In Taoist Chinese medicine, heart (shen or spirit), mind, emotions, and the physical body are entwined as one. But right relationship with our inner heart is the key to the art of life - creating well-being that supports us to stay connected to our truth and allows our radiant spirit to shine light and love into the world.
According to this ancient wisdom, our heart is the seat of consciousness and houses our spirit. While the mind facilitates intellectual capacity, consciousness, the most important aspect of mind, encompasses spiritual qualities of awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Heart shen (spirit) is one of the Taoist Three Treasures, considered essential to life itself and is connected to the greater Shen or Spirit. In the quiet stillness of our Heart, we can listen and receive inner guidance. Our inner spirit (shen) is manifest as the light, vitality, and sparkle that shines through our eyes. When we are centered in our heart with quiet awareness and loving kindness, harmony is created in our being at all levels. In this way we contribute to our own well-being and create a ripple effect influencing all those around us.
“The heart is the sovereign of all organs &represents the consciousness of one’s being.It is responsible for intelligence, wisdom &spiritual transformation.”
~ Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine
Modern research, particularly from the HeartMath® group, shows that the heart is much more than a physical pump. It is a global synchronizing signal that influences the harmonious functioning of the brain and multiple systems of the body. Interestingly, this correlates with Chinese medicine’s portrayal of the heart as the Emperor.
This teaching of the heart is also represented allegorically and historically. In ancient China the Emperor was considered the son of Heaven who ruled Earth rooted in the wisdom and guidance of Heaven. Of course, this was not always the case, but was an aspiration. The Chinese character for human being portrays a person standing between Heaven and Earth. At the nexus of this is our heart.
Traditional models of the human body were based on the brain as being the determining factor in human health and emotions. Western medicine held that the heart had too low a frequency ﬁeld to exert any inﬂuence and. that only the endocrine system and brain produced neurotransmitters affecting our emotional state and health. But we now know that the heart itself produces peptides that affect emotions and that a nerve ganglia around the heart communicates directly with the higher cognitive areas of the brain.
Our heart’s true nature is loving, kind, and compassionate. These attributes are often clouded by emotions such as anger, frustration, envy, and worry that make it difficult to connect with our calm heart and innate goodness.
While it’s natural to experience these difficult emotions, when they continue over time, this can exert a profound impact on our well-being, health, and ability to heal. We’ve all experienced how anxiety can create knots in our stomach, anger keeps us from thinking clearly, and worry saps our energy. The dissonance affects our brain, nervous, immune, and all other body systems.
I studied and practiced the art of Jin Shin Jyutsu, a hands-on Japanese healing art, for most of my life. Intrinsic to the art is what Mary Burmeister called its physio-philosophy because our underlying philosophy or mental/emotional outlook affects our physiology. These ancient sages knew the foundation of well-being is rooted in spirit: in knowing who we are, cultivating our better nature, and living simply. Living simply is also to recognize the cycles of change in the world, in the seasons, in our relationships, and in the seasons of our life. We can live in harmony with these cycles as we grow, change, and adapt through life’s constant challenges. This way of living is true resilience. .
Ayurvedic medicine in India, ancient Taoist Chinese medicine, and Buddhist philosophy are examples of traditions that teach and offer medicine for the body, mind/emotions, and spirit. They recognize that we are spiritual beings in physical form who are dealing with the constantly changing, rising and falling world of phenomena, thoughts, and feelings. Our connection with Spirit, our relationship with our own heart and consciousness, how we relate, work with, and express our thoughts, feelings and perceptions influence every cell in our body. Are we an ongoing cacophony of distress, distrust, worry, anger and fear? Or are we a work in progress to becoming a symphony playing in harmony, creating and singing the music and song that is uniquely our own? This resonance of inner harmony affects every living cell in our body and allows us to live life with grace.
The character for human being in Chinese portrays a person standing in between heaven and earth. What does this convey? To me this signifies our most basic purpose and relationship in life. We live in the context of relationship; humans stand in the heart, a bridge or conduit between heaven and earth.. Where do we receive our guidance? In the quiet stillness of our heart. We receive guidance and inspiration from heaven as we stand upon the earth in stewardship and create community and relationship with one another.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23
There is an infinite mystery flowing through our hearts. Through deep listening and awareness, as we tend and cultivate our gifts of gratitude, compassion, loving kindness, we align and attune our walk on this earth and connections with each other and all life with spirit/Spirit and attune to the one consciousness of life, love, and light that we all are. As we share the fruits and gifts of our spirit, we nourish, support and enrich each other and benefit all beings. This is the art of life.