With news of climate change, war, famine, economic instability, natural disaster, and terrorism bombarding our everyday realities, world peace appears to be an ever-distant dream.
As a species we’ve advanced in so many ways, but that progress has come with consequences. We’ve upset the natural balance of the Earth that we all call home, and as we’re finding out, this has devastating consequences for personal and population health.
At the same time, we have never been better equipped to meet and solve the challenges we face. The interconnectedness of the digital age has empowered ordinary people all over the world to share, collaborate, and create in ways our ancestors could not even imagine. The possibility of worldwide peace and prosperity is closer than it ever has been.
How can we turn the vision of world peace from a cherished ideal into an actual reality? Is it possible that the principles of holistic medicine could play a vital role in quelling the strife plaguing our planet?
Change of Heart
I believe the key to world peace is found within. One can’t give what one does not have, right?
Finding internal peace—of mind, body and soul—optimizes what we can give back to the world, with love and compassion. Peace arises from peaceful people.
Creating these “heartfelt” emotions from the inside out, in all of us--and in the world’s political leaders--is the prime aim of HeartMath, a visionary company that has pioneered the use of heart-rate variability (HRV) as a physiological key to engendering personal and planetary health.
Putting it very simply, violence begins with stress, just as peace begins with inner peace. And stress is clearly on the rise. In one recent survey, 48% of Americans say their stresses have increased over the last 5 years; 33% live in extreme stress, and 73% regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.
HeartMath has developed some easy, effective, positive emotion- focused techniques which studies have proven to be very helpful in reducing stress and anxiety.
“The heart is more than a pump,” says Rollin McCraty,PhD, HeartMath’s director of research. “It transmits electrical energy into every cell of the body and specifically has a connection with our brain and nervous systems.”
This energy releases chemicals into the body and affects it based on how we feel and how we live our lives. Positive energy creates less depression, lowers blood pressure, improves glycemic index, decision-making and overall health.
“The brain is key in interpreting the signals from the heart and the body,” Dr. McCraty states. “If you change the rhythm of the heart, you change the input to the brain. Emotions and appreciation are reflected in the rhythms of the heart.”
HeartMath utilizes simple but powerful wearable tools that measure HRV as an indicator of parasympathetic to sympathetic nervous system balance and coherence: the degree to which mind, the emotions, and the physical body are in synchrony. States of coherence engender—and are engendered by—a sense of peace, well-being, and compassion. Likewise, states of non-coherence are triggered—and are triggered by—external and internal stressors.
Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, the HeartMath Institute has amassed a vast quantity of research---more than 300 peer-reviewed publications--showing that with “depleted” emotions, like frustration, anger, anxiety, and insecurity generate erratic heart rhythm patterns, and the brain recognizes this as stress. It shows up as very jagged HRV tracings.
This, in turn, creates a desynchronized state, raising blood pressure, weakening the immune system, impairing cognitive function and blocking the ability to think clearly. Over long periods, this raises the risk of cardiometabolic and autoimmune disorders, as well as susceptibility to infection.
On the other hand, “heartfelt” emotions, like gratitude, love and caring, produce smooth sine waves on HRV. Greater coherence leads to better health. It may sound woo-woo, but it is extremely scientific, well-validated, and repeatable. HRV monitoring can really tell us a lot!
Over the years, HeartMath has trained thousands of healthcare practitioners, as well as health-seeking non-professionals, in the use of HRV to optimize health and well-being. More recently, the company has expanded its focus to the global energy field.
The Global Coherence Initiative (GCI) is, “an international effort that seeks to activate the heart of humanity and promote peace, harmony and a shift of global consciousness.” Through GCI, HeartMath is leading groundbreaking research on the interconnection between humanity and the Earth’s magnetic fields and energetic systems. The project is a collaboration between GCI and the Global Coherence Monitoring System, a worldwide network of magnetometers that measure resonant frequencies in the Earth’s magnetic fields.
GCI investigators are studying groups of people using HeartMath’s HRV devices all across the world.
“We intended to look at the changes of the earth’s field and HRV activity when time synchronized between subjects, averaged together. We thought there was going to be a noisy line, but actually found that the heart rates were synchronized (slow rate rhythm) to some external signal they were exposed to,” stated Dr. McCraty.
“The take-away is that our hearts were synchronized with rhythms of the Earth; we are in sync with the Earth, and when you get a heart in a coherent state, that increased the synchronization to the Earth’s magnetic field over the day with a 15-minute Heart Lock-In (a specific HeartMath technique). So, when we become more coherent, it affects the Earth’s fields.”
