she walked. The case against her was gathering steam and her lawyer and the lawyer for the other side were meeting now in a conference room. Joan knew that what she did was right -- her intention had been to help the client, and her boss had assured her that their company would benefit as well. Even her boss's boss had OKed it, but when she left to join her client's firm, the president charged her with violating her employment contract and stealing proprietary information, a fabrication. None of the approvals she had received were in writing and no one was willing to repeat them. The client nobody wanted was now portrayed as a crucial alliance and the project the company was trying to get out of was suddenly the company's future direction. Then she heard that her company had lost four senior people in other divisions and that she was being used as a message to others who might want to leave that the company would make defections difficult. Her lawyer was pessimistic about her chances; the company could ruin her if it wanted to.

Joan stopped outside the conference room and checked her heart again. Through Heart Rhythm Meditation she had built up a powerful sense of her heart. From her conscious breath and heartbeat, her heart felt like a magnetic power. In that consciousness she felt neither guilt nor anger, as neither perpetrator nor victim, Although her lawyer had strongly advised her to leave the negotiations to him, she opened the door. As she stood in the doorway, all eyes quickly turned to her. Her glance slowly moved from eye to eye among the roomful of men. She didn't know some of them so she said, "I'm Joan," and then, confidently, "I just think we can work this out."

Her impact was enormous. No one spoke or looked away for some seconds. She said nothing more and actually couldn't have because her heart was speaking so loudly in the silence. Then a lawyer for the prosecution blurted out, "I didn't know it was you. This changes everything." Her lawyer studied the man and got a nod from him. He then turned and said to his client, "Thank you for coming, Joan. I think it will be all right now." She stepped back into the hall and closed the door. Her heart was pounding in her chest, not with the high-speed pounding of fear, but with the strong beat of a queen who has just freed the prisoners.

Her lawyer joined her in a few short minutes. "They've dropped the case. Before you opened the door we were negotiating the amount of the fines and penalties. I don't know what you did, but now they've dropped everything. Did you know that lawyer who spoke to you?" "No," said Joan. It was her heart that did the magic, Joan knew, not anything she had said. Her heart had freed her, and the lawyers as well.

The physical heart that pumps your blood and the poetic heart at the center of your emotional experience are connected through the unconscious mind. It's clear to me that this homonym of heart is not accidental. The poetic heart is a deeper facility than the mind. We define it as the depth of that faculty of which the mind is the surface. The emotions run as currents through the lake of the heart. Those currents stir the depth of the lake and produce ripples on the surface of the lake, the mind. The mind's images are inspired by, even determined by, the heart, but the mind shows only the surface of what is happening in the depth. The force that makes the currents of the lake has a pulse, a beat, a vibration. That pulse can be made conscious.

The difference between mind and heart is like the surface and the bottom. It is the surface of the heart which is mind, and it is the depth of the mind which is heart. The mind expresses the faculty of thinking, the heart of feeling. [Hazrat Inayat Khan]

While your physical existence receives most of your attention, you also exist as a non-physical field of energy and light which is both radiated by the physical body and also focused into a continual re-creation of the body. You can begin the experience of the interchange between the matter and energy aspects of yourself by becoming aware of your magnetic field. The body has a measurable magnetic field, and that magnetic field pulsates with the heartbeat. So the heartbeat shows you where to look: narrow your search for the magnetic body to that which pulsates as the heart does. The discovery of yourself as a magnetic field is one of the great breakthrough experiences of life. It brings your conception of yourself closer to reality.

Are you concerned about the health of your physical heart? It has been found that the unconscious mechanism that regulates the heartbeat can be regulated by adding the attention of your conscious mind. If you make your heartbeat conscious, your heart is strengthened. Every heartbeat you can feel is a step towards a healthier heart. An irregular heartbeat becomes less irregular because the self-monitoring creates a feedback loop.

Never boring, the rhythm of your heartbeat is rich in feeling and meaning. Even when the average heartbeat is stable, neither increasing nor decreasing, the individual beats have a slight variation in time from the mixture of other vibrations within the body. The heartbeat contains within its rhythm the frequencies of the breath rate and the subtle frequencies of the nervous system.

The heartbeat is strongest in your chest, but you can feel it anywhere you direct your attention in the body: the hands, the face, the feet, etc. Wherever you look there is an echo of the heartbeat, and the quality of the echo tells you about the state of that part of the body and of the circulatory and nervous system. The circulatory system carries your heartbeat to all parts of your body and your nervous system carries the subtle echo signal back to your brain. So the heartbeat you feel is a built-in self-diagnostic signal revealing the health of your whole body.

