Spring/Summer 2021 | A conversation with Erin Toppenberg
Erin shares more about the science behind HeartMath, how she was inspired by the simplicity of the program and became a certified HeartMath trainer, the healing power of heart coherence and how her work led her to co-found a clean water nonprofit. Erin believes that when you become centered in your heart, you can bring in profound healing, compassion, kindness and growth.
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A conversation with Erin Toppenberg
Today’s Exclusive Guest.
Who is Erin?
Erin Toppenberg is the cofounder director of The Waterbearers, a women-led nonprofit, providing clean water access for others around the world. Also actively serving on the board of directors for All You Need is Love Foundation, empowering Burmese migrants living in Thailand through education. She has participated in many sessions at the United Nations Commission on the status of women and children as a delegate with Pathways to Peace, a peace messenger organization. Additionally, with all her philanthropic work, Erin is a Naam Yoga instructor/Universal Kabbalist, and a certified HeartMath trainer. She has trained individuals as well as large groups in how to activate the heart of a team, through the heart coherence. Knowing that once individuals and groups learn to tap into the heart’s intelligence, their power is truly unlimited.
So HeartMath is this research institute that’s been studying the heart for decades. And through their science, which I’ll touch on, they’ve come up with some tips and techniques of getting you fully present in your hearts and coherent. I just like to guide everyone first to focus their attention on their hearts. If you’re driving, please keep your eyes open. But if you’re in a position where you can close your eyes, I’ll invite you to close your eyes and just focus all of your attention on the heart. Now just allow the breath to come in through the heart breathing in a little deeper and a little slower than usual and then you’ll exhale from the heart. Again, breathing into your heart, perhaps to a count of five, exhaling from the heart. Just finding a nice, comfortable rhythm, breathing into your heart, connecting with your own heart, your own breath, exhaling from the heart. Do one more together, breathing in, receiving the breath of life. And then as we exhale, we share that gift consciously with others and connect deeper with each other. That’s the way I like to start my day.
It’s so simple. It’s awareness bringing it to our hearts, flowing the mental, the back and forth. That’s where we become dualistic even within ourselves. Why did I do that? I shouldn’t have done that. All of those kinds of things. It has been a wild ride. I think it will continue to be a wild ride. I think being able to trust in our own intuitive guidance, which HeartMath has done many studies around intuition and knowing that when people are centered in their heart, they actually have access to this other field of intelligence. They have access to intuitive guidance. I think now more than ever, just even practically being able to be fully centered in your heart, you’ll know how to navigate in this unchartered territory that we all find ourselves in. We’ll know answers to things or know where we should go or who to call or not to go anywhere.
We have our own guidance system within our hearts, and our heart is actually the conductor of our entire system. I wish this was taught in kindergarten. Like why wasn’t this taught to us? I was taught at least that the brain is in charge and your heart’s just this muscle that pumps blood. But as it turns out, the heart is in charge of your entire system. Your heart sends far more information up to the brain, like 80 percent to 90 percent more than the other way around. It travels up through the vagus nerve. When we want to be optimally functioning, when we want to be coherent, which is a term that HeartMath has coined where your emotions, your heart, your mind, everything is in sync, and then energetically, there’s this coordination physiologically with your hormone system, your immune system, your glandular system, everything’s working properly. It’s when you’re centered in your heart and when you can actually be bringing in a frequency of appreciation, care, kindness, patience, passion, joy, and calmness.
What the studies of HeartMath have found is that by hooking people up in a laboratory and actually asking them to recall a time when they felt that, they are able to shift their heart rhythms, the pattern that’s going, the signal that’s going from the heart to the mind. We can on purpose, on point, we can choose to get into this state of heart coherence. We just haven’t been taught how to. I love HeartMath for being able to eliminate the science of it.
How I got into HeartMath
I think I’ve always been a seeker. I’ve always known that there was something more in the heart. I was fascinated by Rumi as a young girl, all the quotes about touching the divine through the heart. I think I’ve always known, but I was introduced to it when I was at Agape. I was taking a class on healing beyond Western medicine. A gentleman came in and had one of the heart monitors, the device that you can hook up and you can see whether you’re incoherent or not. He talked about how the heart has the selector magnetic field that can be measured and HeartMath was doing all these studies. I immediately was like, oh my God. I have to go to this place tomorrow. As this gentleman was walking out, I was like, hold on a second. What’s your name and how do you know how it would? How can I get in touch with them? And he was gracious enough to connect me with somebody literally the next day. I signed up for the very next training. That started my journey. That was maybe eight, nine years ago. And now it’s been my greatest joy in guiding people back to their own heart’s intelligence.
You get these pings and I think we’ve been taught perhaps not to follow them, but when you do, the path just lines up. It’s deepened my own trust in my own heart. I can tell you the heart never steers a person wrong. It is the loving essence. It is where you find your soul. The heart’s in a fetus. The first few cells form the heart. That should tell us something. It doesn’t form the mind. The heart is the very first. Whatever that spark is that begins to beat our hearts, that allows us to breathe. That is all life-giving this creative essence. It starts here. I think the journey of life is almost the journey from the head to the heart, going back to that remembrance of who and what we are and tapping into that intelligence on such a deeper level.
