Excerpt from new book: Subject of this excerpt: The Heart-Pulse Method
Article and excerpt from new book by John Bracy
Covering: Consciously directed increase of blood supply to upper chest, neck and spinal nerves
Technique: "Heart-Pulse Method" from new book, Section III
Disclaimer: This information is not, and should not be construed as, medical advice.
What follows are personal stories of individuals who have used the Heart-Pulse method.
They are being shared here to provide information and share their experience of others. Be sure to first consult with your health care provider before beginning this, or any other, regimen/ exercise / technique.
Why this information is being shared before the book is published: This information might be of immediate use to some individuals. The sooner it is available, the more possible benefit to more people.
This information is provided without charge, or even the need to log into the Chi-Arts website, as a public service.
It is requested that you share your personal stories and experience with the technique. Please send your stories / experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can put your feedback/ ideas / suggestions up here.
Why this technique is valuable to me.
One of the most frustrating things about being "sick" is passivity. It's no fun to sit idly by while waiting to see if you either will get worse, or improve, or just sit there and wait for whatever cough or other medicine / herbs / supplements to "work." In my experience, this technique allows me to mentally interact with my body in a more powerful and active way.
When I apply the Heart-Pulse Method described here to the upper / center of chest, I feel immediate deepening of breath. I feel my lungs relax as breathing becomes easier. At the same time, I often feel less stress in the area of the heart. In the past, when faced with cough or flu symptoms, within a few minutes or less of applying the technique, it is easier for me to breathe. Often any sinus/ lung congestion symptoms (especially if caught early) disappear completely after only a few minutes of practice. When I feel stress or tension in the area of my upper chest, I often focus on the technique as I fall asleep. For me, the technique provides an overall calming feeling.
Many of my students/ clients who have worked with the technique report similar results. Sometimes the results are almost immediate and quite dramatic. One example that comes to mind involves a student, an actor by profession. During an on-line video lesson, the student complained of sinus congestion. I taught him to apply the Heart-Pulse method (which he already had proficiency with) by directing his mental attention to the pulse in the area of the sinuses. Within a minute or so, his sinuses cleared. Something that is interesting about this case is that during our session, in my view of my student's face, I could see the areas around the eyes and nose start to turn red. This is the kind of response I expected to see if there was a marked increase of blood flow to the areas associated with the sinuses.
The challenge: The first step is to learn to pay attention to the Heart-Pulse Method. This requires one to learn to mentally notice the heartbeat. It is surprising how many individuals cannot feel their beating heart. For some people, it can take two months or longer for them to consistently feel their heartbeat. However, for those who practice arts such as meditation or yoga, they tend to learn to feel their heartbeat much more quickly. The next step is even more challenging.
As explained in the accompanying excerpt from the new book, the technique is activated by learning to mentally attend to the feeling of the pulse at distal locations. For example, a normal training protocol to learn the technique requires a person to attend to the feeling of the pulse at the abdomen, lower legs, hips, upper back and other areas.
What I believe is happening:
My belief is that mental attention to an area, such as the pulse in the abdomen, hips, back and other areas, increases blood supply to the nerves and vessels associated with that area. If true, this means we can apply the Heart-Pulse technology in a way that we can help our body relax and heal through this kind of active - interactive model.
EXCERPT FROM SECTION III, CHAPTER 13
Passive Yoga and the Heartbeat
A good example of passive Taoist yoga is in the way one can use awareness
of the heartbeat as a relaxation, meditation, and self-healing technique. The
notion of working with the pulse as a mind-body training is an ancient Taoist
technique. As Ishida explains, observing the pulse is a form of working with
the body’s “protective and constructive energies:” 47
One can imagine the pulse as the waves of the various fluids flowing
around the body. It is in these waves, sent out originally from the heart,
that the spirit takes up its residence. 48
Ishida adds: “Assuming that the pulse represents the basic wavelike nature
of all the energies of the body, one may depict their relationship as follows:
[see Diagram 3-33]”
In traditional terms, the notion of the arterial pulse being connected to
“mind” that moves around the body is expressed in ancient Taoist and
Confucian texts (Diagram 3-33). Consider that the Huainanzi states that
“the mind moves around throughout the body [because of the pulse],”
49 which, as Ishida explains, forms the basic understanding that led to the
formation of Taoist practices that emphasized first control over the body and
then management of the emotions, which in turn leads to tranquility and
emptiness of mind. 50
Passive neiguan exercises, when utilized as a relaxation technique, usually
begin in the most relaxed position possible. However, once proficiency
is sufficient, many techniques can be adapted to walking, running, and
even as a technique to improve athletic performance. The benefits of the
exercise described below, known as “heart-pulse training,” are often noticed
immediately, especially the relaxation and calming effects.
