Continue Reading: The Heart-Pulse Method
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.