Integral Cardiology – the Heart Care of the Future
I want to share with you stories of 2 patients that illustrate a major shortcoming of the current day practice of Cardiology.
The first involves a 40-year-old woman who visited an emergency room complaining of chest pain, high blood pressure and difficulty sleeping. Moments after reclining in bed she would suddenly find herself overcome by panic.
Except for the elevated blood pressure, her exam, electrocardiogram and lab work were normal, so she was given a blood pressure pill and was advised to see a cardiologist. She came to see me and after I carefully reviewed all of the data, it seemed unlikely that she had heart disease.
Why would a previously healthy young woman suddenly develop chest pain, hypertension and sleep disrupting angst?
Noticing that it all began 2 or 3 days after undergoing a hysterectomy, a procedure that for many women carries more significance than simply removing a malfunctioning organ, I suggested that perhaps her symptoms were an expression of grief over the loss of her uterus. Her eyes promptly filled with tears.
The second encounter was with a middle-aged man who suffers from a common heart rhythm problem, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. During episodes, the heart’s upper chambers don’t contract. Instead, they quiver, so the heart works less efficiently. Like many patients with atrial fibrillation, he experienced uncomfortable palpitations, fatigue and shortness of breath.
He was determined to do whatever he could to prevent more episodes, so he set about looking for triggers. It wasn’t long before he realized that whenever he ate corn, he was sure to have more atrial fibrillation. He shared this observation with his heart rhythm specialist who promptly dismissed the idea. “After all”, the doctor explained, “eating corn has to do with the digestive system. Atrial fibrillation is a disorder of the heart”.
The shortcoming so clearly portrayed in these vignettes is a disconnect. Cardiology as it is practiced today fails to see and treat the patient.
Instead, it sees a fibroid ridden uterus, a dysrhythmic heart, a lung cancer or a nonfunctioning kidney that for one reason or another requires a cardiac evaluation. But that’s not surprising given that medical training is rooted in a metaphysics of reductionism. We are so focused on the parts that we fail to appreciate the whole.
This is a problem that cardiologists, indeed all physicians must address if we are to guide our patients back to real health. But how do we tackle a powerful, multitrillion-dollar industry that despite lacking convincing evidence claims to own a monopoly on the only legitimate avenues to health?
I think the solution lies in a radically new way of seeing our patients as the complex beings they are and who are composed of myriad fields of information.
And so I’d like to introduce you to the concept of Integral Cardiology. 1
What’s Different About Integral Cardiology?
Integral Cardiology sees unity in the physical, emotional and mental bodies, the conscious and subconscious divisions of the mind, and in the quantum body-field. Moreover, Integral Cardiology recognizes that just as your organs don’t function in isolation, neither does the patient. The patient is part of a family as well as local and global communities, all connected not only by day to day, face to face interactions, but also by a unifying field that some have called consciousness.
Integral Cardiology doesn’t view these facets of the patient’s make up as components. Instead it’s understood that like a hologram, each segment contains or mirrors the whole.
The integral cardiologist starts with the assumption that his patient’s heart problem may have its origin in any one of these terrains. And because there is a constant flow of information within and between them, each can be used to influence and ultimately correct what is out of balance in any part of the whole.
Let’s take a closer look at the interplay between just a few of these, limiting our focus to the concept of fields of information.
But just what is a field?
At the risk of sounding redundant, a field is a property of space that contains information. This is nicely depicted by the image of iron filings organized by the information that constitutes a magnetic field.
According to quantum field theory our entire material reality is composed of overlapping, interacting, vibrating fields of electromagnetic energy. Like the organizing information in a magnetic field, information about the health of your heart and body is contained in the quantum fields that permeate and are part of your physical structure. 2
Think of the body-field as software and your physical body as hardware. If your computer’s operating system is corrupt, your computer may not boot up. But if the tainted segment of code is repaired, your computer will run smoothly. Similarly, correcting a disturbance in the body-field can support the process of healing in the physical body.
The body-field may also serve as an intermediary, an information transfer vehicle between your body and your mind and emotions, for example, between what happens in your subconscious mind and your physical DNA. I suspect this because when a body-field scan is done, it will typically reveal one or more energy blocks that have mind-body associations.
Epigenetics tells us that your DNA takes its cues from information it receives from your environment, responding to what you eat, what you think, to your emotions and to your subconscious shadow where you hide aspects of your personality from conscious awareness. Perhaps because of familial, religious or cultural influences, these facets of yourself have been labeled as undesirable. Until you acknowledge and embrace them, optimal health will elude you.
According to Thorwald Dethlefsen and Ruediger Dahlke,
“Every symptom is an aspect of the shadow that has precipitated itself into physicality”. 3
The integral cardiologist knows that her patients are more than elaborate biologic machines. She knows that although a patient needs heart surgery, to be fully healed his shadow will need to be attended to. The patient with high blood pressure may be avoiding directly addressing longstanding conflicts. An abnormal heart rhythm may be the shadow’s way of somatizing unexpressed emotions – emotions that if expressed might disturb the harmony of the patient’s home, work or social life. So the heartbeat becomes erratic, finally forcing the patient to listen to his heart.
