Educating the Heart

Accomplishments of the heart may even be more important in the trajectory of a human life than those of the head.  The way I am using the term “heart” is to refer to the emotions or sensibilities, (E.Q.), dispositions of character and values as well as something deeper, the indefinable spirit of man.  Educating the heart is central to our purpose because the heart is central to man’s existence.  When we think of the word heart we often come up with these concepts:  good will toward all, sharing of love for others, as well as comfort, harmony, and service to life. The famous Bible quote from Corinthians, Chap. 1, 13 often read at weddings come to mind.  Love is kind……., bears all things, hopes all things, etc.[1]  A quality education should develop the moral potentialities of the heart, as well as its generosity and courage.

Children relate to others with their hearts first.  Even a new born baby knows if someone loves her or not. It is not intellectual with children.  Thus, it is often easier for children to enter into their hearts than for the adults who are teaching them.   The axiom that children are pure in heart is very true, especially babies.  As children age, the heart becomes more multidimensional expressing many qualities –both negative and positive.

The Soul and the Heart

The soul is eternal without the heart, but needs the heart to express itself, as well as the mind and the body.  Thus the soul and the heart are intricately connected, the soul using the heart to experience the world. The heart is where the greater self (inner teacher) and soul commune.  Because of this, perhaps we should conclude that all soul education must actually begin in the heart – not the head, because the soul is accessed more easily through the heart.  A hardened heart is a closed door for the soul.  A loving heart gives the soul entre into day-to-day living.  The soul– captive to expressions of the heart, mind and body—is either limited or unlimited by our heart’s orientation to life.

A heart-education should help a child make right choices, to know that even though the head may indicate a certain action to be reasonable and correct, none-the-less, confirmation from the heart is also needed. All of our right choices help our souls to evolve.   If everyone you met was a loving person, what a world this would be!

A Heart Runs Through

If the purpose of life is to love and love again, then the qualities of heart are super important to develop.  I suggest these attributes are heart qualities, but there are probably others too.  Purity, constancy, grace, truthfulness, authenticity, compassion, reflectiveness, fortitude, practicality, and humility, come to mind.

I give an explanation in Parenting the Reincarnated Child about the concept of distinguishing between the head problems and heart problems when children misbehave.  Getting to the root of the heart problems which represent negative willful behavior will encourage the development of the positive heart attributes listed above.  Heart problems are always moral problems.   As Pestalozzi said:  “A moral education would “elevate the inner dignity of our nature, the pure, highly godly being which lies within us.”[2] This sense was not developed by the power of the mind, but by the power of the heart in love. [3]A child who has had this orientation at home will understand a teacher who points out that an infraction was a heart problem as opposed to a head problem.

Research Studies from the HeartMath Institute

I read research a number of years ago from the HeartMath Institute that said that all information coming to the brain is first received by the heart and then travels from the physical heart to the brain in microseconds.  If this is true, then the heart is the first organ to receive the brunt of either the positive or negative messages from the environment and as our first line of defense would be very important.  Some neurocardiologists are calling these signals (from the heart to the head, that influence perception, emotional experience and higher mental processes), the “heart brain” (a kind of little brain).[4] “This heart brain, like the brain proper, has an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells. It can act independently to learn, remember, feel and sense.”[5]  It has been called an intelligent heart because it can intentionally change the information the heart sends to the brain.  Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath have found that “emotions (of the heart) such as compassion, care and love, or generally positive feeling states, can actually benefit you in many ways. “[6]  We also know from personal experiences that we enjoy being with loving people.

The emotions are more important than we previously thought.  As we learned from Pert (1999) the brain and the body share chemicals and hormones and they constantly communicate with one another.  Dr. Green of the Mayo Clinic has said

“[E]very change in the physiological state is accompanied by an appropriate change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, and conversely every change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, is accompanied by an appropriate change in the physiological state”. [7]

Because we now know that emotion drives attention and attention drives learning and memory, obviously, the emotional climate of our classrooms is either a detriment, or an assist to learning.  Creating a positive, nurturing environment is essential. We need to be artful about creating learning experiences which allow for the possibility of trial and error without fear of failure, loss of face and self-respect.

Dr. Celeste A. Miller

Excerpted from the soon to be released Educating the Reincarnated Child

[1] Corinthians I, Chapter 13, 1-13
[2]Heafford, M. (1967).  Pestalozzi, London: Methuen & Co TS, Barnes and Noble US distributors. (Pestalozzi, Schriften 4 (1805-26, I) p.193, Uber die Idee der Elementarbildung. Quoted in Heafford.), p.60

[3] Werke, S. (1899). Pestalozzi, Uber Geist und Herz in der Methode,  Vol 18, pp. 36-7
[4] website
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., p. 127

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