The Heartfulness Project at The Virtual Dragon Cafe in the City

Nature is our Heart

The Heartfulness project took part in a recent series of events offering mental health support to the City of London. In a long-standing collaboration with The Dragon Cafe, Tamara Russell (with support from Dr. Maya Campbell) offered an exploration of a brain-based, holistic ways to help regulate emotions and take care of body and mind. The theme this year was managing stress and blood pressure so there was a great fit.

Find out more about what Maya has been up to down below (or check out her next event “Why am I feeling this way?”).

What we did in the Dragon Cafe session

The focus of the sessions was on the integration of body and mind to support heart health. The research shows a strong link between cardiac problems and mental health. There are also some good resources about the links between emotional stress and cardiac health from the British Heart Foundation here. There are many things we need help with when significant mental or physical issues arise. But there is so much we can do for ourselves too.

Tamara shared the three colours model from Professor Paul Gilbert’s model of motivation and emotion. The red is switched on when our system in threat (physical or mental), the blue is engaged in the drive mode drive (which is non stop for those working in the City of London), and the greens relates to our calm, contented and restorative mode. We need all these modes but it is the imbalance of these that can create mental and physical health problems.

It’s all about the balance of Red, Blue and Green in our day and life.

Simple exercises, done frequently, can help us regulate our emotions and take care of both body and mind. Scroll down Resources below if you want to access two practices we did in the session – The Transitional Pause and Hand on Heart. These are just a taste of a very comprehensive program that was developed by Dr. Maya Campbell and Dr. Tamara Russell (and the participants of our early pilot work) in the Heartfulness Project.

In the Heartfulness Project we attempted to draw on the most up to date understanding from ancient and modern traditions to develop a program that can support both. It includes compassion, mindfulness, mindful movements (based on Tai Chi from the Body in Mind Training program), psychoeducation, and creative practices. The benefits of Tai Chi for cardiac health are well known, but there is often a barrier to these classes for multiple reasons. See this blog from Harvard Health.

A creative expression of the three motivational modes.

Working with mindful movements based on tai chi give the best of both gentle physical movements, plus the attention and compassion that trains the brain. The intention is to provide not only the tools to self-regulate but also some of the scientific knowledge that underpins the approaches. This helps participants to “get to the why” which we know, from motivational theory, can dramatically increase adherence to the programs. It is also something that is particularly necessary for secular mindfulness. We strongly recommended the book Intention Matters by lead mindfulness training Juliet Adams as a great starting point to explore how important intentions can be.

Update from Maya

Dr. Maya Campbell

Maya has been taking time out from her work to focus on writing a book “This is My Heart” that shares her story to benefit others. She weaves her personal experience with her scientific training to illuminate the power of compassion and mindfulness to heal both body and mind. Watch this space for updates. A short article here gives some of her story.

Maya shares her own journey to healing, along with her significant scientific and psychological training and expertise to help others to find some peace with their condition. Even though the “reds” are there (physically and emotionally), can we resource ourselves with green? This piece of creative art below showcases one Heartfulness participant’s representation of this aspiration.

Maya is also part of the British Heart Foundations new initiative with National Voices on integrating mental health and physical support. We hope her voice can be heard as those working to support physical health become more aware of the power of the mind and the emotional system on our health.

Weaving a basket of Greens to Hold the Reds


Audios from the Dragon Cafe Event

You can listen to two of the recordings offered at the Virtual Dragon Cafe session. The Transitional Pause helps us to slow down, tune in and ground. We take stock of the impact of the day on our mind/body system and from this position, decide what we need next. This short exercise gets easier with practice and is better with friends. At the Mindfulness Centre, we use it to start every meeting to ensure we are working in compassionate and brainwise ways.

The Hand on Heart practice is also one of our favorites. Huge gratitude to Maya for introducing us to this incredibly simple way to regulate our vagal nerve. This is a simple tool we can use at any time, that can be really beneficial.

More about Mindful Movement and Dr. Maya Campbell

Maya’s website is undergoing an upgrade but she can be contacted via the contact page. Maya offers compassion training and HeartMath coaching for a limited number of clients. Please note you may not get an immediate response as she is still working on the final edits of her book. Watch this space!

Maya’s next on line event information can be found here.

A paper outlining the Heartfulness Project (available on request) Campbell, M., Bendijk, A. & Russell, T. (2019). Introducing the Heartfulness Project. Transpersonal Psychology Review, 21, 47 – 57.

Find out more about mindful movement from Tamara’s book Mindfulness in Motion or the on-line video course Mindfulness: Moving Meditation.

Not sure where this piece of Graffiti was painted. Honoring the unknown artist for a powerful message.