Activating the Heart’s Intelligence: The Science (Howard Martin)

Howard Martin from the Institute of HeartMath presents scientific research regarding heart intelligence, and how our thoughts and emotions create patterns of coherence or incoherence in our electromagnetic energy field and possibly influence the earth’s own geomagnetic field in positive or negative ways.


It’s an honor and privilege to be here in my home community, talking about the thing that means most to me, which is my heart. This journey goes back a long way for me now, over forty years. I started when I was three. But a long time now, and it started with a couple of realizations when I was a young man.

I realized that life for me had to be about continuous growth. That was what was most important, that seemed to be what life was about, what everything around me was trying to do whether they were conscious of it or not. And I also realized that life had to be about service to others. Whatever you gain you need to find a way to give it. It was an incomplete feeling, or an incomplete circuit, if you didn’t give back something from what you gained in your life.

And that process led me to a discovery of heart, exploration of heart which has been my life’s work. But enough about me, except one more thing I should tell you and that is, that I’ve lived here proudly in Boulder Creek now for twenty one years but I’m originally from the south.

Now, I think, is an important time to be alive. We’ve reached a critical juncture where humanity is making choices, where there’s a revolution unfolding—socially, spiritually, consciously, all kinds of different ways is happening. And this year, this very year that we’re in right now, is a very important choice point here. We’re making decisions today that are going to affect our future for a very long time. There are choices that are going to affect our individual lives, our own fulfillment, and then the future of many, many things in the world. I think that’s what the conference like today is all about, people coming together to share in new ideas to help us all make the choices that we need to make.

In the context of these changing times we face challenges. But we also are finding solutions. One of the things you see emerging in the middle of all this is an intelligence we’ve had for a long  time, that we access with some consistency, but usually not with regularity. Something we’ve all heard about, something we all revere when we really make contact with it. And it is the intelligence of the heart itself.

And Heartmath is a lot of things, but if I look at it simplistically and say what are we really doing there, we’re really exploring and discovering new things and then passing on information about the intelligence of the heart.

When i speak about the intelligent of the heart, I’m talking about this aspect of us we have inside that goes right down to the physical heart where we now know new things about our physical heart we’d never known before. And I’ll share some of these things in just a minute.

Qualities of the Heart

But beyond the physical heart we have a lot more going on in regards to what heart really is. It is a source of wisdom and intelligence within us. It’s high speed, it’s intuitive, it’s discriminating. It’s that place where the authentic self, the real core of our self, emerges from. It’s the birthplace of emotions we revere the most in our lives—love, care, compassion, appreciation. Those kinds of emotions long, long ago associated with this word ‘heart.’

As I said earlier, when we access this part of ourselves, it gives us greater discrimination over things, a new ability to see into ourselves, our world and others. It is that place we access when we’re able to do what we usually can’t. It’s really our own source of self-security, place we go to when we need to find the answers to things. It’s where the hero within is born from. And what I like to think about heart, ’cause I’m going through my life trying to discover more about it, is it really is my own best friend, and my most reliable guide to making decisions big and small.

To this point I’ve been talking–I guess you could call it—philosophically, inspirational about heart. You’ve heard these things before. At Heartmath we’ve done lots of scientific research to look at heart in a different way, into unfolding a new understanding of heart that gives us more respect in it. And to do that we’ve used science.

We discovered a lot of things about heart. The heart is in fact a lot more than a blood pump. It sends powerful commands to the brain and to the rest of the body.

Heart-Brain Communication

It does it in four ways. There’s a neurological communication which Doug mentioned. Heart has its own very complex nervous system, sending information to the brain and the head. Brain sends information down to the heart, heart sends information back to the brain, conversation happening all the time.

When researchers map out the neurological traffic in our bodies they clearly see that the heart is sending a lot more information to the brain than it ever gets. If you placed your finger on your wrist you would feel your pulse. That’s a wave of energy created by the squeezing of the heart, pushing the blood through the veins and arteries. It’s called the blood pressure wave, travels through the entire body and influences everything including brain function.

In 1983, something most people don’t know, the heart was actually reclassified as part of our hormonal system, because it produces several and very important hormones. One is called atrial peptide. One of its jobs is to reduce the release of a stress hormone called cortisol. I found that fascinating. The heart’s producing a hormone to back off a stress hormone. I find it’s interesting.

