Heart Rhythm: Meditating vs. Writing

This is a graph of my heart rate while meditating over the course of about 90 seconds. During this time I feel a sense of well-being, calm, and peace.

What’s curious is that during this time my heart rate is not constant, as might be expected but oscillating from somewhere between 60 to 90 bpm. Also notice how smoothly the heart traverses that range.

Why? Why doesn’t meditating elicit a constant, steady heart-rate? According to the HeartMath Institute a smoothly variable and wide-ranging rate, not a narrow steady one, is healthiest. Sort of how a flexible body with a wider range of motion is healthier than an inflexible one. Or intellectually, consider how it would make you the most broadminded and wise to cycle through reason and empathy, skepticism and belief, mysticism and empiricism via harmonious hand-off than to stick to only one of them rigidly.

And if I suddenly stop meditating and switch to writing this is what happens:

Notice how tight the pattern is now, ranging from somewhere between 70 to 75 bpm. Instead of a wide range of heart-rates serving all my various systems, it’s as if one part of me has taken control and elbowed out the rest.

During this time I feel tense, like I am facing a challenge whose outcome is uncertain. There are many voices in my head. One is saying all the stuff that I’m writing down. Others are saying stuff like, “Is this good writing? Maybe we’ve got it all wrong? Is this even what I’m supposed to be doing? Should we be writing about something else? Quiet! Stop talking like that! We can do this. We just need to stick with it.”

And so on. But if I stop and tap into that calmer place within seconds the smooth, wide-ranging heart rate returns.

What if while writing, I learned to frequently return to (and perhaps even one day maintain) that meditative state while writing. Would it produce better writing? Allow me to take the most broadminded perspective? Reduce stress? Add years to my life? Let’s find out. So begins the Heart Rhythm Experiment.


For anyone else interested in tracking their heart-rate variability, I suggest the emWave2. Please consider buying it through Dave Asprey’s site. It’s the same price there as anywhere else and rewards Dave for his ongoing work of testing and weeding out dozens of life-enhancing products so we don’t have to.

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