Heart-centered Consciousness:one of the seven modes of consciousnessRobert Beshara“Now here is my secret, very simple: you can only see things clearly with your heart.What is essential is invisible to the eye.”The fox from The Little Prince
In search of a model ofconsciousness(Fludd, 1619) (Wilber, 1996)AQAL modelMicrocosmos
What are the problems with the brainbeing the seat of consciousness?1. It’s a metaphysical assumption formulated by a number ofneuro- and cognitive scientists. Sometimes it’s treated asa fact by many even though there is no evidence thus farthat the brain is the seat of consciousnesses.2. Let us remember Max Velmans’s advice in UnderstandingConsciousness: correlation and causation ≠ ontologicalidentity.3. Scientism as the dominant strand in mainstream sciencehas not been questioning some of its dogmaticassumptions, which has resulted in an environment ofconfusion regarding consciousness studies to say theleast.4. To some physicalists, consciousness and the mind for thatmatter don’t exist, so it’s irrelevant to even talk aboutthem, but we know from our direct experience that that’snot the case.
Reductionism vis-à-vis Hinduism• The reductionist view on consciousness and the mind isthat they are an illusion albeit a useful one, for they havehelped us—the human species—to survive and adapt formillennia.• What we experience in our 3D reality through our 5 sensesis a representation of the noumenal world, which we haveno access to. We call that representation the phenomenalworld. Even though it’s not an accurate representation ofthe thing itself, it is quite close.• Interestingly, in the Hindu tradition the world we perceiveis considered an illusion known as maya. To referenceEdgar Allan Poe, maybe everything is a dream within adream, after all.
Do we live in a participatoryuniverse? And what would that mean?It would mean that we are co-creators of theuniverse, however…
All of what we scientifically know sofar is within the 4% belowAnd we still don’t know everything inthat 4%. I would even add that wenever will. It’s not pessimism, it’s justthe limitation of any field.I propose, however, cooperationbetween seemingly opposeddisciplines, such as science andspirituality.“‘Cooperation is a fundamentalprinciple of evolution,’ Nowak saystoday. ‘Without it, you dont getconstruction or complexity in life.Whenever you see somethinginteresting, like the evolution ofmulticellular creatures or humanlanguage, cooperation is involved’”(Ohlson, 2012).
Electromagnetic theories ofconsciousnessThis is my assumption regardingwhat consciousness may be.The electric wave stands for thebrain (body) while the magneticwave stands forconsciousness (mind).
What alternatives do we have toscientific materialism?1. Instead of the monist position of biological reductionism,we can adopt the outdated position of idealism or reduceeverything to the mind.2. Alternatively, we can adopt the Cartesian dualist model,which is also outdated with its reliance on the pinealgland as the point of interaction between the mind andthe body.3. Velmans’s Reflexive Monism, however, may be the mostaccurate explanatory model out there bridging the gapbetween 1stperson and 3rdperson perspectives.4. But I am, however, interested in a descriptive nondualmodel, which is why I have adopted and adapted thechakra system as a biosociopsychospiritual model ofconsciousness.
Chakras• Chakra is Sanskrit for wheel or circle.• “Subtle Energy” supposedly goes through theseven main chakras.• Historically, since their conception in theHindu tradition until today, chakras have beenbelieved to energetically regulate differentfunctions in our bodymind.
Criticisms of the chakra system• The chakra system is perceived as apseudoscience by skeptics because there is littlephysiological evidence that chakras and “SubtleEnergy” are real. However, there is a new branchof psychology called Energy Psychology whichtries to investigate the nature of such SubtleEnergy.• Also, there is disagreement among scholars ofchakrology as to how many chakras there are inthe human body.
Why seven?• I stick to seven because that is the numberthat most scholars agree upon. But I ask: whyare there seven days in a week? Why arethere seven colors in a rainbow? And why arethere seven notes in the traditional Westerndiatonic scale?
Why chakras?• I use chakras as modes of consciousness. Thisis a metaphysical nondual descriptive model,which does not pretend to be otherwise.• Even though there is some research regardingthe neurobiology of chakras (see Maxwell,2009), I am more interested in chakras asmetaphors that can havebiosociopsychospiritual manifestations.
Why the heart?• Historically, the heart has been believed in different partsof the world to be the seat of consciousness usually as thecompound heart-mind or heart-soul (Lind, 2007).• To go back to my roots: “For the Egyptians, the brain (beingbloodless in death) was not important and was generallyignored; the heart was the power of life, and the source ofgood and evil. Thus, in their funerary literature, the Book ofthe Dead, the heart was weighed, against feathers, todetermine the balance of good and ill at death.” (Gregory,1989).• Anahata (Sanskrit for unstruck) is the fourth chakra, so as amode of consciousness it’s exactly in the centre, which is avery important location and we’ll soon find out why bylooking at some of the qualities associated with the heartchakra.
The Big Bang and OM• In Hinduism, OM is considered the first(unstruck) sound in the universe as a result ofthe Big Bang. That silent mantra (or the soundof the universe) is associated with anahata.
The two heartsMy metaphysical position is tofocus on heart-centeredconsciousness and to expand onthe concept by investigating theroles of the two hearts: theanatomical and themetaphysical.I also explore how they may beconnected. My emphasis,however, will be more so on thelatter.
The three states of any chakra• The chakras are modes of consciousnessesbetween which we can oscillate. It is possibleto experience reality via all seven modes ofconsciousness simultaneously, but that usuallyrequires a lot of training over time. Why?Because all chakras would have to bebalanced if our perception of Reality to beaccurate.• The three states that each chakra can be inare: under-active, balanced, or over-active.