A Carrier Wave
Dr. McCraty hypothesizes, “the Earth’s magnetic field is a carrier wave for biological information like emotional information. We change the information carried by the field when we are coherent. When we become more personally coherent, we are aligning more with the intelligence of our deeper self, so we start acting better, make better decisions, are more kind, more inclusive in our decisions and our behaviors.”
Large numbers of people creating heart-centered states of care, love, and compassion will generate a more coherent energy field that can benefit others and help offset social discord and incoherence.
Dr. McCraty uses the example of a cellphone: “The electromagnetic fields carry your voice to the cell tower--the field is the carrier of the information. On the call, you can be telling them how much you love them or can be screaming angry stuff. The field is the same, but the information being carried is different. If coherent, we align to our deeper intuitive wisdom, sending a coherence signal, and that can be the answer to world peace.”
There is, he says, a feedback loop that exists among all human beings and the earth’s energetic systems. In time, as more individuals stabilize the global field, it will increase the social coherence that will then lead to an increased global coherence.
“This planetary view will be critical for meaningfully and successfully addressing social and economic oppression, wars, cultural intolerance, crime and disregard for the environment.”
Nurturing Unity at the UN
The signals generated by the HeartMath Institute, and the holistic medical movement at large, are extending far beyond the medical world. Global leaders are starting to pay attention.
Consider the case of a high-ranking United Nations advisor I met recently.
Living in full-body pain, working with minimal sleep, and suffering from chronic rashes and brain fog all weighed down on this gentleman (who prefers to remain nameless). His work at the UN, though compelling, was also very stressful which only fueled the dysfunction.
He was ready to make major changes and to embrace a holistic lifestyle. The benefits were fast and far-reaching. “I feel like my life has been reset!” he told me.
“I had an unusual level of headaches, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain, rashes…and within a week of starting this new lifestyle, I was rash and pain-free! It was a challenge for one day, but a true blessing. This is the first time in my adult life that I actually have free time on my hands, and my productivity level has shot up to the sky. I was getting slow, and now I can be faster. I can do a lot more. I can achieve an outstanding level of productivity. It is really amazing. We need to all bring balance back into our lives- through a holistic lifestyle.”
By applying holistic principles, this UN advisor is able to put more of his energy into strategizing towards world peace.
When we offset nature’s balance, the UN advisor states, “it actually puts our chemical balance, our hormonal balance, our immune system, the entire health foundation into a challenge. Our desires will be skyrocketing, our emotions will be totally out of control, and we become an easy target for evil.”
By recognizing internal imbalances and taking steps to address them, we can find greater coherence and peace in our own lives. We can live free of pain and anger. We can think more clearly, and understand one another on a whole new level, operating out of love, not hate.
UN peacebuilding efforts include assisting countries and regions in their transitions from war to peace by strengthening national capacities for conflict management, and laying the foundations for sustainable development.
A growing number of people at the UN now recognize the relationship between individual internal stress and the external interpersonal and political turmoil the UN is so often called on to prevent or manage.
Attitude of Abundance
The main strategies for preventing or de-escalating disputes are preventive diplomacy and preventive disarmament. Preventive diplomacy may take the form of mediation, conciliation, or negotiation. My friend, the UN Advisor helped develop guidelines for mediation/negotiation that he has been implementing since1993.
He states: “If you look at the history of human beings, most of the wars happen around resources. But there is enough; there is actually enough! We just need to educate people, have people live a life based on values and principles, not based on (self) interest and profit. An economical approach to the world is that there isn’t enough. Once you have that approach, all your energy is spent on getting maximum benefit and profit out of the little that is available. That is when you get abuse and power struggles. The majority of that struggle is financial competing interests; it isn’t about ideology or religion.”
Refocusing on what is positive and abundant in peoples’ lives is an important technique to prevent war. To that end, he’s a firm believer in the power of meditation
He brings that perspective to his work with UN ambassadors. “If I do a meditation, I instruct them to do meditation, before I talk to them, to purify our intention, think what is best for humanity or think what is best for your country. Take the “I” or “me” out of the equations--because if you haven’t, you are already lost. Think about the rest of your people, community, and family. Make sure that if you represent an opinion, you are really thinking about the best interest for your people, not just for you. And it works.”
He adds, “whenever you reach a critical point and will lose control, stop the meeting and go out for a walk and let people vent outside of the meeting.”