My heart has guided me to some pretty wild places I never thought I would or go, but life has lived forward and you look back and then you’re like, oh, you see the intelligence and the design and all of it and the empowerment and the growth. I think the journey of life is really about trusting your heart and having access to an open heart. So many of us through this last year and a half and through life, we close ourselves off. We get into worry and fear and doubts and that closes our heart quite literally.
The heart is there for you
Our heart is always there for us. It’s always beating. We always forget, though, that we have access to it. It’s like we don’t even have to go to yoga class or go to this special meditation place or go to the mountain. It’s like we can access that anywhere we are at any time if we just remember that we can go there. And it can be as simple as the exercise that we just did at the beginning, focusing your attention on your heart, focusing on the breath, having a rhythmic breath so that you begin to change that, that signal that’s going from the heart to the mind and you begin to access coherence. You begin to change the frequency on the point of your choice. You can do it.
The miraculous story of my daughter
Yes. My daughter is now 16 and a healthy, happy teenager. When I was pregnant with her, they kept saying her heartbeat sounds a little irregular, but that’s totally normal when babies are born and they start breathing on their own, it should be fine. And being a first mom, you’re panicked about anything and everything. I was concerned, but try not to worry too much about it, but when she was born, they said, there definitely seems like there’s something wrong here. They sent her off. She started having EKGs and they informed me a couple of hours later that she was born with a couple of holes in her heart, which to hear that as a new mom a couple of hours after you’ve given birth is like, okay, wait, what? Like this is not possible. This can’t be right.
It was a journey with her, which I appreciated, tried to appreciate in the moment, but even more so now, looking back, I was gifted the opportunity to not worry about what outfit she went home from the hospital in or any of those things, but just is she going to be okay? How do I just love her regardless of anything, regardless of how she looks or any perceived defects? She was this perfect being. So I was able to take her home from the hospital. She had a heart monitor and they had said, she’d probably need surgery to repair the holes. The journey kept unfolding. And she had other things and different complications, but at age three, she was meant to have open heart surgery. The punchline of this is that we went to the hospital and instead of us leaving, as they told us six weeks later with this big scar, we ended up walking out of the hospital with her, a miracle that they had said they’d never seen. And that was partly why I was at that class for Healing beyond Western Medicine of trying to understand what actually happened with her.
What I have come to realize or my own truth of what happened between my daughter and I was the night before her open-heart surgery, I remember giving her a bath because I always would. And as I was washing her, I remember this image that the doctors had told me about. She’s going to have the scar ’cause they tell you to prepare you. As I was washing her, her chest, I remember just thinking you’re perfect. You’re whole, you’re beautiful. And that’s all I’m going to see. And I put her to bed that night just feeling that way that she was completely whole, healed, perfect. This beautiful creature, not this baby that had been born with some kind of defect, but she was perfect.
And the next day was when we went to the hospital to have all the prep work done. We had given blood. We had other people give blood. We had gone through like a week of prep before this surgery. And as I said, the very last scan that they were doing, they were like, what? The doctor was like, hold on. They kept checking, and I remember just thinking, oh my gosh, you know, could this be? We walked out of there and she was whole, perfect, healed all of it.
We all have this power
We all have this power. That is the truth. We all have this power. If we stop looking at one another as defective or these broken beings and we start having the right sight and looking at each other and holding that vision for one another of true wholeness and healing, what a world we can co-create together.
The clean water nonprofit
I started a clean water nonprofits about six, seven years ago now. I never thought I’d have a clean water nonprofit. If somebody had said that to me 10 years ago, I’d say, what are you even talking about? Everybody has clean water. First of all, I think that would have been my first response, but having the privilege of being able to travel to different places, I was able to see the real need of people that in Africa, especially they walk miles and miles and miles the women do to go fetch water that’s dirty. It is not safe. It is not clean. Their day-to-day job is to go fetch water. We got to do better for our brothers and sisters. Clean water is the basics of life. Water is life.
Having seen that need, I decided to step in and do what I could and what started off as a 30-day campaign just to raise awareness for water and for the need for other people has now turned into this charity. We’ve been able to provide clean water for people in 33 countries. It’s more than water. Again, water is life. So when you provide somebody with access to water and you empower them with that, they have hope; they have a completely different outlook on life. They no longer are walking miles and miles, but they have access to water close to them. They can grow fruits and vegetables. They can go sell those. They can earn a living. The girls can now go to school. It changes everything. It’s my greatest joy. As we give, we receive so much more back that really is the secret to life too. I think I was blessed to learn early on, when you give you receive. It’s kind of selfish because the joy I receive from seeing somebody else thriving, it’s amazing.