An example of how the heartbeat and pulse can be used to reduce stress is
illustrated by in the experience of a client who, following service as a Marine
Corps officer, started a small business in Malibu, California. We met weekly
at her office for training in meditation, martial arts, and qigong. During some
of our sessions, she would describe her business challenges. She would
often seem angry and upset about the day’s mishaps, and on one day in
particular she was distressed to the point that she was unable to concentrate
on the planned lesson. Detailing the stressful events of the day, she provided
a verbal list of things that had gone wrong, from office landlord issues to
product containers that had failed to be delivered as promised. Instead of
the planned lesson, I asked her to lie on the floor, face up, placing her hands
over her chest, and instructed her to observe the heartbeat.
A minute or two later, she began to relax. She continued to practice placing
attention on the heartbeat, and, seeing the relaxation of her tense facial and
jaw muscles, I knew that she had calmed down. After a few minutes more,
I asked her to once again review the day’s events. This time, although the information she conveyed was the same, her description of the day’s events was new and improved. As she repeated the list of the day’s calamities, her mood was lighter, and at times she seemed close to laughter.
Rather than feeling angry and frustrated, she now observed the day’s events
from a new perspective, viewing them as a sequence of humorous events.
Although the same day’s events remained part of her experience, the way
she described them, and presumably her immune system’s stress response,
was significantly different. The principle is explained in the Secret Teachings
of the Red Monk, which states:
Find the place in your standing, walking or sitting. Then become aware
of your heart pulse. Sense your pulse move through your entire body.
Move with and follow the pulse. Learn to connect and at no time
become disconnected from this. This is the master tool of the high arts.
―Secret Teachings of the Red Monk
Aspects of Mind and Pulse as
Represented in Classic Traditional
Chinese Medical Texts
Based on the depiction by Hidemi
Ishida, “Body and Mind: The Chinese
Perspective,” Taoist Meditation and
Important: Never end pulse practice with attention focused at or
near the head. Instead, always end by observing the pulse at the lower abdomen, hips, or feet
Learning the Heart-Pulse Method
Step 1: Practice with the Heartbeat
Begin by lying completely flat, face up. Lying on a hard (but not cold) surface
is better than a soft bed. If you can do it without much discomfort, lie with
your head flat and without a pillow. Place your relaxed hands across your
chest and release unnecessary tension.
Close your eyes, and become aware of your heartbeat. If you cannot feel it
at first, be patient. Eventually, you will be able to feel your heartbeat fairly
easily, anywhere and anytime that you choose. The effect of this simple
exercise is more powerful than you will be aware of. It gives you conscious
control to immediately influence and calm your nervous system.
Through your relaxed hands on your chest, become aware of the sensation
of the heartbeat in your chest as detected through your hands. For most
individuals, as they start to become aware of their heartbeat, they also notice
an involuntary deepening of their breath. This is a good sign relating to
entrainment, the attainment of synchrony between various body rhythms,
which will be addressed in Section VII and again in later chapters.
Step 2: Distal Training
Next, attempt to detect the feeling of the pulse in another area of your body.
The hips, abdomen, or anywhere in the pelvic area will provide a good pulse
signal to work with. Identifying the secondary location is often challenging
to begin with, but it is a very important part of the training. The technique
requires you to notice and pay attention to an internal biofeedback signal
(the pulse) anywhere in your body.
To help you find and intentionally engage the pulse, use your hands as a
pulse-detection “instrument,” placing them on your lower abdomen. While
doing this, keep your hands very relaxed — think of them as sensitivity /
detection instruments — and if you have trouble relaxing them while
keeping them in place on your abdomen, try hooking your thumbs into a
belt loop. The aim is to keep them as relaxed as possible while you learn to
feel the pulse in the abdomen.