One of these voices, your heart’s magnetic field, broadcasts information about the state of your internal union to the farthest reaches of your body. Some of this information is encoded in the beat-to-beat irregularity of your heart’s rhythm, referred to as heart rate variability. When heart rate variability is optimal or coherent, the message transmitted is that all is well. Heart rate variability profoundly impacts your perceptions, behavior and performance. 4
The HeartMath Institute has developed simple exercises to improve heart rate variability that can help balance blood pressure, help stabilize the heart rhythm and help those suffering from PTSD. Cardiologists know that preserved heart rate variability is associated with a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death in heart attack survivors. Perhaps in the near future we’ll find out if efforts to improve heart rate coherence in heart attack survivors will also reduce the risk of arrhythmic death.
Because your heart’s magnetic field extends several feet around you, the information contained in your heart rate behavior is also shared with and impacts the hearts and brains of those in your immediate vicinity. Using signal-averaging techniques, it’s possible to record one person’s electrocardiogram – the heart’s electrical waveform – in the electroencephalogram – the brainwave recordings – of another.
So it makes sense that coherence in the heart of the healer can immediately and favorably impact the patient. Think of a friend you go to when feeling stressed, the one who seems to always have a calming influence. Have you ever wondered how this happens? This salutary effect is at least in part due to the transfer of information, of coherence from your friend’s heart to your heart and your brain.
While the heart’s magnetic field impacts others over a distance of several feet, there is another field that can influence healing over much greater distances. This medium of information transfer has been called the field of consciousness, and it appears to connect us all.
We know from consciousness research that the brains of two individuals can become entangled, even when the subjects are separated, out of view of each other and shielded from electromagnetic fields.
One implication is that it’s not just how you think about yourself that can hasten or delay your recovery from illness. Your thought forms can have a surprisingly strong influence on the well being of others.
Our ability to influence others by way of this field may be most pronounced when we are focused on those we’re most closely entangled with, but we do appear to be entangled with the larger human community. The positive impact of prayers and healing rituals offered by volunteers on behalf of people they haven’t met, even when doing so from far away is a proven reality.
We know this type of nonlocal healing happens, although we don’t yet know how. But that won’t stop the integral cardiologist from using nonlocal healing in the therapeutic prescription.
Dr. Larry Dossey has insightfully outlined 3 stages in the evolution of medicine. 5
ERA 1 – Mechanical Medicine. In ERA 1 Medicine, the body is likened to a machine and treated as such. This is today’s practice of mainstream cardiology.
ERA 2 – Mind-Body Medicine. ERA 2 Medicine recognizes the power of the mind to cause illness and restore health. Integrative Cardiology, which uses tools like guided imagery is an example of ERA 2 Medicine.
ERA 3 – Nonlocal Medicine. ERA 3 Medicine employs nonlocal healing methods such as prayer and contemplation.
Their methods are not exclusive. ERA 2 Medicine employs and adds to the valuable contributions of ERA 1 Medicine. In addition to nonlocal healing methods, ERA 3 Medicine uses what works in ERA I and ERA 2 Medicine. The practice of Integral Cardiology is a form of ERA 3 Medicine.
The Integral Cardiology Clinic
In the Integral Cardiology Clinic of the future, we won’t so much pick and choose between therapeutic strategies.
We’ll address the immediate need for mechanical interventions, such as coronary stenting, and use the safest, most effective medications (botanicals and pharmaceuticals).
We’ll look at diet and encourage healthier lifestyle choices. We’ll use prebiotics and probiotics to support microbes that share the common interest of exceptional health with the people whose digestive systems they inhabit and over whose genomes they have far reaching influence.
We’ll routinely use tools derived from quantum physics to identify distortions in the body-field, because we know that mechanical treatment of the physical being alone isn’t enough. Correcting faulty information in the body-field will support the body’s innate healing capacities.
We’ll train our patients in techniques to achieve coherence in the heart rhythm and indirectly in their entire physiology. And it will benefit those around them too, as their hearts’ coherent magnetic fields interact with the fields of their families, friends and coworkers.
We’ll elicit the support our patients’ families, friends and communities to engage in consciousness-based practices. And perhaps we’ll set aside time each day to perform a healing ritual on their behalf.
And we’ll help our patients find out what messages from the shadow are embodied in the malfunctioning of their hearts. Once the message is understood and accepted, the need for their symptoms will disappear.
This is my vision for Integral Cardiology, the heart care of the future.
- For a greater exposition of the concept of Integral Medicine, see Amit Goswami, PhD, The Quantum Doctor, and Michael Wayne, Quantum Integral Medicine.
- Peter H. Fraser, Harry Massey and Joan Parisi Wilcox, Decoding the Human Body-Field.
- Thorwald Dethlefsen and Ruediger Dahlke, The Healing Power of Illness.
- Institute of HeartMath, Science of the Heart, Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance.
- Larry Dossey, MD, Reinventing Medicine.
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