The heart is the most important organ in the body. Even if we consider the practicality of our bodily functions we quickly realise we can live with only one kidney, we can live with only one lung or if our gallbladder has been removed, but we can’t live without our heart.
In its physical aspect it is responsible for two main functions:
Pumping blood throughout our system and carrying the essential nutrients, oxygen and hormones to the organs
Removing the metabolic waste and carbon dioxide that are generated when these essential nutrients are consumed.
But as well as the vital physical aspects of the heart, it also has an emotional aspect.
Of course, as with all of our energy systems we are an ever-dynamic composition of the merging energies between the physical, spiritual, cognitional and emotional aspects.
In our understandings of the heart, we are very familiar with the concept that love is something that is held within, and generated by, the heart. In our modern cultures we have forgotten a lot of our traditional knowledge about the emotions produced by and governed by our organs, but if we explore some of the old adages or metaphoric turns of the English language we can still recover some of the old knowledge that guided our health until the onslaught of the bio-medical age. These understandings were based in ancient science of the ‘Four Humours’, expanded upon by Hippocrates and made famous in England by Nicholas Culpeper in the 17th Century.
These understandings were still being used in mainstream medicine until the mid 1900s, and so we can talk of someone being ‘bilious’, reminding ourselves that the emotion of anger is held in and produced by the liver. When we talk of feeling ‘deflated’ we refer to the way in which the lung energy governs inspiration or grief. We are all familiar with both the language and the experience of having a ‘gut feeling’ illustrating the wisdom that the gut holds and can inform us with.
Each of our organs have memory cells, wonderfully explored in Candace Pert’s book Molecules of Emotion: The Scientific Basis Behind Mind-Body Medicine (Scribner, 1997). As a paradigm-blowing piece of scientific understanding based on her years of research in opiate receptors, she writes ‘We know that the immune system, like the central nervous system, has memory and the capacity to learn. Thus, it could be said that intelligence is located not only in the brain but in cells that are distributed throughout the body, and that the traditional separation of mental processes, including emotions, from the body is no longer valid.'
Well fortunately, this beautiful fact is something that we are familiar with when considering the heart. We deeply, intuitively know that love is something that is not created in the brain, but rather it is primarily created, received, and experienced within the heart.
And if we look at Chinese medicine understandings, the heart is the Emperor or, (being a yin organ), is the Empress of the whole-body system. One of my favourite descriptions of the energetic components of the heart is expressed in the Daoist classic, “Contemplations by the Huainan Masters (Huainanzi)”, written ca. 110 B.C. (that is a very long time ago!). The heart is described as the 'the ruler of the five organ networks. It commands the movements of the four extremities, it circulates the qi and the blood, it roams the realms of the material and the immaterial, and it is in tune with the gateways of every action. Therefore, coveting to govern the flow of energy on earth without possessing a heart would be like aspiring to tune gongs and drums without ears, or like trying to read a piece of fancy literature without eyes.'
So we begin to build a picture of the heart as a governing rhythm that regulates and commands the entire function of the body. And this is exactly how I see the energy of the heart moving through all of the interrelated energy systems. It acts as the gentle, wise, passionate and compassionate conductor of your entire orchestra. The HeartMath Institute is doing a vital and wonderful job of educating people about the ways in which they can help understand and balance their heart energies.
I’m going to leave you with a simple energy exercise to help balance your heart rhythms. It is called ‘The Peaceful Heart’ and the step by step instructions are below.
Bring your first two fingers and your thumb together in each hand to form a three-fingered notch. With one hand place your fingers in the centre of your chest (a midpoint in the sternum). This activates the heart energy as well as connecting deep into the endocrine system.
With the other hand place your fingers just above the bridge of the nose. This powerful point is near the start of the bladder meridian, it is the centre of the 6th Chakra and also our neurological processing point.
Take three conscious breaths while your fingers are connecting these points.
Place a three fingered notch in the hollow at the base of your throat. This is a deep point of integration and relaxation.
Place your other three fingered notch on the top of your head, about 2-3cm back from the hairline. This is a neurovascular point for the heart meridian and holding it brings the emotional aspect of the heart into coherence and balance.
Take three conscious breaths as you connect this second set of points.
Finish by crossing your arms over your chest with your fingers tucked into your armpits (your thumbs can simply rest on your chest wherever they comfortably fall.) Gently squeeze your arms together as you take three more breaths in this position. If it feels good to you then allow your upper body to move in a rhythmic flow from side to side. This helps stabilise the rhythm of the heart field.
You can do this exercise anytime that you want to feel deeply centred and peaceful and in doing so you help stabilise and expand the heart field. You can also use this exercise as first-aid when you are feeling overly emotional or overwhelmed so that you can return closer to your place of peace and vitality.
With love, Prune