While the males in our population have long been accused of having a second brain in their pants, every one of us has a brain in our chest as well as in our head.
Thoreau said "The intellect is powerless to express thought without the aid of the heart." Science is proving more and more that our experience of the world is first perceived by our heart, which thinks about it, responds accordingly and sends information to the brain for further processing.
Around 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells, clustered in ganglia and connected to the neural network of the body through axon-dendrites just like in the brain. The heart is a specialized brain hooked into the central nervous system making and releasing its own neurotransmitters and with its own memory.
The neurons in the heart store memories. This is why when Grandpa gets a heart transplant from Julio Vasquez, he starts liking salsa afterward when he couldn't stand it before.
Wild, huh? This stuff completely blew me away and is from Stephen Harrod Buhner's book The Secret Teachings of Plants: In the Direct Perception of Nature.
These neural cells in the heart have a direct connection to the brain and are constantly chattering back and forth with the brain and the two, together, decide how to respond to incoming information. Neurons in the brain alter their behavior in accordance with the signals embedded in each heartbeat and send it to the central nervous system to make physiological and behavioral changes almost instantly.
The heart's ability to perceive meaning from the world even has a name: aisthesis which literally means "to breath in." It is that moment when the life force of one living organism communicates with and moves into another one. We live in a world that is alive with awareness and intelligence. It is up to us to acknowledge and allow this intimate exchange kind of like the Navi in Avatar plugged their tails into something to connect with it.
Even though we are trained out of using our heart as organs of perception early on, the skill still exists and can be developed. Think of seeing the Grand Canyon or any postcard worthy scene. There is a real, palpable reaction in the body as the energy, the power of the thing is felt.
The brain is an organic computer processing data and acting as a clearing station for central nervous system functioning. Unlike the heart, the brain is linear and to use it as the primary organ of perception reduces life analytically to a mechanical process with little meaning.
Because of my brain injury, I was forced to rely heavily on the perception and intelligence of my heart. I have learned to trust it and listen to it. You know what? It is much wiser than my brain ever was. Using this type of intelligence and perception, I truly feel connected and just know the right direction for me at each turn. I used to be hopelessly disconnected, lost, and did not have a clue. I was always looking externally to others and things to give me the answers here.
There is a great power and wisdom in the world around us. The challenge is to notice it, develop it, and invite it to play a bigger role in our lives. To begin to use the heart as an organ of perception and communication allows us as a species to become, once again, a respectful, integral part of the web of life of Earth and allows us as individuals to begin to live more fulfilled and authentic lives. The problem is our heart intelligence is in kindergarten while our mind intelligence has already graduated.