Inspiring & Aspiring from the Heart
By Denise Ervin RN, BSN, NC-BC
What does it mean to inspire and aspire from the heart? Why is it an important part of our overall health and well-being? I started to incorporate heart-centered work into my nursing practice over 17 years ago, and the results have been life-changing. As a nurse, my first instinct is always to teach, so let’s start with the basics.
Our body is made up of two hearts, the physical heart and the spiritual heart. The physical heart is about the size of a fist and has four chambers and four values. Its purpose is to pump blood to our vital organs. As we all know, the physical heart is a major organ and is vital to life. The spiritual heart is the energy center and our intuition. One must feel the spiritual heart. You may hear people say that someone is warm-hearted or kind-hearted or that they have a good heart. We talk about the spiritual heart less than we do the physical heart; however, the spiritual heart plays a major role in our overall health and well-being.
Now let’s define the difference between inspire and aspire. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “inspire” is “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.” The definition of “aspire” is “to seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal.” In and of themselves, these words are very powerful, but if we apply these concepts to our hearts, the effect will be immeasurable.
When our heart is inspired, we allow it to influence, move, or guide our actions in life. When we aspire from the heart, we direct our spiritual heart’s hopes and desires towards achieving a goal.
How can these two concepts benefit both hearts? I often explain to clients that the spiritual heart requires positive energy to flow freely, just as the physical heart needs the blood to flow freely. When the blood and energy are moving through our body with ease, the risk for “blockages” is less. When someone has a physical blockage in their heart, they may need stents or open-heart surgery. But what can we do when energy is “backed up” in the spiritual heart? How do we open blockages caused by stress or unresolved emotions? Heartfulness Meditation is a tool that we can use to keep that positive energy moving.
Why is Heartfulness Meditation so important? Research shows that stress causes inflammation in our bodies. This inflammation can increase our risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Practices using mind-body interventions such as meditation may be clinically useful in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Also, according to a 1998-2007 clinical trial, meditation provides a significant reduction in the risk of mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors. Cardiologist Dr. Mimi Guareri, in The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret of Healing, states that prevention is the best intervention. Prevention includes healthful macro and micro nutrition, adequate sleep and restoration, environmental protection, energy system balance, spiritual and social balance, emotional and mental balance, stress resilience and physical activity.
Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, states, “Meditation can be a useful part of cardiovascular risk reduction, along with diet and exercise.” It has also been shown to decrease stress and anxiety.
The journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes ran a study in 2012, in which 201 people with coronary heart disease were asked to either a) take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise, or b) take a class on transcendental meditation. Researchers followed up with participants for the next five years and found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
The brain function during meditation has been documented using electrophysiology, single photon emission computed tomography, PET, and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results differ somewhat, possibly owing to the use of different forms of meditation, but in general show increased signals in brain regions related to regulation and attentional control, with increased release of dopamine.
To respond to the demands of being a bedside nurse and nurse coach, I had to develop a self-care practice. The health of my physical and spiritual heart has been of utmost importance. I utilize Heartfulness Mediation, exercise, mindfulness and a balanced diet to treat the various health issues that I have encountered and to prevent additional health imbalances.
I encourage you begin to look at your hearts in a different light. Both are vital and need unique attention. Meditation and prevention practices will instill balance within our bodies, reduce systemic inflammation, calm the brain and create more awareness about our own health and healing.