In addition to the heart being located and protected deep within us and responsible for physically pumping and circulating our blood to reach each and every part of our body, its responsibilities extend to the emotional and spiritual realms as well. Chinese medicine recognizes the more subtle and energetic characteristics and actions of each organ, that goes far beyond what we are taught in a physiology class.
Do you want to learn more about the heart, beyond its circulatory functions, to better understand your mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing? The heart is said to house our mind and therefore our consciousness, thinking, sleeping, long-term memory, and a very subtle but profound energy called Shen, also translated as “spirit”. Shen is the spiritual component of who we are and is reflected in our eyes. When someone's eyes are clear and bright and perhaps even sparkle, they may be said to have a healthy shen, whereas, when you look into the eyes of someone who is going through a hard time, depressed, or feeling sad, their eyes may be unclear, dull, and cloudy looking.Many mental illnesses are described in Chinese medicine as disturbances of shen. A healthy shen gives us the ability to be present in this world, the opportunity to be fully engaged, deal with problems effectively, and stay reasonably balanced and focused regardless of what life throws at us.
When our Shen is disturbed, we may have symptoms of mental disturbance, unclear speech, lack of clarity, poor long-term memory, and insomnia.Have you ever been told to “trust your gut" or as I often tell my kids, “listen to what your heart tells you". They mean the same thing. In Chinese medicine each yin organ (solid organ) has a yang counterpart organ (an organ that fills and empties). The heart is a yin organ with its yang counterpart being the small intestine. The small intestine works tirelessly sorting the ‘pure from the impure’, absorbing the 'pure' and sending the 'impure' to the large intestine to be eliminated. It’s constantly deciding what to digest and what not to digest physically, emotionally and spiritually. Needless to say, our mind, heart and gut are closely connected and inseparable and are the 3 brains that greatly influence our intuition.
When the heart and small intestine are in harmony, we are joyful, have healthy relationships with appropriate boundaries, our digestion is good, we communicate clearly, and we gracefully move forward in life making progress towards our goals, dreams and plans.If only we could bottle healthy heart energy!!
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are incredibly effective at treating the circulatory and the more subtle actions of the heart and its small intestine counterpart. If you are dealing with something difficult in your life, be sure to seek out help. Life events that lead to our emotions being repressed, unexpressed or intense for long and extended periods of time without being addressed and resolved, can lead to serious distress in the body creating illness and disease.It is our responsibility to care for our precious life, our mind, body and spirit, and a big part of that starts with understanding the magnitude of our heart!