In some parts of the world, it seems that heart disease is statistically more threatening to humanity than warfare; it is the silent killer that the un-glorified many succumb to. Medical research is asking all the why’s within its domain, recently looking at various correlating factors of the individual’s constitution, nutrition, exercise habits and stress. Medical science is already offering exercise programs, nutrition counselling and stress managements within its institutions which is a significant contributing addition to the heart patients who otherwise would only have drugs and surgery as their health recovery plan.
And even thus, science is severely limited in its view of heart health, because it ignores psychological, cultural and environmental factors; it ignores the time factor in its measurements and it lacks the depth of looking beyond biology, into the individual’s psychology and spirituality.
In Ken Wilber’s AQAL (pronounced awe-qwal, short for “all Quadrants, all Lines, all States, all Stages, all Types), we look at the evolution of the body-mind-spirit in self, culture and nature, to cover all the bases of human growth possible. Looking at nature (biology) is only one lens to reality, specifically the objectified “it” lens, which is not only one of four different angles to look at in every occasion. If we draw the four quadrants, as below, we’ll see that the “It” quadrant is the distanced, objective lens of science, or the individual exteriors, the measurable, quantifiable behavior; but we also have a collective objective lens, which is the “Its”, the systems; we also have an inter-subjective “we” lens, or the cultural shared meaning, worldviews and values, and we have an individual, subjective lens, “I”, which includes the self’s impulses, sensations, thoughts, feelings, emotions, drives and urges.
In the Upper Left (UL) quadrant, we look at the individual’s beliefs around heart and their health; the memories from their past; any unresolved emotional baggage that may be correlated to the physical health, including past heartbreaks forgotten by the conscious mind, not forgotten by the cellular memory of the heart or by the unconscious mind.
In the Lower Left (LL) quadrant, we look at culture, and the cultural shared meaning around relevant issues to the heart: does the culture you live in focus on maintenance and care, or on emergency repair? How does your culture support open, upfront emotional expressions? Is expressing fear, anger, grief etc accepted in your culture, or do you have to ‘eat your heart out’ in silence? How about feelings of affection and care? How supportive is your culture about expressions of love, in both women and men? How does the culture look at health, – heart and everything else?
The Lower Right (LR) quadrants reflects the societal systems in regards to healthcare, the kind of services they offer, the availability of these services, the communication between the various healthcare givers in the process of health maintenance or recovery. This is also the lens through which one looks at activism in community, charity work, the nature of family and community communication exchanges.
In the two upper quadrants, we need to add depth to our exploration: the Upper Right (UR) quadrant looks at the three bodies: gross, subtle and causal, which are experienced subjectively as body, mind and spirit in the UL. The causal body is where thought is formed; the subtle body is where thought creates biology, and the gross body is the biology aspect of the individual, the only aspect looked at by science. But how an individual lives his or her spirituality impacts their state of mind; and one’s state of mind, energy, and emotion, triggers certain bio-chemical responses in the body, in general, in the heart, specifically.
As you notice, drugs, pharmaceuticals and surgery only address the UR view of the individual’s biology; if you add nutrition and exercise to this, you cover more of the biology base horizontally, but until you add a subtle energy practice, such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Yoga, you miss a great part of the picture. And you still miss a great part of the picture if you fail to include causal-body practices for your heart health, such as the
compassion meditation. A three-body workout covers the depth of the individual’s heart health and is most effective when it is integrated in its practice; unlike the fitness center’s approach where the body runs on the treadmill while the mind watches television or listens to the iPod, in an integral life practice the mind remains engaged in the entire process, aware of its spiritual nature, and embodied through the witnessing of breath and sensation.
Community work, looking through the LR quadrant, is directly ‘good for the heart’, as the act of selfless giving through volunteering and charity, opens the energetic heart, or the ‘spirit’ of the heart to the invisible but real flow of unconditional love, which heals and transforms. Dean Ornish, author of “Love and Survival” is a US cardiologist who treats his patients with meditation and community work, as his heart recovery program! True generosity is giving to people who don’t do anything for you; and it is this altruism that opens and heals the heart.
Cultivating meaningful love relationships and friendships (LL) based on mutual trust and shared worldviews, values and affection is as nourishing for the heart as juicy fruit is for the body. The right company can make or break one’s heart, and when the integral life practice is shared with others within a harmonious group, the effect is synergistic and transformative for all.