A Journey to the Heart

A Journey to the Heart

18 February 2024 Yuuki Fujisawa 2484 views

The path to the heart is a journey to be our authentic selves, find true beings of others, encounter the world in its truth, and come together as a whole. By Yuuki Fujisawa

When I started working on the project with the topic of the heart, it was not clear to me where it would take me. I was completely at a loss feeling detached from myself and the world. Everything including my own being was uncertain. I could not feel my thoughts, emotions or desires as my own and did not feel alive. The world was looking superficial or almost unreal to me. I was struggling to be certain of my being and have trust that the world around me is real. Through the conversation with my friend in the course, I found a question dwelling deep in myself, that was “how do we know that we know?” And the answer was the heart. “Knowing” in its true sense comes only through the heart. Knowing from the heart was the only way for me to be certain and have trust. Working on the project with the heart was the very initial step I could take to go on a journey to find my authentic ‘I’ and meet the world in its truth.

I became more conscious of my strong intention behind the project only in the beginning of June. Andrea de la Cruz, the coordinator of the studies, asked me what the intention of my project was, and I realized that it was about authenticity and connection. It came strongly to me that “I want to be me, I want you to be you, and I want us to be

Method / Process

As a first step, I educated myself about the heart based on the existing research by HeartMath - leading organizations in the study of the science of the heart. With their shared mission to awaken the heart of humanity, they aim to help people connect with their hearts. I believe that the heart is not merely a physical pump nor a representation of feelings. HeartMath organizations recognize the significance of the heart and present it to the world through their scientific research. What was most fascinating for me from their research was the ‘psychophysiological coherence (heart coherence)’. The coherent state of the heart is described as the ‘physiological coherence’ in which bodily rhythmic systems are stable and harmoniously ordered. This state is measured by Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which is the variation of interval time between each heartbeat. Emotional state is also reflected on the heart rhythm. Coherent HRV correlates with positive emotional states. The heart coherence (psychophysiological coherence) is the state in which our physical, mental, and emotional states are in balanced alignment and thus harmoniously enhanced (McCraty, 2015). It seemed to me that the heart is the heart of everything.

In March, I slowly shifted from the science of the heart to looking at books and lectures from Rudolf Steiner. I must say, however, I could not go very deep into the study of the heart in anthroposophy. I started studying anthroposophy for the first time when I joined this foundation course. I had never read any book or lecture from Steiner before. Thus, I was mostly working on understanding the basic ideas in anthroposophy which I need before I can understand the heart in anthroposophy. For example, to understand the formation of the astral heart, an understanding of the astral is first required. Although my process was slow, I did enjoy finding the heart in Steiner’s texts. Rather than intensively looking at Steiner’s statements about the heart, I studied anthroposophy more in general and incorporated it to my understanding of the heart. The books we studied, Theosophy, The Philosophy of Freedom and The Threshold to the Spiritual World, and the conversations in the class occupy a large part of the resources for my project. My focus was on developing an understanding of my own, not only understanding what Steiner said. For this reason, and also because of my limited knowledge of anthroposophy, ideas presented in my writing could be very different from the ones of Steiner, even though I use the same terms or concepts. It was a process of taking in the knowledge from anthroposophy and processing it in my own way to let it become a part of myself. In the beginning, I thought it would be a study of the heart from two distinct perspectives, the science of the heart and anthroposophy, that complement each other. Now I also have an impression that HeartMath and anthroposophy understand the heart in the same way but describe it in different languages. I see the limitations of each language, but I did not see any contradictions in what they present about the heart. Having different approaches had a positive impact on developing an idea of what the heart is for me.

Learning through living experiences was another pillar of my project. I tried to Connect to my own heart and live with it. There are practical exercises that HeartMath proposes, and the six subsidiary exercises and meditation from anthroposophy could have been great tools. However, I mostly tried in my own way. My main exercise was to simply bring focus to my heart. Being aware of the heart in daily lives was already powerful enough but I also put it into a form of exercise: I close my eyes, place my hands on my heart and feel the heart. Breathing slowly and deeply was effective to support the process. I often did this exercise in the morning soon after waking up, while I still have some sensitivity that I usually do not maintain during the day in our sensory reality. Also, I did it on occasions in which I wanted to be with my heart, such as before I meet someone to have a conversation. In addition, I found that avoiding white sugar and reducing screen time by taking a break from social media significantly helpful. In a way, anything that increases psychophysiological coherence is a way to be connected to the heart. Before I can practice more advanced exercises, I needed to start from preparing the ground for it. Therefore, I started with a simple exercise to focus on the heart and cultivating a healthy lifestyle that prepares the ground.

I also found that experiencing the heart qualities, such as love, gratitude, awe, openness, courage, or warmth, was one of the most effective ways to connect to the heart. Finding warmth (paying attention to everything that is related to warmth) was the advice from my teacher/mentor, Bodo von Plato. Finding warmth brought warm feelings that made me aware of the heart.

Challenges / Exploring the Language of the Heart

I found it challenging to balance intellectual study and leaning through living experiences to understand the heart. Intellectual study can go beyond experience and bring ideas, but I truly understand them through experience, meaning that they are both equally important. However, as I feel stressed and rushed to complete the project, I went overly to the direction of intellectual study. I felt that I should be reading more and understanding more about the heart in anthroposophy. However, although I went through many readings, the contents were not living in me as I was not experiencing them. In mid-May, I started to feel like my topic is dying. The being of my project was getting weaker.

It was a struggle that the more effort I make (in the direction of intellectual study), the weaker the being became. Pushing myself harder through the stress was almost the only way I knew to achieve my goals. However, the heart did not come alive in excessive stress and anxiety. In early June, I came to the point I could not go further, I had to go back to my heart that I left behind and let the being of my project be alive again. I stopped reading. Instead, I went for a long walk, talked to the people, took a moment to embrace my life, communicated with myself through free writing, or participated in artistic performances. Feelings of love, appreciation, excitement, joy, a sense of beauty, and so forth, slowly came back, through which the heart came back to me.

I feel to understand the heart, the language we usually use that is focused on the words is not enough. Language is also present in love, imagination, poems, beauty, warmth, stories, music, art, and more. My intention for the written work of my project as well as for the presentation was to communicate through the language of the heart. For this reason, instead of writing a formal essay, I wrote a letter.

Read full text here (PDF)

Yuuki Fujisawa, Hokkaido, Japan - Alumni Anthroposophy Studies on Campus, 2023