Samuel's foot was under the engine block when it fell over, crushing his toe. Through the intense pain he also felt a particularly painful throbbing of the pulse in his toe. After a few hours, the throbbing pain went away, and he was left with only a constant and strong ache in his toe. The next day it was still bleeding slightly and quite sore. When Samuel did his Heart Rhythm Meditation, he tried to feel his heartbeat in various parts of his body, as usual, but although he paid particular attention to his toe he couldn't feel the pulse there. This condition persisted for three days: continued oozing from his toe and no pulse in it. On the fourth day, he could again feel the pulse of his heart in his toe while doing the Heart Rhythm Meditation. On that day the bleeding stopped and the pain subsided. By the next day he was back to work.
I am particularly susceptible to head colds. I can tell one is coming on when the pulse that I feel in my head takes on a peculiar rhythm. The beats become uneven in their strength, and some beats are absent completely. Normally, in Heart Rhythm Meditation I can feel each heartbeat reach my head strongly and clearly. When the pulse in my head becomes uneven and irregular, I use Heart Rhythm Meditation to try to restore the normal feeling. After concentrating on the heartbeat in my head and directing my breath there for some minutes, the pulse in my head begins to feel normal again. In this way I can heal the condition that would otherwise result in a bad cold. I am reminded of this when I neglect to do it and then suffer the result.
Your heartbeat also tells you a great deal about your emotions. As you listen to your heartbeat and then think of people and situations in your life, you'll notice that the beat changes. These changes tell you which relationship needs attention, which situation needs more priority. This technique can also help you decide when to speak and when to listen, when to act and when to watch, when to reach out and when to draw in. It's most comforting and reassuring to listen to your heartbeat. It's a simple and natural method for diminishing anxiety and fear.
Fred wanted to talk to his boss about the new project, in which he wanted a larger role, but it presented a dilemma. Would his boss see his desire as self-promotion and dismiss it, or had Fred's boss simply undervalued him and would welcome his volunteerism and eagerness? Fred used the Heart Rhythm Meditation to find his heart and immediately the feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt emerged strongly. Whatever he would try to say to his boss, whatever words he would use, this combination of worthlessness and self-doubt would get communicated, which would reinforce his boss's decision.

Staying with the practice, beat after beat, his feelings began to change. Like everyone, Fred has layers of emotion -- one layer covers another. Under his feeling of worthlessness and self-doubt is a feeling of rejection and disappointment; under that is his feeling of lack of fulfillment; under that is his feeling of the capacity and abilities that lie unfulfilled. When he reaches that core, his confidence returns. Throughout this whole inner process of discovery, like digging into the ground, his heartbeat was his guide, his spade, and his goal. When he found the deep pool of impersonal capability under the cover of his personal regrets and disappointments, he knew he could communicate it.

Fred saw his boss and walked over to him. He smiled confidently and genuinely and his words came easily. "I have some skills that could be applied to the new project," he said. "I'm sure you'll need all the help you can get, and I can contribute more." His boss said, "I think so too, but I didn't know if you did." His role was enlarged, and thereafter Fred had to use the Heart Rhythm Meditation to maintain the higher level of performance and responsibility he had been given.

If listening to your heartbeat is so helpful in life, why isn't it commonly done? Because people don't know how to do it, or even that it can be done, and haven't correlated the signal with their own state. Someday, I hope, school children will learn how to monitor their heartbeat for the physical and emotional feedback it gives. If you have children yourself, perhaps you can teach them how to tune in to their heartbeat to help them through difficult situations in school or sports. We all wish the best for our children. Your own mastery of the Heart Rhythm Meditation will develop a permanent asset, like a family trust, that you can pass on to your children and enjoy together. It will enhance not only your own life, but it can become part of that special experience and wisdom that you give them and which helps to define your family.

Why learn a technique to listen to your heart without a stethoscope or an electronic heart monitor, which would be so easy to use? First, using a device gives you only half of the information that comes from listening to your heartbeat within. When you listen internally to your heartbeat, you're observing your nervous system as well as your circulatory system. The way your heartbeat feels is an important part of the information you gain. In what areas of your body do you feel your heartbeat and how strong does it feel? This is a sign about your consciousness, reflected in your nervous system. Details on how to interpret this signal are given in Chapter 9.

