What do the following experiences have in common? (These are lovers' reports on the affectionate exchanges from Peace Between the Sheets)
Tonight will be the eighth or ninth exchange. I am very, very happy to say we are bonding in such a sweet way my feet are not quite reaching the ground during the day. From my perception we are experiencing love and intimacy. It's beautiful, magic, juicy, yummy! There is a huge difference from when we were going at it like rabbits. Just the way she hugs and touches me.
I could not ask for a more loving and willing partner and we laugh a lot, too! I would say that the gratitude that we each feel for this "re-connection" after 30+ years is never far from our consciousness.
My partner and I have just clicked over 2 and a half weeks practising the process, and have spent the past two days connected at the mouth and looking deeply into one another's eyes, like we were when we first met. The level of connection just keeps on surprising us, it's so beautiful.
What I found amazed me. I noticed that I was more interested in this new form of pleasure-giving and receiving than I had ever been in the race for the peak. Indeed, instead of being a goal-oriented "athlete", I now noticed a fondness for the practice itself and the ability to sustain affectionate feelings for my partner.
Somehow things have been magical so far. Just doing touch without an expectation of either reward or rejection has made an enormous difference for both of our comfort levels. My spouse is opening to a newer and higher level of comfort in her own sensuality than I ever thought possible. I am feeling more relaxed and at peace in the relationship than I thought possible.
Could these people be tapping into the power of the heart? It turns out that your heart is anything but a mere pump; it has a profound effect on your outlook and health – and you can choose to enhance its beneficial powers.
Little-known heart facts
Your heart is far more independent of your brain than you may realize. For example, in a fetus, the heart starts beating before the brain is formed. Similarly, a transplanted heart is never connected to the brain of its new host, yet it continues to beat. Did you know your heart has its own 'brain,' a complex consisting of thousands of neurons, which, like the cranial brain, processes information? Your heart doesn't just take orders from your brain either. It exchanges information with it neurologically, hormonally and energetically. Indeed, research reveals that when the brain sends impulses to the heart via the nervous system, the heart doesn't automatically obey. Rather, its response seems to depend upon its analysis of your circumstances. Meanwhile, the heart's signals to the brain also appear to influence your behavior.1 It matters to your health how your heart beats. When your heart is beating in what is termed a 'coherent' way, it appears to give your body healthier signals. Coherence means relatively evenly (but also with slight variations). It also means that the heart is working and resting with each beat. When measured, this is called, "heart rate variability." Coherence has a beneficial effect on your nervous, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems. By contrast, a jagged, disordered heartbeat is associated with high blood pressure and other ailments. When beating coherently, your heart can actually entrain (pull into synchronization) the brain waves of another person. This may be related to the fact that your heart produces the strongest electromagnetic field of any part of your body. It's 40-60 times stronger than the brain's electromagnetic field, and makes EKGs possible from electrodes placed anywhere on your body.2 Some suggest this electromagnetic field is the means by which energy healers can help patients to strengthen their wellbeing. Perhaps it also explains why lovers have noticed some remarkable experiences when they maintain attitudes of adoration and gratitude while making love.
We are just mindblown. We are totally in love, carried, led, held, embraced. Something huge is moving us very gently and we are experiencing something very similar, both of us, not very easily expressible.
After half an hour or so of relative inactivity, I experienced an extraordinary merging moment, where I could no longer sense the boundary between my wife and myself. It felt supremely peaceful and I could have remained like that indefinitely.
