Thursday, April 7, 2011

#9 Zen and the Mind Mirror

Some days it’s hard to accept what I see in the mirror.   A blemish, a new wrinkle or some other indignity of aging.  Hair growing out my ear?  Really?  Why?

In those moments the challenge is to accept what is.  So I repeat my mantra:  “This is how I am now”.  And if I persevere, some days I can get beyond my ego and enjoy being alive, even with hair growing out of my ear.

 HRV Feedback (HRV-F) has a remarkable property that makes it a “Mind Mirror”.  Most people learn the mechanics of the rhythmic breathing relatively quickly. After that the feedback from the device shifts from being primarily a reflection of how you are breathing, to a reflection of what is happening in your mind.  If your mind is tranquil, that will be reflected by a nice smooth, regular heart-wave (See Post #6.).  And if you are angry and your thoughts scattered, the heart-wave will be jagged and irregular. Sorry, no exceptions.

The Heart-wave reflects the state of the mind because of a direct connection between the emotional right hemisphere of the brain, and the SA node in the heart.  This connection occurs via the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which serves to coordinate brain and body states.  If you are angry because someone just stole your food, your body needs to be in a state that supports “angry behaviors” e.g. grabbing   the food back.  And if you are sharing a tender moment with your lover, the body needs to be in a relaxed, open, receptive state.  The ANS makes this happen.

Some days it’s hard to accept what I see in the Mind Mirror.  After weeks of getting a nice smooth heart-wave I am rather proud of my skill.  Like a little boy who has  grown confident that his finger-painting is great because his mother tells him so every time. But today my heart-wave looks like an ugly, jagged coastline.  I try pleading my case-“I don’t feel that bad, the wave shouldn’t look like that.”   And when that doesn’t work I protest in frustration-“but I’m really good at this!”.  The wave gets even more irregular and ugly.  Now I’m really angry.  Fortunately, just before I throw the damn thing against the wall I have a thought:
                                                "This is how I am now."

As I focus on accepting how I am right now (jagged heart-wave with hair growing out of my ear) my mind begins to settle.  The heart wave begins to settle.  The process continues and my capacity to stand back and observe increases.  The hair growing out of my ear is kind of funny.  But it’s also a little sad.  I’m aging.  And apparently I’m not totally okay with that.  The more I accept my feelings, the more the energy associated with them dissipates, and the smoother the wave gets. Thoughts of aging drift away and a new thought comes to the surface:  I really am good at finger painting.  Always have been.


  1. Just found this post (and the series). Brilliant, really helpful. I struggle to interpret my wayward emwave1 readings, and get non- plussed that I've used the device for over a year now and still haven't learned to shift into coherence consistently and quickly. Sometimes I'm unable to shift at all! I shall definitely try out your "this is how I am now" statement. Thank you.
    I have some further questions however, if I may. Is the sine-wave feedback from the stress-reliever generally more effective for teaching HRV or is it really simply about learning to breathe regularly? Have you heard of anyone (or have experience with) using the hrv feedback as a form of muscle testing eg think of a food and if you stay coherent that food is good for you, if it goes red then you may need to stop eating it for now? Finally, if someone struggles to shift into green could it be related to an actual heart condition?

    1. Breathing regularly at or near your resonance frequency is the first step. The next step requires using mindfulness to identify and observe, but not engage with negative thoughts/feelings in your mind. The only way to "see" these is to view the wave. HRV feedback is thus a "Mindfulness trainer" that is much more powerful than deep breathing alone.

      Yes. Cardiac conduction problems/arrhythmias could compromise the ability to attain coherence and shift into the green.