Triune Consciousness• I use the model of triune consciousness (Tallon,1997) to group the seven modes ofconsciousness into three general categories ofaction, affection, and cognition. I set an idealgoal for each of the three dimensions if allchakras associated with them are balanced. I dothis to overemphasize the interbeing, to useThich Nhat Hanh’s term, between all of the sevenmodes of consciousness.• Chakra 1 – 3: action: health: individual: dualistic• Chakra 4: affection: happiness• Chakra 5-7: cognition: peace: global: nondual
Tendencies• The lower three chakras (1-3), which are morephysical, are associated with the greatesttendency toward selfishness when imbalanced.• The upper three chakras (5-7), which are morespiritual, are associated with the greatesttendency toward selflessness when balanced.• Anahata or the heart chakra is associated moststrongly with the following two qualities: balanceand transformation.
Qualities associated with the anahatamode of consciousness• direct knowing and ego-transcendence(Louchakova, 2007), intuition (McCraty et al.,2004), compassion and wisdom (Bai et al., 2009),synchronization and coherence (Bischof, 2008),direct cognition (“The seven chakras,” 2011),integration (Catalfo, 2006), intentionality (Tallon,1997), balance (Judith, 2002), healing andempathy (Nelson and Evans, 1996), self-acceptance (Tomasulo, 2011), universal love(Waldman, 1992), and transformation (Barrett,2012).
Imbalanced vs. BalancedHeart-centered Consciousness• When anahata is over-activated, we mayexperience ourselves being co-dependent,sentimental, smothering, inordinatelyresponsible, and given to overdoing it andburning out; however, when that mode ofconsciousness is under-activated, we mayexperience ourselves being hard-hearted, stingy,uncaring, thoughtless, callous, greedy, andcalculating. On the contrary, when our heart-centered consciousness is in balance we may feelgenerous, compassionate, sensitive, showingunconditional positive regard for others, andcaring of self and others (Catalfo, 2006).
Implications of a heart-centeredconsciousness• Now, we shall look at thebiosociopsychospiritual implications of theanahata mode of consciousness.
Biologically, the goal is health"The heart generates the largestelectromagnetic field in the body.The electrical field as measuredin an electrocardiogram (ECG) isabout 60 times greater inamplitude than the brain wavesrecorded in anelectroencephalogram (EEG)”(McCraty, 2003).
Ischaemic heart disease• Usually due to coronary artery disease. It is the numberone cause of death worldwide amounting to 7.25 milliondeaths according to the World Health Organization (2008).• In the Science of the Heart (2001), researchers at IHM haveconcluded that: “Scientific research now tells us plainly thatanger, anxiety and worry significantly increase the risk ofheart disease, including sudden cardiac death. Landmarklong-term studies conducted by Dr. Hans Eysenck andcolleagues at the University of London have shown thatchronic unmanaged emotional stress is as much as sixtimes more predictive of cancer and heart disease thancigarette smoking, cholesterol level or blood pressure, andmuch more responsive to intervention.”
Tools developed at the Institute ofHeartMath (IHM) to improve emotionalhealth• Freeze-Frame (which stops stress by shiftingperception in the moment).• Heart Lock-In (which establishes increasedphysiological efficiency, mental acuity andemotional stability as a new baseline).• Cut-Thru (which extinguishes recurring,intrusive thought patterns and emotions).
Socially, the goal is peaceRichard Barrett’smodel of SevenLevels of SocietalConsciousness(2012). Basedupon Maslow’sHierarchy ofNeeds, which isbased upon thechakra system.
Global Coherent Initiative• “[W]hen enough individuals and social groups increasetheir coherence and utilize that increased coherence tointentionally create a more coherent standing referencewave in the global field, it will help increase the globalconsciousness. This can be achieved when an increasingratio of people move towards more balanced and self-regulated emotions and responses” (McCraty et al., 2012).• What is coherence? "Coherence is the state when theheart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment andcooperation […] It is a state that builds resiliency – personalenergy is accumulated, not wasted – leaving more energyto manifest intentions and harmonious outcomes”(McCraty, 2012).
Healing techniques onheart-centered consciousness• Breathing through the energy centers, centering through the heart,chakra meditation sequence, etc. (Hover-Kramer et al., 1997)• Meditation as the key to the Eightfold Path and compassion as a Zenprinciple of psychotherapeutic value (Mruk and Hartzell, 2003)• Bhakti yoga and chanting through the chakras (Nelson and Evans, 1996)• Prayer of the Heart (Louchakova, 2007)• The symbolic act of incense altar offering (Meadow, 1993)• Breath work: mindfulness of breathing or Anãpãnasati (Bai et al., 2009)• Synchronization and coherence of body systems and biofields throughsustaining states of positive emotion and relaxation (Bischof, 2008)• Balancing exercises include chest openers in yoga (Cobra, Camel,backbends), mentally examining our relationships, and volunteer work(Catalfo, 2006)• The Arch Exercise (Judith, 2002)• Self-love (Cohen, 2006)• Quick Coherence Technique (“The quick coherence”)
How about an experientialexercise?• Balancing our the anahata mode ofconsciousness through chanting the mantraOM or AUM: http://youtu.be/pyct8IVeDr0The gesture Namasterepresents the belief that thereis a Divine spark within each ofus that is located in the heartchakra […] namaste [Hindi]literally means ‘bow me you’ or‘I bow to you’” (Palkhivala).