The Hearts Calling-Honouring your Hearts Needs.
The heart from a Chinese Medicine perspective is related to the season of the summer and the element of fire. The nature of the power of fire is seen in its ability to transform and nourishing your heart and small intestine is very transformative work. Your fire element is nourished through many things including connection that stimulates us through our love of friends, family, community, a loving partner and discerning what we love to do and what makes us happy. At its deepest level, your heart is nourished through its relationship with the divine. Love doesn’t necessarily mean romantic love. A love of life also nourishes your heart.
Openness is an important quality of the fire element. The heart is linked to what the Chinese refer to as our “shen”, awareness or divine spirit. When the heart is clear, divinity shines through, authenticity and sincere qualities are present. Presence in the moment is the deepest expression of human shen. Meditation is deeply nourishing for your heart. The Chinese see the heart as ultimately reflecting our relationship with the divine. When this is in flow, everything else flows. The heart is obviously strongly connected to the blood and when blood is strong, the shen or spirit is strongly anchored which is conducive to being calm and getting good, quality sleep. The heart is nourished through connection and also finding some space, quietness and moments to pause and savour for yourself. Nourishing the stomach and liver are also important in nourishing the heart.
The heart needs to connect through openness and connection but also has a necessity to be protected through the small intestine (which governs how we absorb and assimilate nourishment from food and things around us), the pericardium (akin to a shield that protects heart) or heart protector and the triple heater (akin to a thermostat which regulates the three main areas of the torso: the abdomen, solar plexus and chest). Because the hearts job is so important from a Chinese medicine perspective, these three helpers are essential. The heart is considered in Chinese Medicine as the “emperor”. It is said that it should never be touched directly. Its job is to govern and to have the ability to face difficulty while staying open to all that is beautiful and good. The heart is capable of embracing paradox in life whereas the mind seeks more certainty. I guess how we would phrase it is that the love of the heart is all embracing. The heart gives the capacity to receive all of the experiences of life and to integrate all of these experiences. It seeks to integrate from the five senses and generate appropriate internal response. When the heart is healthy and thriving you experience openness, strength, clarity and compassion. When the heart is balanced you can let go of stress, fear and doubt and feel light and expansive. Ideally we want our heart to be strong yet calm and brave but kind and generous.
Over the next while, I will be posting about the heart and how to nourish your heart through food, mindful movement, lifestyle choices and different acupuncture points, stretches etc. This relates to my online course “Nourishing and Strengthening your organs through Chinese medicine nutrition, mindful movement (yoga & qigong) and shiatsu self massage”.
Today I’m going to focus on nutrition which nourishes the heart from a Chinese Medicine perspective. Your heart is nourished through joy so cooking and food should be a joyful experience filled with things that nourish your heart. A slightly bitter taste nourishes the heart but too much bitterness will have the opposite effect. A bitter salad prepared with rocket salad, lettuce or dandelion leaves with some pesto vinegrette dressing is very nourishing for your heart. Foods containing red pigment are also said to be good for the heart such as beetroot, tomatoes, cherries, strawberries and red peppers. Meat is also nourishing for the heart although too much can have the opposite effect so strive always for moderation. Basmati rice, red lentils, red beans, egg yolks, mung bean and oats are also very nourishing for your heart. Breathing, smiling and an acceptance of what is nourishes your heart. Enjoy cooking joyfully and exploring what nourishes your heart. Stay tuned for more tips over the next while, enjoy.