The heart provides the power we need to live, both physically and emotionally.
Arguably the most important muscle we have. In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest. The heart supplies the force to circulate blood throughout the body. The blood transports oxygen and nutrient to the cells of the body and carries waste and other substances from the cells. It pumps an average of 6000 quarts of blood daily.
The heart is made up of four chambers. There are two chambers on each side of the heart. One chamber is on the top and one chamber is on the bottom. The two chambers on top are called the atria. The atria fill with the blood returning to the heart from the body and lungs. The heart has a left atrium and a right atrium.
The two bottom chambers are called the ventricles. The heart has a left ventricle and a right ventricle. They pump out blood to the body and lungs. Running down the middle of the heart is a thick wall of muscle called the septum. The septum separates the left and right side of the heart.
The atria fill with blood, then pump it into the ventricles. The ventricles then pump blood out of the heart. While the ventricles are pushing, the atria refill for the next contraction. Four valves control the flow of blood through the chambers.
Two of the heart valves are the mitral valve and the tricuspid valve. They let blood flow from the atria to the ventricles. The other two are called the aortic valve and pulmonary valve. They control the flow as the blood leaves the heart. These valves all work to keep the blood flowing forward. They open up to let the blood move ahead, then they close quickly to keep the blood from flowing backward.
The Heart on Chinese (Medicine and Feng Shui) Paradigms
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the oldest, continually practiced, and professionally administered health care system in the world. It is a documented medical system spanning over 2,500 years based on comprehensive philosophies, rational theories, clinically tested and empirically verified by over 100 generations of highly educated practitioners.
Chinese Medicine is a total system of internal medicine, which is comprised of a diagnostic procedure based on signs, symptoms and treatment styles including acupuncture, herbal medicine, exercise, diet and meditation. It’s foundation is based on the principles of balance; the interdependent relationship of Yin and Yang. Through this balance, health is achieved and maintained.
The Heart is looked at as the dominant organ for mental activity. It is believed that all information is preserved and processed through the heart. Loving or unloving emotions are centered in the heart. When the emotions become imbalanced, the Spirit can become agitated; once the Spirit becomes agitated, the whole heart system goes out of balance.
The heart is said to house the Spirit, otherwise considered The Shen, in TCM. The Shen refers to the function of processing all incoming sensory and intuitive information and supervising the body/mind reaction to it; associated with the heart.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine has been shown to significantly increase your heart health. Since many factors around heart disease involve lifestyle issues, you can take charge of your health and reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 80% when using acupuncture. When a person has a heart attack the pain often extends along the arms. This indicates that both on a physical and emotional level the heart, arms and hands are linked. The contact point for the heart is the palms of the hands. The Heart Channel runs along the inside of the arms.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is the Emperor of the human body. The heart corresponds to the emotion of joy. Regular expressions of joy and creativity are important for a healthy and functioning heart.
As poetic as this is, true physical signs of agitation, insomnia, anxiety and the inability to feel joy, can occur. Chest pain, heart palpitations, an irregular heart beat, excessive dreaming, poor long-term memory, as well as, psychological disorders are complications a heart imbalance. Heart disease can present with two distinct signs: dyspnea (difficulty breathing) and/or angina or chest pain. Other signs include arrhythmias, orthopnea, weakness and fatigue. Risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, genetic pre-disposition, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, alcoholism, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism.
It is said that the heart houses the mind or our Shen. The Shen is described as the Spirit. In the Huang di Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon), the ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese medicine for more than two millennia, the Shen refers to the mechanism of change or the mystery of sudden and profound transformation, and the expression in a person’s face, particularly the eyes. When applied to our body, the Shen describes what would be called our physical vitality, mental activity, and spirit.
Sweat is considered the humour or fluid of the heart. A humour is a liquid or fluent part of the body. For example, The vitreous humor is the clear gel that fills the space between the lens and the retina of the eyeball Sweating is a natural cooling process for the body. Because sweat is the humor of the heart and blood along with fluids are the same source, there is a direct correspondence. Someone who has lost a large quantity of blood does not sweat, and someone that has excessive sweat tends to have poor blood circulation, anemia or excessive heat signs.
The heart also opens to the tongue. The color of the body of the tongue reflects the condition of heart blood. Chinese medicine practitioners often discover information about the heart’s condition from the tip of the tongue where imbalances of the upper (burner) organs, lung and heart, may excpress themselves. The important signs in heart syndromes are palpitations, a tendency to be frightened, chest oppression, pain in the cardiac region, insomnia, nightmares, poor memory and delirium.