Since making his own lifestyle shifts, he has become keenly aware of the impact of foods on human behavior. And he’s bringing that to the negotiating table, too.
“One condition I always make, and I know why now, is I wouldn’t allow any soda or sugar or even sometimes, I try to limit the amount of fresh juice being served. Because I need people calm and not over-energized. If there is a meal during the day, it has to be a light meal without dessert.”
He says there’s a general principle at the UN right now: no heavy meals in the middle of serious negotiations. No alcohol, either. “It makes a big difference.”
He was proud to share that he’s been able to convince the powers-that-be to change the lunch menu of the African Union, and instructed the UN’s Minister of Finance and Economics to eat mainly vegetables, fruit, and chicken. Diet, he states, makes a tremendous difference in the quality of the meetings. When the diplomats are eating healthfully, “the environment is totally different, calm, and peaceful; you don’t see anyone overreacting and don’t see anyone bent out of shape.”
Failure of Self-Regulation
Failures of self-regulation are central to many of the health and social problems that plague modern societies. “The most important strength that people need to build is the capacity to self-regulate their emotions, attitudes, and behaviors,” states Dr. McCraty.
Rebalancing begins internally, with an individual, but it soon projects outwardly.
He underscores importance of the interactions between an individual’s personal energetic field, and the broader social and geomagnetic fields in which we all live.
The more we are individually coherent and aligned with our deeper intelligence, the more we are able to feed coherent signals into the interpersonal field. That affects other people who are energetically and emotionally connected with that field.
On a global scale, when more and more people are putting out coherent signals, that eventually becomes the predominant signal in the energetic environment. This, in turn, helps more people who are on the cusp of waking up to their own heart intelligence. They now have a stronger external signal with which to align.
What we feel individually as our personal emotions are not just inside of us: they are carried by the heart’s magnetic field to the Earth’s magnetic field, and this affects our local environments.
Dr. McCraty encourages people to “spot check” themselves throughout the day, to take a pause, to really consider: What am I feeding into the field? Am I feeding thoughts of compassion, appreciation, and kindness? Or is my inner system, anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, impatient?
“If you are feeding the field frustration, you need to shift that by going deeper into my heart. Get coherent and activate more of the emotional qualities that you want to be feeding the field.”
By cultivating an inner world full of appreciation and gratitude instead of frustration, you increase your own inner peace, thereby increasing the peace you give out to the world.
“At the end of the day, the sum total of humanity is feeding the field and right now, the field has more stress energy in it like anxiety, hate, and anger than it does coherence. The Global Coherence Initiative is to help more and more people to become coherence- builders, to be more self-aware and conscious of what we are intentionally feeding the field. “
Always at the forefront of technology, HeartMath is launching a new tool--the Global Coherence app--which measures group coherence in interpersonal settings. It is currently in its soft launch phase.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” It’s a popular quotation, variably attributed to 19th century British politician William Ewart Gladstone, Indian guru Sri Chinmoy, and 1960s rock icon, Jimi Hendrix.
Whoever first said it, it expresses an important truth.
Living systems are indeed interconnected via biological and electromagnetic fields. “We have to roll up our sleeves to start taking responsibility for self-management in our day to day lives,” says Dr. McCraty. This means, “Aligning with our deeper self and making better choices,
That doesn’t mean we sit around all day and just practice Heart Lock-In. But if more of us devoted a little bit of time and attention each day to coherence exercises like this, it could have very broad-reaching effects.
The science of interconnectivity starts with the personal realm and extends outward. When we are more coherent, we start getting along better with our families, our colleagues, our communities. If enough people around the world do that, whether we know it or not, we are feeding signals for peace and coherence into the Earth’s field. That gets stronger and stronger until finally, it gets strong enough to wake up more and more people, which further increases the strength of the signal. It creates a big feedback loop.
There’s no down-side. Greater personal and social coherence through diligent practice and holistic lifestyle will simply spread cooperation, innovative problem-solving, love, kindness, smiles, forgiveness, compassion and respect. It’s a ripple effect of world peace!
Madiha Saeed, MD is a holistic family physician in Naperville, IL. She trained at National University of Science and Technology and completed her residency in 2010 at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. She is board certified in both Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine, and has a particular passion for women’s’ health and family health issues. A busy mother of four young boys, Dr. Saeed shares her “walk the talk” lifestyle tips and her “bring it on” spirit with families worldwide via her HolisticMomMD website. She is the author of, The Holistic Rx: Every Patient’s Guide to Healing and Preventing Chronic Disease.