In today's modern Western world many of us seem to have lost touch with that aesthetic, insightful part of ourselves, our "gut level" or heart feeling. It's been noted by many of today's prominent Medical Doctors and Scientists, that we, in the Western world, have become preoccupied with living in our heads. In fact most people in the Western world, when asked where they live, point to their heads.
"For centuries, scientists, philosophers, physicians, composers, poets and writers have argued about the function of the heart. Is it's sole purpose to move blood throughout our bodies, or does it do something more? The ancient Greeks called it aesthesis, which means "to breathe in." They recognized that the moment of touch, whether it was an actual physical touch or a deep connection between souls, was accompanied by an intake of breath or particular kind of insight. They considered it the moment when the soul essence inside us, and the soul essence from something outside us, met and mingled. It is the root of our word "aesthetic." ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner
We are a brain culture. We feel that nothing is of value or exists if we can't categorize, analyze, evaluate and compute a thing. Technology hasn't helped. We are literally plugged into our world. How often are you or do you see someone talking on the phone no matter where they are? I've seen people shopping in the grocery store asking the person on the other end of the line where to find the right box of cereal instead of being present and simply looking for the cereal section and then the box with the right brand name on it. I've seen many people walk down the street totally oblivious to the outside world because they are plugged into their phone or Ipod. Because of this we seem to be out of touch with ourselves and others. I'm not making a judgment call, just an observation.
Have you noticed how often you may look for some type of distraction and/or instant gratification by watching TV, surfing the net, instant messaging, shopping online, or learning a new role, aria or song by only listening over and over again to a CD. Sometimes we will do anything so we don't have to deal with what's going on inside of us. We've all been there and done that. We've been socialized to believe it is through what we hear and see that we know and understand what the truth is. It's as though our energy and awareness lies outside us, over there with what others think of or need from us. We've been taught to engage our heads, but seem to have forgotten our hearts, our gut level feelings. Have you noticed this about yourself and if so, do you sometimes feel off center? How long has it been since you connected and followed through with what your "gut level" (heart) was telling you? How long has it been since you felt a real, deep connection in a relationship, including the one with yourself?
By leaving our hearts out of the equation, we fail to scratch the surface of the real self. Being in touch with our heart means opening it up so we can fully experience life at both its best and its worst. Experiencing life in this manner is how all of us learn things. This gives us an opportunity to find out what works and what doesn't, what our likes and dislikes are, or perhaps have a better handle on how to deal with relationships in the future. So, thinking only with your head is not always the answer.
On the other hand, most other cultures, the people who still live close to the earth, experience life very differently than we do in the West. They seem to perceive things that we cannot see, things that they are surprised we do not perceive. The native Hawaiians believe that it is through the heart, that we know the truth. The Hopi Indians, Chinese, Zen, Buddhists, and many others believe this also. The explanation for this is simple and profound: when you ask them where in the body they live, they point to the heart. They trust their intuition. They "know" and understand their own lives and how they fit into the world.
Why am I talking about this subject with so much passion? Because I feel so many singers today learn and sing primarily from their heads, not their hearts. Let me explain. I'm sure you have been to performances where the sets, costumes, lighting, orchestra and even the singing was perfect but something was missing and you left the theater feeling unsatisfied, disappointed and even bored. The heart connection was missing. I crave that and would love to help restore that wonderfully powerful bond between an artist, the music, the words, the feelings and the audience. Then you wouldn't even notice if the singer missed some high notes or forgot some lines, or the scenery fell over, because you would be swept up in something far greater. It is a place that touches you deep inside, that is intrinsic, instinctual and familiar. You would be experiencing something so forceful and compelling time would stand still. Yes, that is how momentous a performance can be when done from the heart. It's not about making your singing perfect, whatever that means! It's about trusting the work you have done up to this moment and then letting your heart take over. It's about permitting you the singer/performer and the audience to become one. When you open your heart in this way the audience can't help but open theirs as well. Then the magic begins!
"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day."
~ Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Marie Rilke
To explain how this works scientifically and because Westerners do look for scientific analysis of any theory, I thought I would start with some of the research I am aware of being conducted by Institutions such as the HeartMath Institute, Stanford, The Heart Science Foundation, University of Arizona and Harvard. They are now studying consciousness and the heart connection. Of particular interest is the idea of "entrainment" which could help explain a couple of things. One is the immediate closeness we sometimes feel when meeting someone for the first time. Think about a time when you got caught up in someone else's enthusiasm. In addition, it's the inexplicable excitement, electricity, energy that is often associated with a stellar performance. It's about charisma!