Second, the state you must be in to listen to your heartbeat conveys great benefits in itself. It is a calm and clear state, centered and comforting. In that state, you think differently, you feel differently, and the world appears to be a different place. Anxiety and fear subside and the stream of thoughts and emotions that come from those feelings just evaporates. The harmony that you feel within allows you to experience the harmony of the world around you and with you. Sensing that harmony gives you the ability to move with it, which creates success in life's affairs. In this way, the heartbeat is a beacon that guides you to a state of being that is most desirable in itself. We're going to use the heartbeat as part of a technique for developing the meditative state and conversely, the state of meditation will allow the heartbeat to be felt.

Listening to your heartbeat can become the basis for your most personal and private time. It is intensely personal, as it reveals your most basic rhythm and amplifies your deepest feelings. It is also an activity for a group meditation during which it takes on an added dimension. An overall, unified rhythm emerges as you begin to sense the heartbeats of the others and tune your heartbeat in harmony to them. Research by Dr. Beryl Payne, a physicist in Massachusetts, has shown that the heartbeats of people who are meditating together tend to converge automatically.

The height of the practice is done in a retreat setting where, after days of continual meditation, you can reach a state where you sense the earth's heartbeat beating in your own chest. (You probably sense a harmonic of the slow, periodic shifts of the earth's magnetic field.) Your heartbeat, radiating as a pulsing life, will seem to create the waves of the ocean, the shimmering rays of sun light, the gusts of wind and the fertility of the earth. In this state, there is no boundary between the self and the world, the inner and the outer. This is the mystical state of unity, and the heartbeat leads the way. This experience of unity is the real aim of this book; listening to the heartbeat is the path. Along the way, you will learn a great deal about rhythm, vibration, energy, emotion and your self.

Heart Rhythm Meditation

Heart Rhythm Meditation is a heart-centered meditation in which you become conscious of your heartbeat and your breathing. To begin with, let's try a preliminary exercise to verify that you can indeed feel your own heartbeat. This is a small part of Heart Rhythm Meditation, like dunking your head under water is a small part of learning to swim.
At first, you can feel your heartbeat best when you're holding your breath. The longer you hold your breath the stronger your heart's beat will feel. Just take a big inhalation and hold it. You can probably hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds, and in that time you'll feel your heartbeat.

You might feel the pulse in your face, or your neck, or somewhere else than in your chest. That's helpful -- now you know the beat you're looking for -- but keep looking for the source of the beat in your physical heart.

Although it is just a first step, for me this was an incredible experience: to first feel my heartbeat. All I wanted after that was to be able to make the experience continuous rather than an isolated event. [Ken, a Heart Rhythm Meditator]

This brief experience may give you confidence that you can indeed become aware of the contractions of your heart muscle deep inside your chest. You may find it surprising and exhilarating, or you may find it anxiety-provoking because of the need to hold your breath. When you learn the full Heart Rhythm Meditation you'll find it becomes sustainable and comforting. By following the instructions in this book, you will be able to sit calmly and have a clear and continuous experience of your heartbeat for as long as you desire it. The beat will open up to become a rich and profound experience of all that is within you, and you will marvel at what the sound of your heart tells you.

Let's try it again.

You can adopt a breathing rhythm that has a pause in it so that you can hold your breath for half the time. To do that, you need a full inhalation. It's easy to hold your breath when your lungs are full. (Never hold the exhalation, when your lungs are empty -- you could pass out.) To get a full inhalation, you need to breathe out more fully.

Don't try to take an exceptionally big breath -- that may work once but it won't work continuously. Instead, try to extend your exhalation three seconds longer than normal. Then let the inhalation return immediately afterwards. It will be much larger in volume and will sustain you between breaths. When you feel the urge to exhale, do so gently and silently, and always extend the exhalation. Never hold the exhalation, only the inhalation.

Now, while you're holding the inhalation, look into your chest, in your mind's eye, for your beating heart. You will likely feel it towards the end of the time you're holding your breath. The motion of breathing will obscure the beat, but you'll get it back again after the next breath. After a few minutes, you'll find that the sensation of your heart comes earlier and persists for the whole pause. Then try to keep the beat in your mind while you breathe out and in again, and see if your mental beat coincides with your next sensation of it.

