heart rhythm

Heart Rhythm Meditation

Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM) is an ancient method of meditation that has been expanded and developed by Puran Bair and Susanna Bair of the Institute for Applied Meditation. The method was described in the 1998 book Living from the Heart, by Puran Bair, and in the 2007 book Energize Your Heart in 4 Dimensions, by Puran and Susanna Bair.

The method of HRM involves conscious breathing, use of the full lung capacity, a concentration on the heart (both the physical heart and the emotional or poetic heart) and an intervention in the breath to make it rhythmic, through the coordination of the breath and heartbeat. Several different rhythmic patterns are used, including making the length of the inhale even with the length of the exhale, for example, 8 beats in, 8 beats out; this is called “The Swing Breath”. Another pattern involves holding the breath, for example, 8 beats in, 8 beats hold, 8 beats out. Another pattern involves a longer holding of the breath, so that the holding period equals the breathing period, for example, 8 beats in, 16 beats hold, 8 beats out; this is called “The Square Breath”. The method of HRM does not involve holding the breath after an exhalation, only after an inhalation.

Variations of the Square Breath

Because of its ancient history, other interpretations abound, but these other variations may not center on the heart or the heartbeat. For example, call-in radio personality Dr. Joy Browne describes a practice she calls 'square breathing' in a chapter of her recent book "Getting Unstuck". Dr. Browne does not use the heartbeat, but counts seconds. With this method, for each breathing element, (in, out, hold) one can use any count. Dr. Browne's square breathing is defined as N seconds in, N seconds hold, N seconds out, ending with N seconds hold. This practice is never done within HRM, for it is incompatible with the full breath. If you can hold your breath after the end of the exhalation, you have not exhaled fully. The average breath rate is 16 times a minute, which approximates a rhythm of 2 seconds in and 2 seconds out. The example of 8 seconds per element results in 2 breaths per minute. While possible for veteran practitioners, most beginners would have great difficulty achieving this. Beginners can start with an easy 2 seconds per element, resulting in 8 breaths per minute. The number of seconds per element can then be increased gradually with practice.

The Heart

In Energize Your Heart (2007) Puran and Susanna Bair describe the heart as follows:

Everyone has a heart, but the capacity of that heart varies greatly. You can behave with grace and nobility when you have energy in your heart, but when that energy runs out, you can become fearful, stingy, uncaring and mundane. You can recharge your heart by energizing it, but every expression - words and deeds - deplete the heart, some more than others. The heart is also depleted by old hurts that leak energy through open wounds. The capacity of your heart, and the condition of its wounds, determines how long you can hold your heart energy and therefore how quickly you will be depleted by life.

Energizing your heart in daily practice also increases the capacity of your heart to hold more energy. It’s like putting coins in a piggy bank - when you consistently put in more coins than you take out, you need a bigger and bigger bank.

Consider your heart to be a container of energy. What is the energy that the heart contains? We call this energy "love." We mean by this not some romantic, poetic notion, but a powerful energy that drives your unconscious decisions, draws people and resources to you, inspires your most creative ideas, and gives you the self-confidence and courage to follow them. The size of this container varies, according to how your heart has been expanded or constricted in your life so far...

In order to participate in our own heart's growth and development, we need a model of the heart. We propose a model of four dimensions that is intuitive and which is already in use in our common language. First, let's define the multiple homonyms of "heart": the physical heart, the energetic-emotional heart, and the spiritual heart. The physical heart is visible; the energetic heart is measurable and its emotions are observable; the spiritual heart is invisible. But these three hearts are linked so closely that each affects the other; in reality they form one multi-layered heart.

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