Have you ever given your friends valentines and little heart-shaped candies on Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever crossed your heart when making a promise that you really mean? Or turn on the radio to hear a guy singing about his broken heart?

We see and hear about hearts everywhere. A long time ago, people even thought that their emotions came from their hearts, maybe because the heart beats faster when a person is fearful or excited.

flaming heartIn Chinese medicine the heart is the motive force behind blood circulation.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is the physiological function of the heart to propel blood through the blood vessels, just as it is in conventional western medicine.  In addition, TCM says that the heart houses the “mind”.  In this case, mind has a broad meaning to include the outward appearance of the whole body and a more narrow meaning of consciousness which means “spirit” and thinking.  Both of these aspects together are called Shen.   Spirit, consciousness, thinking, memory and sleep are all related to the heart.  The element associated with the heart is fire, its season is summer.  Its sound is laughing and its emotion is joy.  From the above quote by Hur Jun, we can see that illness was seen as coming from dysfunctional emotional states between the heart and the spirit or “shen”.  To the ancient physician, the range of habitual patterns of imbalance is based on a disordered spirit that is not able to rest tranquilly in the heart.

“In my view, the separation of heart and mind denotes a tearing apart of the fundamental fabric of life, indicating a dire separation of yin and yang.  The essence of the spiritual path in the inner tradition is that all concepts and beliefs which create separation between our mind and heart must be methodically rooted out.  Only when our mind is able to spontaneously acknowledge and act on the truth within our heart is healing complete.” Lonny S, Jarret.  Nourishing Destiny:  The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine.  Spirit Path Press.  1998, 2000, 2001

In other words, when your head and heart are balanced and in agreement, you are on the right path.  When you have realized your passion in life it nourishes the heart.  Without passion and joy we may look elsewhere for that nourishment.

All organ-meridian systems are interrelated. The Heart/Fire creates or is mother to the Earth Element of the Spleen and Stomach.  When the Fire of the Heart is not nourished we may turn to nourishing the Heart’s “child” the Spleen and Stomach in an attempt to also nourish its mother, the Heart.  This imbalance may result in obesity, digestive complaints and other related health issues such as Type II diabetes..  In this pattern we can see how a disease can come from the “Heart”.

The 16th century Korean physician Hur Jun (Chinese: Xu Jun) wrote in his Dongyi baojian (Precious Reflections by an Eastern Physician):

“If you wish to bring about real healing, you must first and foremost treat a person’s heart. You must bring the heart on the right path, so that it can be filled and sustained by a universal sense of truth. You must get it to a place where it can safely abandon all doubting and worrying and obsessing in senselessly looping patterns, where it can let go of any anxiety provoking imbalances, and where it is willing to surrender all “me, me, me” and all “this is his/her fault!” Try and awaken the heart to acknowledge and regret all the wrong that one has done, to lay down all selfish attachments, and to transform one’s small and self-centered world for the glorious universe wherein we are all one, and wherein there is nothing to do but praise its existence.”

This is not only true of us as individuals; it is true in for the world in which we live.  Fear, anger and resentments cause hearts to clench like fists.  We can readily see this play out in daily headlines and we can wonder has our world gone sick?

To heal a society is to replace anger with forgiveness.  To replace resentments with gratitude.  To replace fear with love.  This is indeed the prescription for true healing from the ancient physicians.  As much as herbs and acupuncture are good medicine, true healing also comes from the heart.