It’s the little things
It’s one thing at a time and one day at a time. Not everybody’s going to have a clean water nonprofit, not everybody’s going to do the little things, but it’s the little things too. It’s like holding the door open for somebody, smiling at somebody, giving somebody a compliment. That is giving, and that creates the kind of world that we want to live in, which is kinder, more gentle, more heart connected. It’s these simple acts that people don’t think realize can have a huge impact in what’s being called for right now. All of us have been inside and we’re coming out and we don’t quite know how to interact. And you hug somebody? Do you still have your mask? Do you not? There’s still all this uncertainty, but when you can just show up and be centered and be present in your heart and share a smile, share a compliment, it seems so simple, but yet it’s these little acts that create more light in the world and create more connection for ourselves and other people that’s deeper.
Seeing other people in their wholeness, in their glory, in their beauty, and not looking through a lens of judgment or that person doesn’t have this or anything, but it’s learning to have right seeing. Divinity is simplicity. Simplicity is divinity.
There’s a concept within HeartMath that I teach. It’s called compassionate latitude. It is about first thing compassion with yourself, being able to breathe that in. We’re humans. We’re gonna do and say things that, we’re going to be in this reactive state, but first having compassionate with yourself, but being able to give that as latitude to other people, provide that same compassion for somebody else, for you don’t know what they’re going through. You don’t know internally what is happening for other people. This idea of having compassion for yourself and then that latitude of being able to share it with other people, even that it’s a very simple practice. It really is about breathing into your heart, first getting coherent, and then actively choosing to breathe in compassion into your heart for yourself.
You breathe it in, you receive it. And then as you exhale, you share it. You share that compassion, that frequency with perhaps that person that you’re having a little incoherence with where there’s an argument. There’s some stuck energy. Perhaps it’s been there for decades, perhaps it’s just in the moment, but just being able to provide compassionate latitude to another person is a huge gift.
I think the heart, if it had a definition for what true success is, it’s about living your best life. We all come in with our own, the eight core nos to become this big oak tree. There’s this blueprint inside of it. Our heart contains our blueprint. Our heart knows what we want to become. So true success is different for everyone, but it’s about your blueprint unfolding.
There are programs to do heart coherence. Knowing how to access the heart, understanding the science of what’s happening physiologically inside of you is really important for people to understand. Just that when you’re in fear, there’s literally 1,400 different biochemical things that are happening inside of you. And there’s this incoherent signal, as I said before, from your heart to the brain. And the signal’s only going up to the amygdala, like the base of the brain. So you’re stuck in this fight or flight and you literally are depleting your entire system. So if we want to be healthy, it’s like, physiologically just understanding when you’re in worry when you’re in frustration, you’re depleting yourself. Brain cells are being killed off like muscle, all of that.
You’re aging, but if you can just stop and you can access something to be grateful for, now, there’s a different change of 1,400 biochemical things that are happening. Oxytocin, DHEA, you’re literally beginning to boost your entire immune system. So it is the best medicine to shift to the heart and to live from this space and to not worry so much what anybody else is doing or what you’ve done before, but just from this moment now, trying to choose compassion, kindness, consciously, living not from this place of lack, but from abundance and simplifying. I keep learning this lesson for myself over and over and I will just offer it out to everyone that this time, this gift of this coronavirus, this entire thing I hope has taught all of us to simplify. And the rat race that we were all on, we got a pause button from that. I don’t think was meant that we all then just jumped back into everything that we were doing before. It’s to simplify. A healthy life is a simple life.
About my work
I work with individuals, I work with groups, I work with companies, and activating the heart of their team. You get a group of people coherent. It’s pretty magical. They start spending into each other again, accessing this deeper field of intelligence and information.
We first become coherent. And then as we know that our electromagnetic field can actually create change in another person when we’re coherent, we’re going to radiate that energy out to, to the world. So again, I invite you just to close your eyes if you’re in a position where you can, and let’s focus all of our attention on our heart and just allow the breath to come in through the heart, breathing in a little deeper and a little slower than usual, and then exhaling from the heart, just slowing all the mental energy, relax the shoulders, just breathe into your heart, and then exhaling from the heart, just finding a nice, comfortable rhythm.
And now as you inhale and exhale, just breathe in a frequency of gratitude for your heart, for the breath of life. For one more day, one more chance to be better, to access that heart’s blueprint. And as you exhale, it’s like you’re sharing that frequency with others so that they may get in touch with it. Breathing in gratitude, breathing in more connection with yourself, breathing in compassion. And then as you exhale, you share it. As you’re breathing in, just imagine that all the cells of your body are beginning to light up. They’re being bathed in this compassion, this gratitude, this love. And then from your heart, just radiate that feeling out into the world. Can be radiating it out into the room that you’re in, radiating that out into your home, your neighborhood, your children, your loved ones.
As you breathe in this compassion, this love, this gratitude, do you radiate it out and you share it with others. Now let’s even go beyond. Let’s share it with everyone in the US, with everyone in the world, all of our brothers and sisters around the world, all of your loved ones. You can radiate it out to the trees, to the water. Thank you, water. Thank you for nourishing us. Let’s just take one more deep breath into the heart, feeling more connected, more present, more calm, more peaceful, more loving, radiating that out to one another from being together in this moment, being together on this journey. And then just put a smile on your face.
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