With your hands in position on the lower abdomen or pelvic area, search
for the sensation of the pulse. As an example of how internally-directed
focus can influence a specific area of the body, as well as the entire nervous
system, during this step most individuals immediately notice relaxation in
the area. Since this step leads to increased circulation, most individuals will
feel improved warmth and blood circulation to their legs and feet. When you
perceive increased flushing warmth in the lower body, relax and enjoy the
sensation for a moment longer.
With practice, the act of intentionally attending to the pulse becomes easier.
Search for the feeling of the pulse originating deep within the abdomen.
Then, with your attention turned inward, search for the feeling of the
beating pulse from the blood moving through the arterial vessels. Just as
with Step 1, you might notice the occurrence of a sudden deep breath as
tension releases; if this happens, just relax and observe. This is another good
sign, as it means that you are gaining some conscious control over normally
unconscious aspects of the nervous system.
Step 3: By Attention Only
Next, learn to trigger the same sensations that you are concentrating on, but
without using your hands as a “signal detector.” In this step, the goal is to
consciously pay attention to the pulse in your body, using your attention to
trigger, and become aware of, the feelings of warmth and flushing at various
locations, while using internally-directed focus alone. This is a significant
accomplishment, since it is a sign that you are gaining more conscious control
over normally unconscious processes.
Next, begin by lying flat, face up, with your hands open, relaxed, palms facing
upwards. When you are ready, place attention on the heartbeat in your chest.
As in Step 1, some individuals might have difficulty with this at first, especially
if they are tense or stressed. If you are feeling anxious or nervous, notice, as
you attend to the heartbeat, how this produces a relaxation response. As you
relax, observe how your breathing will sometimes deepen automatically.
Step 4: Targeted Attention
This step involves learning to attend to, and observe, your pulse in different areas of the body. With practice, it will become increasingly easy to observe to the pulse wherever and whenever you wish. Here is a typical sequence of
attending to the pulse / relaxation training:
• Place attention to the heartbeat at the center of the chest.
• Then, observe the pulse at the lower abdomen.
•Back of the neck –- above the top thoracic vertebrae.
•Back to the center of the chest.
• Then back to the abdomen.
Then the pelvic area.
When you complete this step successfully, you will be able to direct and influence the pulse in any area of the body you choose. With practice, the yogic art of attending to the pulse can be undertaken while a person is sitting or standing. When perfected, the pulse as a signal can be attended to while one is moving, talking, or even as a background signal while one is participation in sports. Practice your “pulse training” while sitting or standing, working to develop the awareness of the pulse in your lower back, abdomen, or another area throughout your normal day.
† Section VII includes examples where the protocol is applied to mock
(LATER, AT THE END OF THE CHAPTER)
Final Comment on the Value of the Heart-Pulse Method
I continue to be amazed by the multifaceted helpfulness of the heart-pulse method. It provides one with the power to consciously influence the blood and nervous system in targeted areas within the body, and thus can be a helpful adjunctive therapy to address numerous conditions. I hope that the efficacy of the technique will one day be investigated through clinical trials. Over the last couple of weeks before adding this note, the method
adjunctively helped one client minimize the length and severity of an upper respiratory lung infection after he directed his mental focus to the pulse in the upper chest. In that example, the technique provided not only the
sensation of a strong pulse to the upper lung, but also increased warmth throughout the entire upper back, which he reported as being helpful. Another elderly person with poor circulation used the method to increase
warmth to her legs, and I have used it to relieve muscle stiffness in my lower back and hip muscles. On another occasion, I employed it to help relieve congestion and “foggy head” by attending to the pulse at the soft palate of
the upper mouth.
Although a technique like this should never be tried without a medical professional’s instructions, nor relied on as an exclusive alternative to conventional medical care, my impression is that this technique, involving
the art of attention to the pulse targeted at specific areas of the body, helps the body recover faster. An adjunctive self-therapy, it represents the power of the conscious mind to work in concert with the body’s unconscious
healing processes in order to speed recovery. Furthermore, it also allows the patient to play a role in their recovery from many infirmities that, like the self-treatment of bronchitis mentioned in the earlier paragraph, would otherwise involve remaining passive and waiting for the immune system and pharmacology to perform the job of healing. The potential of this technique is too important to be ignored.