Lastly, where it gets actually most interesting to me, is the electrical heart.  The heart is an electrical organ, it produces by far the strongest source of bioelectricity in our bodies, up to forty to sixty times stronger than the second most powerful source, which is our brain. This electrical energy permeates every single cell in our bodies, and is so strong that it radiates beyond the skin out into space. It’s around us in 360 degrees, and can be measured three to four feet outside of the body.

Heart's Electromagnetic Field

This electromagnetic energy in this field changes depending upon our emotional state. This is where it gets really intriguing. If we’re experiencing strong negative emotions like anger, frustration, resentment–all those things we can often feel–it produces an incoherent spectra in this electromagnetic field.

Conversely, if we begin to experience emotions, the same ones I mentioned before long metaphorically associated with heart—love, care, compassion, kindness, appreciation, tolerance, patience, non-judgment, those kinds of things–it produces a coherent spectra in the field. We’re broadcasting this electromagnetic energy to every single cell in our bodies and then communicating it outward into space.

So there is an electromagnetic communication always going on. So now we move in understanding heart beyond biology into physics. How does my field relate to your field. How do your collective fields together relate. How does the field in this room right now, from the accumulation of association with each other–all the great speakers—how does that field relate to the fields of the earth itself. These are the new things that we’re exploring at Heartmath today.

We can measure some of this by looking at what’s called our heart rhythms. The medical term is Heart Rate Variability analysis. Didn’t I say that good? I’m almost turning into a Californian. Heart Rate Variability analysis.

Heart Rate Variability Analysis

What that means is our heart rhythms; it’s different than heart rate. Timing between heartbeats changes between every single heartbeat, and as you you map this out very complex patterns emerge. It shows you a lot about what’s going on in the body, about our physical health, and about the quality of heart-brain communication.

In the top you see, in both these, two hundred seconds of data across the horizontal axis, you see beats per minute on the vertical axis. In the top view we have someone in Heartmath research lab experiencing the feeling of frustration. What happens is their heart rhythm patterns become very jagged and irregular, all over the place. It’s not good for our physical health and actually sends signals to the brain to begin to shut down the higher perceptual centers in our brain. It’s called cortical inhibition.

The bottom view is the same person, a few minutes later. What have they done? They’ve shifted from feeling frustration to feeling a heart-related emotion, appreciation. Now you see the smooth sine wave-like pattern. This is what high performance looks like. This is what high quality communication between heart and brain looks like. It’s when you see that sine wave-like pattern. This is really good for our health and it sends a signal to the brain that opens the brain up. It activates higher perceptual centers in the brain. It’s called cortical facilitation. We have access to our higher thinking capacity, and that’s where we solve our problems, isn’t it.

All this relates to changes going on in heart, not just in brain. So the old term that we’ve all heard, a change of heart changes everything, takes on new understanding.

Now, once we discovered all this we developed technology–software–that could measure changes in our heart rhythms, display those changes, and then determine the quality of them by using what’s called a measurement of coherence, divided into low, medium and high. And right now I’m going to demonstrate that to you in real time. And show you how powerful this really is.

So I have a willing volunteer that I met backstage just a few minutes ago…

I will attach the sensor to Allie here. It’s just a sensor that’s going to plug into, attach this earpiece to your earlobe. This is just plugged into the usb port of the computer. Make sure we’re switched over now to the computer on stage. What I’m gonna do to start this, first of all make sure Allie’s got a good pulse. You’ll see that come up at the bottom pretty soon. In just a few seconds you’ll see Allie’s heart rate rhythms happening at the top of the screen, in real time. This is what her heart rhythms look like right now. She’s up here on stage in front of a whole lot of people. I’ve already let you know that these heart rhythms reflect internal emotional states, so I’m sure there’s no reason for her to be nervous. And you can see, they’re changing, occurring in real time, as we do this.

Now, one thing that that I’d like to know from you Allie, it’s the only real thing I’m going to ask you, are you any good in singing? Really, why  not? Well, I’m not going to make you sing then. Here’s what I would like you to do.  Let me make sure I get this suggested right. Now what I want you to do is I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to focus your attention right in the center of your chest, right in the area of the heart.

Now i want you to breathe naturally and normally, naturally and normally, just a little bit deeper than you normally would. Nice deep breaths, and as you do, I want you to pretend is that the breath is flowing in and out right through the center of your chest. It’s called heart-focused breathing. By the way you’re doing just fine.

