February is Heart Month in the United States. It’s a time to focus on maintaining a healthy heart through diet, exercise, and regular medical check-ups. These physical factors are crucial, but the impact of emotions on the heart is often overlooked. Fortunately, Indigenous and Eastern perspectives offer a wealth of wisdom and knowledge that can help unlock the mystery, magic, and healing powers that lie within the heart.
Indigenous and Eastern Perspectives of the Heart
Indigenous cultures have a rich history of knowledge about the heart woven into daily life. For them, the heart is not just a physical organ but a portal to the interconnectedness of all things—the self, other people, nature and its creatures, and the cosmos. Indigenous cultures have known for generations that a deep connection to life can only be achieved through the heart.
Eastern traditions, such as Yoga and Ayurveda, also view the heart as a power center that connects physical, energetic, and spiritual pathways. The heart influences respiration, digestion, mental and emotional processing, as well as individual and transpersonal consciousness.
Emotions within Your Heart
My early explorations into traditional Chinese therapies and non-religious Daoism revealed the tremendous complexity of the heart. In these perspectives, every organ of the body is associated with and influenced by a specific emotion. For example, the liver is associated with anger, the spleen with pensiveness, and the lungs with sadness.
The heart is associated with joy, but every emotion, including those below your awareness, passes through and affects it—sadness, anger, grief, kindness, shock, love, regret, elation, envy, and more. Your heart has to manage a lot of emotional ups and downs.
My teacher believed that 60% of physical illnesses stem from emotional (heart) problems, and I witnessed this firsthand while working in his clinic. We utilized practical techniques such as massage, cupping, herbs, and exercises, but the real healing breakthrough came when clients understood their innate emotional nature and vulnerabilities. With this awareness and the intention to change, miraculous transformations occurred. This approach remains the cornerstone of my healing and dreamwork practice today.
The Elixir that Creates Magic and Healing of Your Heart
The physical function of your heart is remarkable. It pumps blood and oxygen throughout your body, sustaining life. But its distribution of the subtle essence known as “Shen” in Chinese medicine is even more remarkable. Shen governs and guides your consciousness, feelings, motivation, authentic self, and spirit. Shen is seen as the “monarch”—the benevolent sun king that supports you with a golden, radiant elixir.
The character Shen also means “to extend and express.” When Shen flows freely, life-force follows, allowing for spontaneous self-expression. You shine directly from your heart.
However, many people live far from their hearts, which depletes Shen. They believe that the center of their existence is in the head and trust in their thinking mind. While the mind is a powerful tool, if it replaces the brilliance of your heart, your life becomes barren and you lose the connection to a deeper, more meaningful existence beyond the ego. The impact on your body and mind can vary depending on your personality and nature, often manifesting in emotional and mental illnesses rooted in fear.
Living from your heart can be challenging in today’s fast-paced and tech-connected world. Still, restoring your heart as the center is possible by finding joy, emotional nourishment, and spiritual sustenance. The conventional advice to take breaks, walk in nature, get plenty of sleep, and journal, is helpful, but replenishing the nectar of Shen needs more profound work.
Bearing the Tenderness of Your Heart
To restore your Shen, you must understand your emotional nature and vulnerabilities and establish a process to manage recurring emotional conflict. The approach must align with your personality, abilities, and situation. Only then will you feel strong enough to bear the emotional tenderness of your own heart. And only then will you trust your heart.
To do this requires gaining knowledge and practicing heart-opening and empowering techniques. Ideally, you will embark on this journey with the guidance of a teacher, healer, or a supportive group. With this foundation, you can then continue on your own.
By reinstating your heart to its rightful place, you experience the immense blessing of meaningful connection. You connect with other awakened hearts and the heartbeat of the world, which, despite its challenges, still sings an eternal resonant song. It’s waiting for you to join in.
To learn more about my healing and dreamwork, visit this page.