Summer, the Season of Heart

August 2008

According to Chinese medicine, summer is the season of Heart. As I am writing this first newsletter, I am pondering on what is the “heart” of the Chinese Medicine and what is the “heart” of Turning Point newsletter. I believe that the “heart” of the Chinese medicine resides not only in its body/mind/spirit holistic approach — it’s natural, safe and effective healing power — but more importantly in its emphasis on prevention of illnesses by taking self-responsibility in cultivating the health of body and mind. In other words, it’s not a medicine that is used by authority figures to miraculously “fix” you, but a medicine that invites your participation, and requires your responsibility in your journey to healing and transformation. Say if you have insomnia, besides having regular treatment with your Chinese Medicine doctor, you are required to stop drinking coffee and taking other stimulants, and to look into ways to relax and establish a sleep routine in order to have the best results. I hope that the Turning Point Newsletter will strive to transmit the wisdom of this healing art to empower you and inspire you. As you apply the simple yet effective self-healing techniques to your daily life, you’ll feel empowered by your own actions and you’ll form an embodied understanding that you are the most important ingredient in your own healing. The newsletter will also bring you stories of other people’s healing journey with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, and it welcomes you to tell us about your stories.

According to Chinese Medicine, the human body is the extension of the nature — the macrocosm — and is intimately related with the energy shift in nature. There is vast correspondence drawn between the natural phenomenon and our physical phenomenon. One of the main organ systems that correspond to summer is the Heart system. The Heart system is considered to be the most important system in Chinese medicine. The analogy that’s used to describe the Heart System and its relationship with other organ systems is that of the monarch and the monarch leading other 11 main officials — the 11 main organ systems to rule the whole country (the body).

Let’s start with the story of the Monarch, which is the Heart. Chinese medicine “Heart” differs with western medicine heart in a way that it is not just a physical entity, but also more an energetic one. It entails broad ramifications other than the simple pump that is the western model of the heart’s role in the body.

This Monarch in Chinese medicine rules the body by several different ways:

First, it governs the blood and controls the blood vessels. In this sense, its functions resemble that of the western medicine heart. It is in charge of the blood circulation and the proper functions of the blood vessels to ensure a sufficient supply of the blood to every tissue of the body. Just like it is essential for a King’s order to be transmitted to every corner of the country, and feedback of the country be sent back to the king, the blood circulation to the body and back to the heart contains the information exchange between the King and the rest of his kingdom. The proper function of this is no doubt important for the health of the whole body. The Heart corresponds to the season summer and the element of fire, when the Heart is healthy, the individual has good circulation, has warm hands and feet, also he/she radiates warmth toward others and passion in what she does. A weak Heart physically will transpire as less vitality and exuberance in one’s being.

Second, the Heart rules at mental, emotional and spiritual level. The Heart is the residence of the Shen, which includes the whole sphere of the mental, emotional and spiritual activities of the human beings. If your Heart is in a good condition, the Shen will reside comfortably and function normally, and you have normal mental activities and a sense of emotional wellbeing and a sense of connectedness with the divine energy. The mental aspect of Shen includes cognitive ability, memory, consciousness, thinking and sleep. When the Shen is disturbed by various different factors such as chronic emotional stress, trauma, environmental toxins, poor life style, substance abuse etc., symptoms will occur. Most of mental emotional conditions such as anxiety, maniac-depression, insomnia and mood swings involve the imbalanced function of the Heart in Chinese medicine.

Let’s take a look at the example of insomnia. Your body has it’s own internal rhythm of energy flow which governs all physical and mental activity of the person. This internal rhythm follows the rhythmic cycle of the Yin/Yang energy in nature. During daytime, the Yang energy in nature rises, so does the Yang energy in our body, and you become more active physically and mentally. In the evening time, as the sun sets, our body’s energy quiets down accordingly and so does the “Shen”, which enables us to go to sleep. If your lifestyle is against this rhythm on a regular basis, say you have regular night shift, or you go out and stay up late at night to engage in exciting activities such as dancing, partying, heated debate, watching movie etc., your internal rhythm can be disrupted. When this happens, your Shen is not able to manage the rhythmic “sleep and awake” cycle, and you might develop insomnia. The best approach will be to treat the Heart, to restore its normal function. However, if you don’t change your life style accordingly, even if the treatment is effective, it will be short-lived. The balance will be broken again, therefore symptoms recur. It is essential if you suffer from insomnia that you take a comprehensive look at your life such as lifestyle, emotional stress, the way you deal with stress, and make the change that will help to maintain the balanced internal rhythm. Problems with sleep is a sign showing that the Monarch is affected. When the Monarch is not healthy, the whole country will suffer. When the Heart system becomes out of balance, other systems will soon malfunction. And if you use sleeping medication and don’t deal with your lifestyle issues, you are causing more trouble to your body in two ways. First, you are covering up the signals that are meant to warn you about the internal imbalance. Second, you are developing a dependency on external substance that, in long run, deteriorates your body’s own healing and function. When your “Heart” is in trouble you need to do something about it. By adopting a healthy life style, you are helping the health and balance of your Heart.

Let’s talk about how Heart Shen is in charge of the psychological and emotional aspects of life. These days we hear a lot about the “Type A” personality and how modern research shows that these people are highly prone to heart-related diseases. The Type A personality is characterized as impatient, easily angry and highly driven. We believe in Chinese Medicine that these behavior traits manifests energetic imbalance. You may appear to have inexhaustible energy and rushing non-stop, this is the manifestation of blazing fire in the internal environment. An internal pathological fire that is caused by imbalance of Yin and Yang energy constantly assaults your Heart Shen, and it’s just a matter of time before you will burn out. I have treated many people, men and women in mid-life who have been working hard to achieve their goals and who were forced to slow down because of various different health conditions. By balancing their energy, and also helping them to become aware of how their behaviors cause long-term harm to their health, these Type A people not only regain their health but also do change their personality traits. One patient went back to China to visit her family after a month of acupuncture treatment. She came back and reported to me that her family was so surprised that her “three big negative traits” were gone. She transformed from an angry, impatient person to a calm, contented person ready to help others all the time. She has been having a sense of peace and joy and starts to see life in a different way. When your Heart is restored to balance, you will experience improvement in physical, mental and emotional well-being.

The Heart also controls your ability to form meaningful relationships. The balanced Heart will have warmth radiating out when engaging in a relationship whereas a “broken heart” or “closed heart” will manifest as cold, distant and isolated. Emotional trauma and past relationship difficulties may lead us to close our hearts to avoid feeling the pain and vulnerability. However, when a heart closes it causes blocked energy. Free flow of energy enables free flow of blood; blocked energy causes congealed blood and poor circulation. In Chinese medicine, there is a direct correlation between blocked energy in the heart with the health of the Heart. When there is blockage, you are more prone to conditions such as coronary heart disease, blocked artery, aneurysm in the artery or brain, stroke etc. When I work with people, I don’t just use acupuncture and herbal medicine to help their energy flow smoothly; I also explore with them the issues of the “closed heart ” and “broken heart” to help remove blockage at the emotional and mental level. There is well-documented evidence in body/mind medicine field recently that a healthy relationship helps patients with heart disease to recover without operation (to learn more, read Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish). For people who suffer from depression and anxiety, the Heart System is always the main system to work on. When we restore the function of the Heart, it has impact on physical, mental and emotional aspects of the person.

Do you want to have a healthy heart? Do you want to experience more joy in the heart? Please email us and you’ll receive tips on diet, life style and simple acupressure technique for a healthy and happy heart.