The 5 Phases in TCM
The heart is the centre from which we beat. The home of our emotions,the place from where we feel life, from where we feel alive!
It is the manifestation of spirit (Shen) within matter (Jing) that propels our energetic life force, our bioelectricity (Qi) around the body via the blood that it pumps.
And just like the fire element which it embodies, the energy of the heart can be both transformational and destructive, it can burn bright or it can burn out, it can be beautifully enigmatic or rampage ferociously out of control…, it can leave you feeling warm or cold hearted.
A classic Chinese text states ‘The Heart is the Emperor, the Supreme Controller. The Heart is the fire at the centre of our being, from which spirit radiates.’ ~ NeiJing SuWen
One of what’s known as The Three Treasures in QiGong, Shen manifests as both a large expression of spirit; connecting us to the unity of all things, representing universal love, peace and belonging. And then as little Shen, which is concerned with the spirit of the heart and its emotions, the vitality in the body and the spark in your eyes.
Because of its fiery nature Shen can easily become disturbed and scatter, preventing it from coming home to the heart to reside. This can present itself in the form of mental anxieties, restlessness, palpitations and sleep disturbances. In order to cool and ground the fire of the spirit it’s important to nourish it with calming Water element practices such as meditation, and with things such as breath centred awareness. The element of Fire is always moving, making stillness a valuable contrast to its flickering flames.
Thinking with your head or with your heart? According to Chinese Medicine the 2 cannot be separated. Disturbances in one can manifest as pathologies in the other. For it is our spirit (Shen), which resides in the heart, that allows us to conquer logic, separating us out from being mere cold heartless machines. Our Heart senses what is right, even if our head discerns differently. In fact the Heart and the mind are considered one of the same thing in Chinese Medicine, as Shen is actually what we in the West call awareness and consciousness.
The Heart is coupled with the organ of The Small Intestine in Chinese medicine, with the Fire element being the only one of The 5 Elements that has a second set of paired organs: The Heart Protector, also known as the Pericardium, and The Triple Heater meridian. Just like the energetic pathway of the Heart and Small intestine, this second set of Fire meridians also run along the front and back of the arms.
It’s the role of the Heart to make and circulate the warming blood that nourishes our being. And as it’s meridian pathway opens into the tongue, which allow it to govern true and clear speech. The Small intestine separates the pure from the impure, separating out purer food and fluid essences from the stomach to send to the spleen, and impure substances to the Bladder and large intestines to be illuminated.
The Heart protector ensheaths the most vulnerable of organs, the Heart, from overstimulation and emotional shock. The Triple Heater divides the body into the Upper, Middle and Lower burners, which control the water passages in the body by distributing and dispersing its water and fluids.
So when considering the energy of the Fire phase:
‘Follow your heart’
‘Open your heart’
‘Listen to your heart’
‘Have a heart to heart with yourself’
Feel it. Sense it. Journey to its centre, accepting whatever you find there, good or bad. And then allow yourself to love your wonderful unique heart, exactly as you find it, with all its vulnerabilities, strengths, passions, joys and pains.