As we enter the energetic climax of the year, High Summer we enter the time of the Heart. So for the next few posts (and days as I am running a weekend residential for the Heart 8-10th June, see conscious cooking classes) I will be addressing the Heart in Chinese medicine, with food, accupressure points and maybe even mantra, assuming my technical abilities can match my aspirations. I hope it is of use and most of all enjoyable.
The element of the heart is fire. There are many types of fire, dangerous out of control forest fire which consumes all, the hypnotic comfort of an open hearth or the spiritual connotation of a candle. They have however a common element and that is transformation. A flame is never still; it is constantly using oxygen and changing the object that it is burning. This constant action is yang. Out of control the yang can be destructive but contained within boundaries the light illuminates and its energy is warming. This is the energy of the heart and its cultivation of gentle containment is what we hope to give you a taste of over this weekend. It is essential that we nurture the fire of the heart as in Chinese Medicine “all diseases belong to the heart”. But how can this be, how can all that goes askew with our body be traced to the heart? I think the answer lies in the word dis-ease, when we are not at ease with ourselves that is when tension and stress occurs; these weaken different parts of the body which can degenerate or allow pathogens and viruses into the body. It is within the heart energy, free from attachment and influence, that we connect with our true nature. In this connection with the heart we drop the armour of protection and become at ease with ourselves, grounded in reality yet in touch with the amazing potential of life.
The heart, the internal flame within the body is protected by all the other organs. It is the emperor of the body which all the other organs are in service to. So how do we nurture it and make sure that the flame burns brightly, shinning out through the eyes and complexion and yet doesn’t rage out of control, overheating the body, constantly on the move and destroying balance? We build the heart a home, we give it a safe container to be housed in. The hearts function in Chinese medicine is to give vibrancy and life to blood and it is in the blood that the “shen”, our consciousness, is said to reside. So we make sure the blood is healthy, that it is full of nutrients and that it flows evenly throughout the body. This needs the elements of healthy eating, healthy movement of the body’s energy and healthy thinking.
In your heart there is love, don’t love too deeply. In your Heart there is hate, don’t hate too deeply, because too much of any of these will attack the Shen” *1
Our consciousness or Shen is a “unique treasure … present in us all”*2. It must be protected like a flame, not fanned to an inferno by emotions or allowed to dwindle due to poor care and attention. Meditation is a great tool for allowing distance and perspective on people, places and things that can bring emotions such as grief, pain, anger, as well as happiness and joy. We need some distance from these emotions to allow the true transformational power of the heart to enact. If we make external factors the cause of our happiness or sadness and attach to them, then they have power over us. However if we have perspective and don’t take things personally (literally to heart) then every person, place or thing can hold within it the possibility for our heart to expand with love and compassion.
*1 Sun Simiao, “The one Thousand Ducat Prescription Book” quoted in the “Five elements and Ten Stems”
*2 Shiatsu Theory and Practice: Carolla Beresford Cooke