If you need a clue, you can hold your left wrist with your right hand and gently press your right thumb against the artery (under your watchstrap) next to your tendon. This will make your pulse clear until you can feel the same beat elsewhere, at which point you should stop pressing your wrist. The objective is to feel your heartbeat in your chest.

With a little practice, you'll find that you can feel your heartbeat throughout your breath cycle. With a little more practice, you'll be able to do this easily. That's when the benefits begin -- when listening to your heartbeat is no longer an effort.

This experience of feeling your heartbeat is a major accomplishment in inner-awareness. You will have gained a life-long asset, a tool you can apply to your personal development and accomplishments in life. You'll be able to rely upon an experience that is not a fantasy, not supernatural, but which few people believe is possible. Learning Heart Rhythm Practice would benefit anyone. It's for business-people, educators, artists, designers, scientists, home-makers and managers. It is a technique that you initially learn from another, then make your own, and finally apply to the fulfillment of your life as you desire. It doesn't take you out of the world; it helps you be effective as yourself, in concert with the world.

Learning and using Heart Rhythm Practice is a constant progression. To make the practice useful and to be able to build further meditation experiences upon it, we need to back up to the beginning, explore the steps carefully, and understand what we're doing and why. Then, the heartbeat will make sense in a larger context, and when problems or difficulties arise, you'll be prepared.

In the following chapters, we'll start with the basics: the theory of Heart Rhythm Practice and then the preparations. Then we'll focus on our breathing, making the breath conscious, rhythmic, full, and retained. Then we'll be ready to focus again on the heartbeat: finding the heartbeat, using the heartbeat to time the breath, and adopting the "Square Breath" rhythm. This will take us to the full-blown practice of using the heartbeat to develop the Elements of the Heart: Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, which will have powerful, practical effects in your life.

You may gain the state that results from Heart Rhythm Practice by other methods; it may even occur spontaneously. A life-changing moment has occurred for many when they experienced a single moment of the heart. The reason for adopting a particular practice, such as Heart Rhythm Practice, is to make this most valuable experience reliable. When you can reproduce this state at will, then living in the heart really begins. Many different methods work: there are many paths to essentially the same experience. When you go deeply into one method, repeating it every morning month after month, it works within your unconscious to prolong the meditation state long into your day. Then the state of meditation is your home: you own it and can live in it whenever you wish. In contrast, the spontaneous moment is like being blindfolded and taken from a slum to a palace, then forcibly returned with only the memory of that place and no further access. This makes life even more miserable until one finds for oneself the path from here to there. As with any meditation, the techniques of the practice do not guarantee delivery of the meditative state, for the practice is more than the technique. Beside the technique, an emotion is required. Some people have this emotion already, while others who practice the techniques skillfully can not progress because they haven't developed that feeling. If the feeling is missing, then it can best be built up in the heart by contact with others who meditate. Meditation can't be taught, but it can be caught.

The reader may be able to catch Heart Rhythm Practice from the instructions on these pages. Indeed that is my hope and objective. But this cannot be guaranteed. What can be expected is that you will learn so much about the practice and state of meditation that Heart Rhythm Practice will come easily when the situation of a group or a teacher presents itself. Perhaps you won't be able to find a genuine teacher or a sincere group in your area. If not, then perhaps you will feel empowered to start a group in which you and others can catch Heart Rhythm Practice together. This book is intended to be a resource book for such a group. It offers a step-by-step approach that allows anyone to begin, and it advances to a level that will challenge meditators with years of experience. The well-defined goals allow one to assess one's own progress and build confidence.


References:

1 HIK, Complete Works, 1923, Volume 1, Githa 3, Dhyana 3, pp. 307-308

2 See Chapter 6, Walking Breath Practice

3 HIK, "Healing and the Mind World," The Secret of Breath

4 It is an interesting coincidence that Moslem Sufis are sometimes organized into schools headed by a "Pir," or elder, who may have one or more senior students called a "Sheik." The head of the school may then be referred to as the "Sheiks' Pir," a homonym for the poet's name.

5 Idries Shah, "The Sufis," Anchor Books, Doubleday, NY 1971, page 257

6 Jelal-ud-Din Rumi, The Mathnavi.

7 Vilayat Inayat Jhan, "Toward the One," Harper and Roe, 1974.

8 Biography of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, East-West Publications, London, 1979

9 Vilayat Inayat Khan, "The Message in Our Time", a biography of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Harper and Row.

10 Biography of Nur-un-Nisa Inayat Khan

11 HIK, "The Unity of Religious Ideals," Religion