, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 677–685 | Cite as

Heart intelligence: heuristic phenomenological investigation into the coherence experience using HeartMath methods

  • Steve EdwardsEmail author
Open Forum


The HeartMath system refers to various methods, tools and techniques developed by the HeartMath Institute, a global research and educational organization. Working from an interdisciplinary, scientific foundation, the institute has adopted a coherence model to promote its vision and mission of education and health. This model is based on empirical, predominantly natural scientific foundations. Although many, rigorous studies have provided a substantial evidence base of the science and praxis of personal, social and global coherence, the actual coherence experience has not yet been investigated. To address this gap in the HeartMath research evidence, this heuristic phenomenological investigation was organized into three phases, with the goal of eliciting the essential structure of the coherence experience. The first phase consisted of a quantitatively orientated review of the author’s personal HeartMath practice records, with special focus on examples of highest coherence levels and achievement scores, as measured on HeartMath instruments, and as available on Heart Cloud records. In the second qualitatively orientated phase, ten selected descriptions, perceived to be good examples of coherence experiences, were synthesized into an essential review summary. The third, pilot study, phase explored the actual coherence experience of ten consecutive HeartMath sessions, varying with regard to context, duration, time, place and manner of practice. Essential summary findings of the coherence experience are discussed with regard to personal, social and global implications for research, education and health promotion.


Heuristic phenomenology Coherence experience Pilot study Case study HeartMath Psychophysiology 



This work is based on research supported by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF). Any opinion, finding and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the author(s) and the NRF does not accept any liability in regard thereto. Special thanks to Dr. Rollin McCraty for research collaboration.


  1. Assagioli R (2007) Transpersonal development. The dimension beyond psychosynthesis. Smiling Wisdom, ForresGoogle Scholar
  2. Assagioli R (2012) Psychosynthesis. A collection of basic writings. Amherst, MA: the Synthesis Centre. Analysis 18:81–102Google Scholar
  3. Bourgeault C (2016) The heart of centering prayer. Nondual Christianity in theory and practice. Shambala, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  4. Caswell JM, Singh M, Persinger MA (2016) Simulated sudden increase in geomagnetic activity and its effect on heart rate variability: experimental verification of correlation studies. Life Sci Space Res 10:47–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Childre DL, Martin H, Rozman D, McCraty R (2016) Heart intelligence. Connecting with the intuitive guidance of the heart. Waterfront Press, HeartMathGoogle Scholar
  6. Edwards SD (2001) Phenomenology as intervention. Indo-Pac J Phenomenol 2:1–10Google Scholar
  7. Husserl E (1929) Phenomenology. Encyclopaedia Br Co 17:699–702Google Scholar
  8. Lehrer P, Gevirtz R (2014) Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work? Front Psychol 5:756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Louchakova O (2007a) Spiritual heart and direct knowing in the prayer of the heart. Existent Anal 18:81–102Google Scholar
  10. Louchakova O (2007b) The prayer of the heart, ego-transcendence and adult development. Existent Anal 18:261–287Google Scholar
  11. McCraty R, Atkinson M, Tomasino D, Bradley RJ (2009) The coherent heart. Heart–brain interaction, psychophysiological coherence and the emergence of a system wide order. Integral Rev 2:10–115Google Scholar
  12. Moustakas CE (1994) Phenomenological research methods. Sage, Thousand OaksCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Nelson R (2011) Detecting mass consciousness: effects of globally shared attention and emotion. J Cosmol 14:1Google Scholar
  14. Orme-Johnson DW (2000) An overview of Charles Alexander’s contribution to society: developing higher states of consciousness in the individual and society. J Adult Dev 7(4):199–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Porges SW (2011) The polyvagal theory: neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication and self-regulation. WW Norton & Co, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Terre Blanche M, Durrheim K, Painter D (2006) Research in practice; applied methods for the social sciences. University of Cape Town Press, Cape TownGoogle Scholar
  17. Thayer JF, Lane RD (2000) A model of neurovisceral integration in emotion regulation and dysregulation. J Affect Disord 61:201–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Thayer JF, Lane RD (2009) Claude Bernard and the heart-brain connection: further elaboration of neurovisceral integration. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 33:81–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Thayer JF, Ahs F, Fredrikson M, Sollers JJ, Wagner TD (2012) A meta-analysis of heart rate variability and neuroimaging studies: implications for heart rate variability as a marker of stress and health. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 36:747–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Varela FJ, Thompson ET, Rosch E (1991) The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wilber K (2000) Integral psychology. Shambhala, BostonGoogle Scholar
  22. Wilber K (2007) Integral spirituality. Shambhala, BostonGoogle Scholar
  23. Wilber K (2016) Integral meditation. Shambhala, BostonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of ZululandKwadlangezwaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations