Of the many images that have come out from the merciless killing of George Floyd, there is one theme that emerges loud and clear: a widespread loss of compassion has permeated our society. Images of overt racial hatred and violence, that have been brewing for decades, have precipitated into a defining moment that illuminated our collective malaise: a loss of compassion for one another.
Everyone has been affected by the events surrounding the heartless murder of George Floyd in one way or another, for his death was a crystalizing event representing the breaking point and the enormity of the racial injustices that we still permeate our culture today. Racism in the United States and beyond has reached its tipping point. Understandably, people are responding with anger, rage, and outrage. But without systemic changes that start with each individual, we can expect a repeat of this event as we have seen so many times in the past.
Regardless of our racial background, we all have a responsibility in making ourselves, homes, and communities a safer and more accepting place where these outrageous behaviors are no longer tolerated. We must all do the hard work within ourselves first before we point fingers at the “other” who is likely a projection of our own fears. To project hatred onto another human being or race is to bypass dealing with the elements within ourselves that need healing.
I would like to draw our attention to the lack of compassion that seeds a systemic disregard for our fellow humans that includes race and goes beyond race. There has been a dulling down of our care for one another for centuries that runs deep through our culture. And one of its tap roots lies in chronic, unsustainable levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that so many people are encountering these days. There is a direct correlation between chronic stress and loss of compassion for self and others.
It’s a tangible and viable place to start when you think that there’s nothing that “I” can do: first, rebuild compassion for yourself. This is the first critical step in growing compassion for others and requires us to reconnect with our heart centers.
As you open your own heart with compassion for yourself, this process leads to a healthier and happier you. When our bodies are in a chronic fight/flight/freeze state the portion of our autonomic nervous system that facilitates compassion is dialed down. While in defense mode, we are thinking about our own survival (self and family) rather than the well-being of others. There is less available bandwidth for caring for community members and global brothers and sisters.
Research published by the Heartmath® Institute has shown that just one five-minute episode of anger is so stressful that it weakens your immune system for six hours or longer.
Transforming anger requires us to deal with longstanding beliefs and behaviors that can trigger a vicious cycle of reactions once our “buttons get pushed.” The human heart has intelligence that we can tap into to overcome anger, stress, and overwhelm.
J. Andrew Armour, a founding member of the International Neurocardiology Network and an Emeritus Professor for the University of Montreal, is an acclaimed leader and pioneer in the field of Neurocardiology, the science of the intersection between the heart and the nervous system. In 1991, Armour introduced the term “heart brain” after conducting research that found the heart is a sensory organ with a unique, intrinsic nervous system independent of the brain. The heart does indeed have a mind of its own. Armour’s findings continue to be expanded by researchers at the HeartMath Institute.
The HeartMath “Get Neutral” Tool
The moment you begin to feel that your anger is starting to rise, try this deceptively simple, yet highly effective, technique called “Get Neutral.”
- Take a time-out to disengage from your thoughts and feelings, especially stressful ones. Actually say to yourself, “time out,” as you recognize and feel your emotional triggers, then step back from all reactions to them.
- Shift your focus to the area around your heart and feel your breath coming in through your heart and going out through your solar plexus.
- Tell yourself, “Go to neutral,” and remain in this neutral zone until your emotions ease and your perceptions relax.
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WeAddHeart is a meetup group for people who feel the pull to connect with their own heart and the hearts of others, to live life more fully from the heart and to create a more heart-based world.
By coming together our intention is to practice simple heart-focused techniques which will improve our personal health and happiness, help us to connect with the hearts of others and to play our part in raising social and global consciousness with the aim of creating greater fairness, understanding and peace between peoples and nations.