The key to regulate the heartbeat lies in simply shifting focus on the breath and directing awareness to the heart, writes V N MITTAL
Even after a successful heart surgery a few years ago, the rhythm of my heartbeats was nowhere to be found and I lay helpless in the Intensive Care Unit with tubes feeding me through my veins and a machine pumping oxygen to enable me to breathe and survive. It was in this situation that a team of heart surgeons decided to implant a pacemaker in my chest to regulate the rhythm of my heartbeats. The dependence of my heart on the pacemaker was observed to be over 99%.
In the initial years, the dependence on the pacemaker did not seem to change much. Soon, surprisingly, I started showing signs of significant improvement from the third year onwards of its implantation. Not only did the dependence begin to decline, but also the battery life of the implanted pacemaker remained unchanged over the past two years. My regimen of a personalised meditation practice seemed to have curtailed dependence on the pacemaker.
Meditation is all about a shift in focus and awareness.
In my way of doing meditation, I drew upon Heart Rhythm Meditation developed by Bairs at the Institute for Applied Meditation.
HRM is a downward meditation, where you are centred in your body through connection with your heart- beat. The method uses conscious breathing, use of full lung capacity, a concentration on the heart and an intention in the breath to make it rhythmic through the coordination of breath and heartbeat.
I focussed on my breath and directed awareness to the heartbeats by counting the pulse rate. Counting the pulse rate was necessary in view of the objective to activate the heartbeats’ rhythm.
The breathing rhythm affects the physical heart, reflects our emotions and our internal physiological and unconscious states. With a focus on the breath, the internal state had calmed down and the heartbeats became more rhythmic.
Apparently, the heart healed itself as breath was used to send appreciation and direct attention to it and all feelings it held.
In all forms of meditation, attention on breathing and awareness act as a vehicle to transport you not only to inner peace and relaxation but also beyond it to the higher state of consciousness. Steps to regulate the heartbeat:
1. Sit on a chair with eyes closed in a relaxed position. Choose a room with least disturbance. Use a pillow to brace your lower back.
2. Now imagine that you are breathing in and out of your heart. Breathe slowly, deeply and rhythmically and enjoy the feeling of nourishing your being with a full and conscious breath.
3. Do not try to chase away your thoughts, noises, and feelings that might come up. Instead, try to bring back your attention to breath. See, if you can watch your breath for 15 minutes or more in the above way.
4. Now you are ready to go further. Try to notice the duration of each phase of each breath. Counting one, generally corresponds to the pace of the heart — one second is the average time between heartbeats. The point is to make the in-breath and the out-breath take the same amount of time. This is a balancing practice and has a harmonising effect on the breath, body, emotions and the mind.
5. Finally, try to be aware of your pulse rate and the heartbeat. Pulse may show up in your hands, neck, temple or any other place. In case of difficulty, go ahead and place your hands over your heart or feel your pulse in the normal way at your wrist or neck.
6. Now count the heartbeats as reflected in the pulse using whatever count you found worked before to make the breath even. You are now allowing the breath to be a multiple of the heart rate. This way, you are experiencing the harmonising of the two most pervasive rhythms of your life. ■
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