THE HEART AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MIND
The emergent levels / descriptions / functions of the heart. How are the mind and cognition more than the brain? What are the literal and figurative roles of the heart in connecting body and mind?
What does it mean to listen to your heart?
When you take your pulse or plug your ears, you are listening to the beat of your heart-as-a-physical-thing. When you pay attention to your body’s reactions – the warmth of your skin, the butterflies in your stomach, the upward curve of your lips – you are listening to your heart-as-an-emotional-experience. When you use words to express yourself, you are listening to your heart-as-self-awareness. When you find personal meaning in a story, you are listening to your heart-as-a-deep-understanding.
From the pumping of blood through the body, to the bodily feelings associated with the mental feelings of being in love, to the ideas about where we find our sense of home, the heart is an essential element of human life. As our scientific and cultural understanding of the heart continues to evolve, there are certain themes that suggest emergent truths. How might the heart’s literal and figurative relationships to the body, brain, and mind inform the ways we think about cognition?
How the Heart Actually Pumps Blood. TedED.
Science Bulletins: Mapping Emotions in the Body. American Museum of Natural History.
Maria Popova. What Is an Emotion? William James’s Revolutionary 1884 Theory of How Our Bodies Affect Our Feelings. BrainPickings.
You Are Here. AbsurdWordPreferred.
The Mind-Heart Connection
TIPPETT: So, you point out that at the beginnings of science as we know it, in Egypt and Greece, the brain was viewed as pretty uninteresting. And it was the heart that was considered the seat of intelligence and consciousness. And one of the frontiers you work on now is how we are understanding the myriad ways the brain and the heart communicate … work back and forth on each other. And, in fact … we are understanding the incredible mystery and majesty of the brain, we’re also again — but in a very new way from ancient Egypt — understanding the heart as an organ of intelligence …
DOTY: I think you’re saying it exactly correctly. I think that, in fact, poets have, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, talked about this connection … And it was this understanding that deep emotions are expressed in the heart, and that there is this, if you will, mind-heart connection that’s extraordinarily powerful. And we now know through anatomy and a variety of studies that there’s immense amount of neural innovation that comes from the brain, the brain stem into the heart. And it’s a two-way street, and they can have powerful effects on each other.
Krista Tippett and James Doty. The Magic Shop of the Brain. On Being.
In Japanese, there are three words for “heart”: shinzou, which refers to the physical organ, ha-to, which is the Anglicized word for a love heart, and kokoro, which … unites the notions of heart, mind, and spirit: It sees these three elements as being indivisible from one other …
Researchers are beginning to break down conceptual barriers and explore what artists, writers, mystics, and dreamers of many cultures have long acknowledged: the mysterious tie between heart and mind, a.k.a., kokoro.
Ephrat Livni. This Japanese word connecting mind, body, and spirit is also driving scientific discovery. Quartz.
For Mencius, the locus of philosophical activity and self-cultivation is the xin (hsin), a term that denotes both the chief organ of the circulatory system and the organ of thought, and hence is translated here and in many other sources as “heart-mind.” Mencius’ views of the divine, political organization, human nature, and the path toward personal development all start and end in the heart-mind […]
A heart-mind that sympathizes is the sprout of co-humanity [ren]; a heart-mind that is aware of shame is the sprout of rightness [yi]; a heart-mind that defers to others is the sprout of ritual propriety [li]; a heart-mind that approves and condemns is the sprout of wisdom [zhi] …
By fully developing one’s heart-mind, one knows one’s nature, and by knowing one’s nature, one knows Heaven.
Jeffrey Richey. Mencius (c. 372 – 289 B.C.E.). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Haty & Ib
The heart played a central part in how the Egyptians thought about the functioning of the body … A tubular system was rightly said to go from the heart “to all members” and the heart was said “to speak out of the vessels of every limb” … Egyptians saw the heart as the “source of life and being” …
The anatomical heart was the haty, the word ib referring to the heart as a metaphysical entity embodying not only thought, intelligence, memory, and wisdom, but also bravery, sadness, and love. It was the heart in its sense of ib that was weighed in the famous judgment scene in the Ani papyrus … against the feather of Maʿat (i.e., against what was deemed right and true).
Death: Ancient Egypt. Britannica (Online).
The Heart-Shaped Heart
“It didn’t mean love before the 13 th and 14 th centuries,” says Eric Jager, author of The Book of the Heart … As the idea of romantic love began to take shape during that medieval period, so did the symbolism. “[People at the time] thought of our hearts as books of memory, a place where God’s commands are written, and [believed] feelings for the beloved were somehow written on your heart” …
In the Middle Ages … the heart had taken its shape and had come to mean love — just in time for the organ to lose some of its symbolic importance in the human body, as the popular understanding of medicine evolved. The idea of the heart as the spot where feeling was literally recorded lost some of its power. “The brain takes over,” as Jager puts it.
Olivia B. Waxman. How the Valentine’s Day Heart Got Its Shape. Time.
The heart shape (♥) is an ideograph used to express the idea of the “heart” in its metaphorical or symbolic sense as the center of emotion, including affection and love, especially (but not exclusively) romantic love.
As a painter paints pictures on a wall, the intellect goes on creating the world in the heart always.
— attributed to Brahmananda Saraswati
Bangambiki Habyarimana. Inspirational Quotes For All Occasions.
Nacho Diaz. Self Portait.
This content is being created and curated as part of a project exploring how changing the ways we think about thinking can revolutionize the ways we change the world. See the Emergent Cognition Project overview to learn more.