No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

                                                                        -Albert Einstein

How do you define epiphany? Most people think of an epiphany as an "Aha!" moment, a recognition of an idea or truth that feels utterly natural and obvious, but which your brain perceives as new information. A discovery of sorts, that somehow "clicks" and makes perfect sense, bringing into focus the blur you had been pondering.

My personal favorite is the definition that pops up when searching Google: "The manifestation of a divine or supernatural being." To me, it's the description that best illustrates the actual epiphany sensation that occurs inside us. It's the same timeless, transcendent rumbling inhabiting the bellies of our world's stubborn visionaries, even when a burning inner truth has no contemporary application, or even frame of reference.

When Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk share their visions for space flight, or when Steve Jobs shuns a CD-happy world for an iPod/iTunes business plan, they are tapping into the same place inside their hearts that is awakened when we, and all humans, have epiphanies. It is a deep intuition that brings us a deep knowing. Intuition is at the core of an epiphany; it is our own recognition and awareness of an idea or thought or vision for something that has yet to be built in the world.

In 1926, as Nikola Tesla remarkably predicted the advent of the 2006 smartphone, he was expressing a vision for the future from a place of knowing, from an intuition, as strong and true as the feeling we experience when we have an epiphany.  You and me. Now. Here. Today. Tomorrow. We all have access to that place, but we need to train ourselves to access it.

When we read the names of the innovators listed above, we instinctively think of the brain.  But the organ that is truly the epicenter of innovation is actually the heart. In the moment an epiphany occurs, our heart is in coherence. What does that mean? It means we are in alignment with a universal truth that passes through our heart, which then sends a signal to our brain and results in an immediate recognition that what we know or see and understand has deep meaning for us. Technically speaking, it means that our heart rate variability (HRV) is beating in a coherent way.

Over the last 30 years, there have been many scientific studies looking at the connection between our hearts and our brains. One organization at the forefront of these studies is called the Heartmath Institute. Heartmath was founded by Doc Childre in 1991, just an hour outside Silicon Valley. The Institute's focus is to study the science behind the Heart and Brain connection. According to Rollin McCraty, Ph.D, HearthMath's Executive VP and Director of Research, "More information is sent from the heart to the brain than the other way around." In fact, according to McCraty, "The signals the brain receives from the heart have a significant effect on brain function--not just influencing the emotional processing of our brains, but also higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving." 

In order to understand why true visionary leadership is dependent on a strong heart-brain connection, we first must understand what it means to be in what HeartMath refers to as Coherence. In physics, Coherence refers to two waves that have the same wave form (meaning the same frequency and the same constant phase form.) Google's general definition of Coherence is "the quality of being logical and consistent" and "the quality of forming a unified whole." Deborah Rozman Ph.D, the CEO of Heartmath, puts it this way: "When the heart is in coherence, it entrains our emotional system, our brain and physiology into coherence...and when our heart is not in a state of coherence, our brain, our emotions and our physiology are also out of coherence."

If we are experiencing an emotion that contracts us--say, frustration--then we are not in coherence and we cannot articulate or embrace a vision from that frame of reference.  At the same time, when we are able to put our heart into a coherent state, we open ourselves up to being in a state of expansion, from which we can experience epiphanies, deep knowings, and true vision.  Below are two graphs from the HeartMath Institute that demonstrate what our HRV looks like when we are in a coherent state versus not. The first shows one's heart rate while feeling frustration (non-coherence) and the second is a heart rate in coherence, feeling the emotion of appreciation.

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Being in coherence does not guarantee we will have an epiphany or vision, but it is the first step in setting ourselves up for such a moment. It is the difference between making decisions out of frustration (or any other emotion of contraction) and making decisions out of appreciation (or any other emotion of expansion.)

As Rozman states, "The first and most important step in getting ourselves into a coherent state is becoming aware of the state we are currently feeling in any moment of the day."

Most of us move through our days simply reacting to what we feel rather than making decisions with intent--that is, every decision, every moment. As a result, we live and work out of coherence. When we can take the time to recognize what's going on inside our bodies, then we can take a moment and induce ourselves into a coherent heart state, which will then bring us clarity in our thoughts and actions

Of course, our educational experiences, our ability to think critically, and our understanding of data and science are all significant and essential elements that give us the framework to articulate, define, and execute our vision. But the epiphany emanates from the heart and is fueled by its intuition. True visionary leadership develops inside the heart, not the brain. And it is there for each of us to grasp...we simply need the awareness of how to access it.