Making the Heart and Mind Connection
There is a heart and mind connection. When you think of emotions, do you imagine them coming from the heart or mind? Or do you consider the heart and mind to be an inseparable whole? Examining how we talk about the heart and mind connection can teach us much about our beliefs. Can it also help enhance our experience of bliss and wellbeing?
Talking About the Heart and Mind Connection
In Western culture, we commonly express our feelings as coming from the heart. For example:
- To "pour one's heart out" when we share our deepest emotions.
- To "have a change of heart" when our feelings change.
- To say something "with a heavy heart" when our emotional state impacts our overall wellbeing.1
Similarly, many other expressions represent our thoughts as relating to the mind. This way of thinking always seemed obvious, and it wasn't until I began having problems with my mental health that I considered the heart and mind differently. During the period when I was undergoing treatment for depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in Japan, I came to learn that mental illnesses here are commonly called "kokoro-no-byoki." Directly translated into English, it means "sickness of the heart."
Viewing the Heart-Mind Connection Differently
In Japanese, the written character kokoro symbolizes the heart, whether the physical organ or the emotion of love. However, it also conveys notions of the mind. As such, it appears in many terms that refer to the mind, such as psychology and anxiety.2 Learning that the same character represents the heart and mind enabled me to view my problems differently. Until then, I had always supposed mental illness was, by definition, a condition relating to thoughts and the workings of the brain. Viewing it as a condition of the heart unveiled the importance of maintaining compassionate relationships and nurturing emotional support.
Watch this to learn how language can influence our emotional wellbeing:
Demonstrating the Heart and Mind Connection
The character kokoro can also be pronounced "shin." It often appears in words demonstrating the relationship between heart and mind, for example, the warrior mindsets of zanshin, mushin, and fudoshin.3
- "Zanshin" translates as "lingering mind." It embodies heightened awareness and attentiveness, remaining prepared to react in every moment.
- "Mushin" means "no mind." It refers to a state free from preconceived thoughts and emotions, enabling us to act clearly and precisely.
- "Fudoshin" means "immovable mind." It relates to the unbreakable will to do what is necessary and finish whatever you start.
These philosophical concepts highlight the interconnectedness of the heart and mind, underscoring the relationship between our emotions and cognitive processes. For me, they have a significance that extends far beyond the scope of martial arts, whether teaching us always to be prepared, to focus on the present moment, or to develop resilience. These things can all influence our wellbeing and experiences of joy and bliss.
The Heart and Mind Beyond Words
Looking beyond the boundaries of language helped me recognize the connection between heart and mind and take a more holistic approach to wellbeing. It enabled me to understand that the heart and mind are not separate entities but parts of a whole — perhaps what some would call spirit or essence. Whether we have a change of heart or simply change our minds, we are, in effect, doing the same thing.
Ultimately, the connection between the heart and mind is a powerful and intricate aspect of human experience that transcends words. Viewing this connection in a new light has influenced my understanding of mental health and my capacity to experience joy and bliss, and it continues to guide me on the journey to emotional wellbeing and a more fulfilling life.
- Verny, T. (2022, February 4). The Significance of the Heart-Brain Connection. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/explorations-the-mind/202202/the-significance-the-heart-brain-connection
- Berrod, L.-T. (2022, August 25). ‘Kokoro’, Harmony Between the Heart and Mind. Pen Magazine. https://pen-online.com/culture/kokoro-lharmonie-du-coeur-et-de-lesprit/
- Crawford, G. (2020, December 16). Three States of the Warrior’s Mind. Medium. https://genecrawford.medium.com/three-states-of-the-warriors-mind-f2e66866c59d
Brocklebank, M. (2023, October 16). Making the Heart and Mind Connection, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2023/10/making-the-heart-and-mind-connection