So, here we go. Up until the late sixties, the study of consciousness was focused solely on the brain; that part of us which distinguishes us from the rest of nature. Since then many doctors, researchers and clinicians began to look at the heart and its role in cognition and awareness. What they discovered is that our organs and bodies are highly complex, nonlinear organisms in which the whole is far more than the sum of its parts. Ary L. Goldberger, M.D., director of the Rey Laboratory and professor of medicine at Harvard University likened it to the behavior of all molecules.
"What is a soul? It's like electricity - we don't really know what it is, but it's a force that can light a room."
~ Ray Charles
When billions of molecules are enclosed in a container, their movements are at first random. But at some moment in time that can never be predicted, all the molecules spontaneously synchronize and begin to move and vibrate together as one coordinated whole, or system. In that moment of synchronicity, something comes into being that is more than the sum of its parts. And that something - call it the soul of the thing - cannot be found in any of the parts. That "soul thing" stimulates and acts on parts that in turn stimulate more parts, etc. A continuous stream of very rapid information, in the form of temperature fluctuations, velocity, pressure, chemical, electric, and magnetic begins to flow from the parts to the whole and back again in order to stabilize the system. Jan Walleczek, biologist at Stanford University, says this "soul thing" is the electromagnetic signature which tells the receiving organisms how these inputs affect its state of being. This message is analyzed and integrated into the organism and a response is initiated.
All living systems work this way. The heart is one of these nonlinear, self-balancing systems. It functions not only as a powerful endocrine gland, but also as a unique kind of brain - a cognitive and perceptual organ and a powerful electromagnetic generator and receiver. So the heart can act as a "mind" or an organ of perception because approximately 60 percent of heart cells are neural cells, which function similarly to those in the brain.
When the heart is fully engaged, it produces an electromagnetic field 5,000 times stronger than the brain's and can be detected by sensitive scientific instruments up to 10 feet away. It is strongest from the body's surface to 18 inches away, but continues indefinitely into space, like radio waves, according to biologists like Mae-Wan Ho at the Institute of Science in Society. When you simply meet or spend time with someone, your two heart fields, which overlap each other, oscillate in unison, and there is a rapid exchange of information; a kind of dialogue begins. This kind of behavior is called "entrainment" and is natural to all of us.
Imagine the possibilities for a singer when performing from the heart. You could cause the whole audience to experience entrainment and everyone would be in sync with you and your inner vibration. That's the way to take someone on a wonderful journey. How about when you network? If that is a problem for you, all you have to do is invite the "stranger" into your electro-magnetic field space (about 3 feet out from your body), the oscillating hearts exchange information and the dialogue begins. All you have to do is tune into the information you are getting and start the verbal dialogue. This helps both of you feel more comfortable.
"We tend not to choose the unknown, which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little difficult to cope with. And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching."
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The heart also has direct connections to specific centers of the brain which involve such things as: emotional memories, sensory experiences and their meaning, problem solving, reasoning and learning. While this download of information occurs in a language of its own, it rarely happens in words; it flows first through the heart and is then routed along a neural pathway to the brain where it is translated, much as a radio receivers convert radio waves into music. These electromagnetic signals and entrainment dialogue travel from the heart along a neural pathway where they are processed and analyzed in the brain and finally translated into our own native tongue so we can verbalize and articulate when speaking. Think of it this way - in singing, the sound we make travels on the breath; in our bodies, the brain waves ride on top of the heart waves.
What people perceive when they live from their heart is quite different from what they perceive when they live in the head. Think about a singer's performance that moved you - likely the performer was singing the words not just because they were written, but because they moved the singer and the singer was inspired from his/her heart to share that connection with that particular piece of music. Quite different from the perfunctory singer who may have a flawless technique, hits all the high notes and excellent diction, but puts us to sleep.
"I passionately hate the idea of being with it. I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time."
~ Orson Welles
Unfortunately, this kind of emotional perception of the world starts to atrophy in most of us when we begin locating consciousness in the brain, rather than the heart. We may be out of practice, but our capacity to perceive from the heart comes naturally to us and therefore it never fully disappears. We are made for the unique nature of each thing to pass into us through our hearts. With practice it is possible to learn the shape of your heart field as well as you know your own hands, and use your heart as you do your hands, to touch the world around you. Think of the possibilities when there is a blending of a singer's soul essence through the sound of their voice, with other singers onstage, the orchestra and the soul essence of an audience -- it creates entrainment extraordinaire. Imagine the possibilities of representing and presenting your Personal Brand using your heart!
So as you go off to perform this summer keep this information in your heart and give it a try. Whether you are singing, schmoozing, networking or being with your families, practice allowing the heart to be open and sending your electromagnetic field out whether to the person you are having an exchange with or to an entire audience. Dare to feel entrained. Let me know what, if any, differences you notice. Let me know what kind of feedback was manifested from both within yourself and also from others.
Until next time, Ciao, Carol
"There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few catch your heart.pursue those."
~ Michael Nolan