In summer, our energy dominates the Heart and the Small Intestine meridians. There is a secondary relationship to the Pericardium and San Jiao or Triple (Burner) Warmer. The heart dominates the blood and vessels, pumping life blood through them. The function of the heart is to circulate blood to the body. As long as the heart is in motion, blood circulates through the vessels maintaining life. The power of the heart manifests on the face. When our face is well supplied with life circulating blood, the fine capillaries in the face will present on the face with a rosy and lustrous complexion. Chinese medicine traditionally regards the face as a mirror of the condition of our heart.
Heart and Ayurveda
From the Ayurvedic perspective, the heart is the seat of prana (life energy), which is maintained by a delicate balance of agni (the solar energy element) and soma (the lunar energy element). Excess mental and emotional stress wastes away soma in the heart. The heart, is also the seat of ojas, the substance within us that maintains life and promotes bliss and longevity.
To protect and nourish the physical heart and the emotional heart, it is essential to promote both soma and ojas. Heart health is governed also by three sub-doshas: Sadhaka Pitta (emotional balance), Avalambaka Kapha (stability and strength) and Vyana Vata (blood flow and beat), which, though present everywhere in the body, has its seat in the heart.
“The Ten Vessels”
The heart is also the root of an important set of subtle energetic pathways described in the Vedic texts—the ten great vessels (which happen to be intimately connected to mano vaha srotas and rasa vaha srotas, above). Of the ten, three are said to be the most important. These three travel from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, intersecting at each of the seven Chakra and form an important part of the subtle body.
Support Your Heart
The following therapeutic strategies support heart health by:
~ Reducing stress.
~ Supporting mental and emotional well-being.
~ Clearing the bodily channels and energetic pathways (srotamsi and nadis).
~ Promoting the healthy flow of prana throughout the system.
~ Kindling agni.
~ Clearing ama.
~ Improving tissue nutrition.
~ Supporting ojas.
The Heart, Love and it’s Emotional Aspects
The romantic view of the human heart invokes love transcending all obstacles and unconditional love that truly expands the boundaries of the human heart. When romantic philosophy speaks of the heart, it speaks of things that lie at the very center of what it means to be human.
Open Your Heart!
Harvest Unconditional Love… love that does not judge, but embraces.
Positive Emotions and Attitudes reduce stress and promote a healthy heart.
Be Humble: Be Loving and Compassionate to all Mankind.
Do things in a casual way: Speak softly. Avoid anger. Indulge in whole-hearted laughter.
Stress reduction is very important in heart disease. This is a situation that must be addressed. Stress related issues are responsive to counseling and to a wide variety of psychotherapies. During the past several decades, there has been an increasing enthusiasm for focused, time-limited therapies that address ways of coping with stress and it’s symptoms directly, rather than exploring unconscious conflict or other personal vulnerabilities.
Trauma, post-traumatic stress and anxiety trigger a response from the body. Feeling threatened in areas of your life? This “perception” puts your body into a “fight or flight” mode of danger causing your body to always be ready to defend itself, creating stress, anxiety or even panic. When this happens, our bodies no longer regulate in a normal capacity but at a higher sense of defense and awareness, causing a reactionary response ~ such as anxiety.
The Heart Chakra
Anahata: 4th Chakra (Heart Chakra): Air, Social identity, oriented to self-acceptance This chakra is called the heart chakra and is the middle chakra in a system of seven. It is related to love and is the integrator of opposites in the psyche: mind and body, male and female, persona and shadow, ego and unity. A healthy fourth chakra allows us to love deeply, feel compassion, have a deep sense of peace and centered. The color for this chakra is green or pink. This chakra deals with physical healing, balance, harmony, compassion and love. The heart chakra is located near the heart.
This chakra is most important in all facets of love, when it is balanced, you trust in others, take risks, love and feel loved. Physically, it governs the thymus gland, heart, blood, circulatory system and the immune and endocrine systems. To help activate this chakra, eat lots of green vegetables, surround yourself in nature, especially trees and plants. The symbol of this chakra is the Crescent.
Heart as Sacred Geometry
Heart: The heart is at the very center of our being. It is the balance between the upper and lower Chakra and between the physical and the spiritual. Generally, hearts represent love, compassion and charity, but may also indicate a romantic disposition. True love, happiness, financial gain, lasting love, and love for other. The heart represents your ability to care for or love other people. It may also reflect unconditional love or understanding. It is the physical organ that pumps blood to every part of the body.
In Kabbalah the heart represents the “home of God” which also contains his secret name. In Islam, the heart represents the inner life of a person and of meditation and contemplation. In Christianity, the heart represents the symbol for Christ. Indeed, the heart is actually an upside-down triangle (or chalice or vase) and in all accounts, the heart is a receptacle.