Now I want you to stay with that heart-focused breathing, and now I want you to you feel a positive emotion. Maybe it’s the lover or care you have for someone or something in your life. Don’t try too hard, just make an easy-does-it process and make sure you got the breathing going on at the same time. And feel a positive emotion. Love or care for someone or something in your life.

Now what we see here where she started on the left hand side, you can see that’s her heart rhythms, she’s up here, she’s a bit nervous. And then right in here somewhere is where I started picking on her about singing and stuff. You can see, remember the pattern I showed you in the other slide where the person was in the state of frustration, which you were not, but this is a hard thing to do.

Heart Rhythms before and after

Then she began to do a simple technique where she began to access the intelligence of her heart—heart focus, heart-focused breathing, heart feeling–you can see the smooth sine wave-like pattern beginning to emerge. She did a great job being up here for the first time in front of all you folks. And that shows you the power that you all have inside, that I have inside, to make these changes and then create a different effect in the brain by changing what you do in your heart. Thank you so much.

We took it another level, and now what we’re doing at Heartmath at the Global Coherence Initiative is we are trying to engender, and then measure, global coherence. What we found is that there is evidence of a global effect when a large number of people create similar outgoing emotional waves, whether stressful and incoherent or positive and coherent. There’s a global effect when a large number of people are experiencing something similar emotionally.

When there’s a natural disaster or some kind of very bad news, don’t you kind of feel that in the air? Don’t you sense a ripple of energy that’s going on around the world as people begin to pick up on it through the news and that sort of thing? Well, that, we’re finding, is true. There’s a global effect depending upon what humanity is feeling emotionally.

Heart-Global Connection Hypothesis

We have a hypothesis that a strong collective emotional intention has a measurable impact on the earth’s geomagnetic field. Geomagnetic field and ionosphere, these are protective layers around the earth. They’re part of the earth as a living system. They protect us from the incoming solar radiation, cosmic rays, solar flares and things like that. And they are part of the earth.

What we believe is that mass human emotion interacts with these fields. There’s a lot of research that’s already been done showing that these fields affect us–changes in health, changes  in social behavior.  A lot of things are being tracked now, the changes in these earth’s energetic fields. If they’re affecting us, our belief is that we’re affecting them. And to begin to look at this and to see if this is true.

Global Coherence Monitoring System

To see if this hypothesis is real we started the Global Coherence Initiative, and part of that is we are installing sensor sites around the world, very sophisticated sensors that measure subtle changes in the earth’s energetic fields. We have a sensor in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We have one in Saudi Arabia. We have one in the United Kingdom. We’ll have one in New York state this month, and then next fall we have one going in in New Zealand. Ultimately we will need twelve.

What we’re doing is experimentation around looking at changes that go on in these fields and trying to correlate those with changes that are occurring in society, changes that are occurring in the overall emotional state of humanity itself. If this works, we will have proof that all of our thoughts, our feelings, our prayers, and our intentions, all of that is more real than we ever believed before.

We’re kind of listening in for the first time to the brain waves and heart rhythms of our planet. And what we want to do with this is not just to prove scientifically that these things exist but to bring people together to use the power of our hearts, the power of our love, our care, our appreciation and our energetic intention, to create positive changes in our world and facilitate this new wave of revolutionary thinking and revolutionary living that we’re on the threshold of. Thank you so much and take care.

About Howard Martin

Howard Martin - HeartMathHoward Martin brings more than 30 years of experience in business and personal development to the position of Executive Vice President, Strategic Development at HeartMath Institute. Howard’s responsibilities include global alliances, marketing, and program and product development. Howard has been instrumental in assisting Doc Childre in the development and teaching of HeartMath’s programs since its inception. He speaks internationally on the HeartMath approach to advancing human performance that is based on compelling scientific research–linking heart function with health, emotional well-being and intelligence.

Howard is co-author with Doc Childre of The HeartMath Solution, published in 2000 by Harper San Francisco. He also developed Nightingale-Conant’s tape series, “The HeartMath Method.”

Howard is a dynamic speaker, and has delivered hundreds of workshops and keynote addresses to audiences ranging from corporations, to the armed forces, to educators, families, and human service providers. As a key spokesperson for HeartMath, he has conducted hundreds of media interviews. His appearances include CNN Headline News, U.P.I. Radio network, WNBC-TV-New York, WGN-TV-Chicago, Discovery Channel-Beyond 2000, CBN/Canada, New Women, Muscle and Fitness, San Francisco Chronicle, Billboard, and the Boston Globe.  For more details, visit and


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