Helping your heart
When beating coherently, your heart directs and aligns many systems in your body so that they can function in harmony. However, emotions play a critical role in the way your heart operates. Emotions such as happiness, appreciation, compassion, care, and love improve hormonal balance. They reduce cortisol and increase DHEA. Heart-centered emotions also strengthen your immune system by boosting levels of the beneficial antibody IgA.3 Such feelings also calm the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (the branch that speeds heart rate, constricts blood vessels and stimulates the release of stress hormones), moving you toward the relaxation response, that is, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to dominate. In contrast, emotions such as anger, frustration and feeling stressed keep you in 'flight, flight or freeze' mode, placing unhealthy stress on your body. The link between heart and emotions is bad news if you choose behaviors that increase your tendency to react impulsively and emotionally to every upset. Such behaviors would include those that set you on the dopamine roller coaster of highs and lows, such as binging on junk food, using recreational drugs, alcohol or porn, gambling or using another selfishly for sex. Yet the link between health and emotions is good news if you choose behaviors that increase your ability to stay with heart-healthy emotions. Such behaviors would include willing service to others, meditation/prayer, yoga, simple gratitude, and, of course, generous, affectionate lovemaking. Your relationship with your heart is circular. A healthy heart is a powerful tool in sustaining feelings of wellbeing. But choosing feelings of gratitude and caring supports your heart to help you best. Research has shown that the ideal state of heart coherence (reflecting a peaceful, clear state of awareness) is associated with high performance, reduced stress, increased emotional stability and numerous health benefits (such as better hormonal balance and lower blood pressure). In that state we can more easily choose the very feelings, like appreciation, caring and compass, which most help the heart. One of the greatest gifts of a coherent heart is that it 'slows down the pitch.' Without a filter of edginess, we are slower to assign motives and judgments to others. We see things in a larger context. For example, instead of focusing only on someone's annoying behavior, we may also recall the reasons we have to feel grateful to have that person in our lives. This puts the temporary annoyance in perspective, rendering us less reactive...and others more adorable and forgivable.
Practical heart wisdom
Today's doctors are taught to focus on the bacterial, metabolic and toxic causes of illness, while largely ignoring the effect of thoughts and emotions on health. Therefore, they are inclined to overlook the impact of love, compassion and gratitude on physiological conditions. It was not always so. Various traditions emphasized the need to start with the heart in understanding human health and behavior. For example, in traditional Chinese medicine, the heart is the bridge between the mind and the body. It houses the 'spirit-mind.' Chinese medicine practitioners assess the state of the entire body via the pulse. An ancient Chinese dictionary describes 'silk threads,' which connect the brain with the heart. And in Japanese there is a special word for the mind of the heart, kokoro.4 The Old Testament states, "For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7) In the Kabbalah, the Central Sphere, or heart, holds the key to the mysteries of health, joy, and wellbeing. And in some Yogic practices, one cultivates awareness of one's own heartbeat because the heart is one's internal guru. The ancient practice of controlled intercourse seems to be another path to increased heart coherence. This passage was written by a man who found the technique over a century ago:
The new teaching brought us into a new heaven and a new earth. I cannot tell you how happy we became. We were simply lovers, but such lovers as we had never been before. An indescribable tenderness pervaded all our relations. 5
If you can't try the exchanges with a mate, you can still experiment with increasing your heart coherence using meditation and breathing in and out through your heart. Here's an audio meditation, which we recorded from the text of a book by Belleruth Naparstek.6 (Note: It is a large, 8 MB, file, so be patient.) The author noticed that people's intuitive powers were enhanced by heart coherence. Other people have reported increased creativity, better problem solving, enhanced communication with others, and richer emotional experiences. Who knows? Greater heart coherence may even help to attract a loving partner! Once you get a sense of heart coherence, you can duplicate it even under stress. This gives you the power to experience consistent, positive emotions, instead of constantly reacting to circumstances in a way that increases your stress and clouds your perception. According to The Institute of Heartmath, as you improve heart coherence, you may experience a reduction in sleeplessness, rapid heart rate, fatigue, anxiety, depression, tension, indigestion and body aches. If you do have a partner, choose an exchange (or invent your own), and remind yourself how good it can feel to exchange heart-centered affection with no strings attached. Try breathing through your hearts during your exchange. One visitor to our site said it all very succinctly:
"Just send the energy to the heart." That's simple enough to do.