“My intuition, have you ever deceived me? No, never. It is my reason which so often deludes me, for it comes from without; you are rooted within my heart.” —Hazrat Inayat Khan
“Listen to your heart” is common advice someone might offer you when you’re trying to make a decision. As you talk through and compare options, they might ask, “How do you feel about it? What does your gut tell you? Do you have an intuition about it?”
These questions all point to the same insight: Listen to the inner voice that’s wiser than your reason. Many leadership and business teachings stress the importance of swift decision making over internal analysis. As many often experience, the pace of life or business can simply be too fast to apply reason to every decision. We have to trust ourselves. This inner voice has many names—gut feeling, deeper self, or intuition of the heart—but whatever you call this guiding feeling, it has a long tradition.
“The heart is the principal center, not the heart of the body, but the heart which is the depth of the mind, for the mind is the surface of the heart. The heart and mind are as one tree: the root is the heart and the branches; fruits, flowers, and leaves represent the mind. The heart is at the bottom of thought, imagination, and all. Feelings always belong to the heart, thought to the mind.” —Hazrat Inayat Khan
When Hazrat Inayat Khan says, “There is a source of wisdom beyond my mind,” he is opening himself to “listening to a deeper voice that comes from [the] heart’s guidance.” This voice can guide us in our endeavors. It can lead us toward new jobs, new relationships, new levels of physical health, and new chapters in our lives. Most importantly, perhaps, it can also guide us inward so that we can get in touch with our source for self exploration and understanding.
Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM), developed by Puran and Susanna Bair from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s teaching and spiritual traditions, is the practice of tuning into your heartbeat. Through HRM, you coordinate your breath to your physical heartbeat, or pulse. You can use the physical heart as a gateway into the deeper self and listen to the heart as the source of guidance. When making a decision, we ask the heart a question, focus on it, and breathe in time with our heartbeat, creating a physical and emotional foundation that is quiet and calm. From this place of stillness, you can more easily hear the answer from within.
Some may ask, “why the heart?” According to Hazrat Inayat Khan and many Sufi mystics throughout the millennia, the heart is the seat of the soul, a door to the spiritual realm. At iamHeart, we see “the heart” both as an organ that defines our personality and as a metaphor for the deeper, unconscious mind. There are three key ways in which the heart can be thought of as a doorway to a deeper self: in meditation, in our biology, and in practice.
First, the heart creates a focal point during meditation. With its steadfast beat and palpable rhythm, we can breathe in time with it. The heart brings us into our bodies so that we can focus less on what is outside ourselves, direct our attention within, and more clearly feel what else is in our depths.
Second, the heart contains neurons—the same kinds of cells found in the brain—that allow it to regulate its rhythm and pass along vital information to the rest of your body. This intrinsic cardiac nervous system can be thought of as the heart’s “little brain.” There is a rich connection between the heart’s neurons and many other internal organs, including the brain, through the vagus nerve. Coordinating your breathing with the rhythm of your heart activates these neurons to slow the heart and spread signals of safety and calm throughout the body. The relaxed state that you find yourself in can offer a stillness that allows new parts of the mind to activate.
Third, your heart is accessible anytime, anywhere, and during any practice. By simply putting your hand on your heart or turning your attention to the center of your chest, you can sense your heartbeat and breathe, feeling your body, heart and mind start to settle. This calm releases a fuller intelligence that may be less accessible during times of stress.
Next time you question your path forward, your purpose, or self, consider the heart. Consider something deeper than you “know,” beyond your familiar control. Find your heartbeat, and take a deep breath—and a step forward.
iamHeart was founded by Puran & Susanna Bair in 1988 with the mission of sharing the benefits of Heart Rhythm Meditation with a global audience. If you’re interested in these methods and practices, visit our website, iamHeart.org, where you can get guided meditations, information, and access to our app, Breath & Heart, our books, Living From the Heart, Follow Your Heart, or Energize Your Heart, and or join one of our upcoming Zoom classes. We also offer longer training certifying teachers of Heart Rhythm Meditation.