This is the second article about emotions and our organs. (Read the first article about the liver here) Today we will explore the heart and small intestine, but also mention the pericardium and triple heater an organ only defined by function and not recognized in western medicine.
You do not need to be a doctor or acupuncturist to enjoy this article, it is for you who want to understand how you become a master of your own life.
The heart in Chinese medicine represents functions we today would relate to the brain. These include memory, presence or awareness, quality of sleep, posture etc.
The best way to perceive the qualities of these functions is to look upon them as representing the core or centre of our being, the capital of the soul and body, the government, the nucleus or pivot. You could also look at it as the cockpit with the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals.
Your ability to stay centred in turmoil, your ability to be grounded in spirit, to have an inner peace, your ability to be present and respond adequately in regards to surroundings and circumstances.
As we did in the article about the Liver and Gallbladder we will look at this through its polarity or opposite aspects.
One side is the centre and the other is represented by the surroundings and circumstances, which we can call the periphery. Centre and periphery can also be seen as the top of the cone opposed to the bottom. From above, the top of the cone will look like a centre in a circle (see illustration). So centre or top is two ways to describe the same thing, the centre or the top in you.
In Chinese medicine Joy is regarded as the main emotion of this element, the emotion of the heart. This joy is the same as when the top of your being, the peak, or summit is activated. It is an uplifting joy as when you get inspired (in-spirit) or enthused (theos = God), it is an uplifted state.
Whenever you are in challenging situations it is wise to go within, to centre yourself, to find the core within, the summit of your abilities, your highest ideal. As we explored in the article about the liver each organ in Chinese medicine has a yin or yang organ related to it. The heart is a yin organ and has the small intestine as its yang organ. We also explored how the yin organs tend to move up a holon, connecting to the bigger whole, while the yang organs tend to move down a holon and eliminate, differentiate, exclude, secrete, select and pas on to the next step in the process. (You can read more about this in the first article)
In this regard the polarity of yin-yang between the heart and small intestine is like the centre that takes the bigger picture into consideration in opposition to the details and parts in the periphery. The heart stands at the top of the cone, the small intestine helps you move down to one part of its base. Being down there at the base you tend to get lost, you no longer see the bigger picture, but you see the details.
We can understand this from the old literature about dreams indicating challenges with the small intestine. They are said to be dreams regarding crowds, fights and large cities. The feeling of getting lost, or challenges with discrimination or absent mindedness. The world famous contemporary master of acupuncture and writer of many teaching books Giovanni Maciocia has explained the small intestine as important to keep a clear mind and make wise decisions.
We can perceive from this that picking out the right parts, selecting the right stuff; the one in the crowd, the right street in a city is a small intestine quality. When the heart steps down from the peak of the mountain it needs the competency of a healthy small intestine to select the right path to end in the right small village at the bottom of the cone.
While the heart is the pivot, the centre the red tread or core of it all, the emperor or king, the small intestine selects one section, one part, one kind amongst all the options in the periphery.
The heart belongs to the fire element. In Kabbalah fire represents the higher worlds, before they cool or condense to create a form that then materialises into our existence.
In the same way the Big Bang could be said to be an explosion of fire, condensing into galaxies, and later solar systems to finally manifest solid planets. In this perspective the heart can be connected to the beginning, the spiritual source, the summit that inspires and ignites us, that stimulates us to bring the source into manifestation in this world. The heart helps us to manifest into our life our highest ideal. The heart helps us to conduct and gain mastery in our life. As a yin organ it opens to the bigger perspective, to a higher good, than just the good of the ego. The heart helps you act for the benefit of all. This is what gives true joy.
The small intestine helps you to focus on a particular quality to be cultivated. Focusing on one detail you loose the bigger picture and feel lost and even deserted. Also not feeling good enough is a quality of the small intestine. A feeling that will make you focused on all the details.
In business the heart will act for the bigger good, it will nourish your soul with qualities that last into eternity, the small intestine will help you take the right decisions for your own sake, to be preoccupied about details and getting every little thing right.
Pericardium and triple heater
The fire element is the only element having four organs and the two others are the pericardium and the triple heater.
The pericardium is a sac protecting the heart but also letting it move without friction towards the other organs. In Chinese medicine it represents a protective quality, or your ability to stay in a situation without feeling a treat, without feeling your inner peace being disturbed. It is your ability to remain in a peaceful and firm state. It can be compared to the quality the old Egyptians called Djed or stability. The pericardium is like the herald of the heart, standing there firm courageous in the midst of life threatening situations. In western medicine it is not often that there are issues of the pericardium, the most common is pericarditis, which is an infection. The pericardium reflects your ability to protect yourself, stand firmly, if it gets to protective it can close you off reducing the ability to express positive emotions even being depressed. It can close you off with aversion, phobias and even sexual perversion from lack of real connection with others.
The triple heater or san (three) jiao (heater) as it is called in China, is an organ that does not exist in western medicine. It has no physical manifestation and should be regarded more as a function. It has responsibility of the balance between the three jiaos which is a division of the trunk (trunchus) in three parts; upper, middle and lower jiao. In the old literature these three levels of jiao were compared from above down to; mist in the upper jiao, froth with bubbles or a muddy pool in the middle jiao and a drainage ditch or swamp in the lower jiao. If you think about water in different states the upper jiao is almost air, but with a high humidity, the lower jiao is almost earth but with lots of water.
I like to think about the triple heater as a question of verticality, a question of how much you are dragged down in the muddy waters, stuck in the swamp or able to lift your waters up through the mist.
In the esoteric traditions water has been related to feelings in the same way as air was to thinking, earth to action into the physical world and fire to your spirit and inspiration.
Earth pulls you down and fire lifts you up. Those two influences the verticality of the triple heater, downwards or upwards.
When you are dragged down the triple heater helps you eliminating harmful thoughts, negative feelings of anxiety, suspicion and depression.
Remember the yin-yang relation of all these organs? The yin organ goes within to connect to a bigger holon, the yang organ goes out into the physical manifested world, a reduction into a smaller holon or level. The Pericardium in the deepest sense will then represent the safety of the person approaching life with an attitude of always being in the care of the bigger holon. If you are Christian you feel confident that God is protecting you, if you are spiritual you might think about guardian angels or spirits. Regardless of your views the attitude is that a higher almighty power is acting with wisdom and love towards you.
The San Jiao or Triple heater is the yang aspect, and is challenged when ever you are too hedonistic, self-fish or dependent of the material world for pleasure or security.
In the old days in China the role of these last organs where discussed in two famous classics, two of the oldest medical books; Nei Ching and Nan Ching. From the discussions we can see that there are suggestions of 5 yin and 6 yang organs as well as 6 yin and 5 yang organs or 6 of each. The practical experience and the models to explain them were discussed.
From a phenomenological point of view, you just perceive the manifestations rather than speculate, make theories and models.
From this perspective I like to look at this four organs as a way the old Chinese explained different parts of the governing function in the life of a human being. You do not need to be a doctor or acupuncturist to gain from this understanding, it helps you in the knowledge of your self and your mastery in life.
The relation between heart and small intestine can easily be seen as an analogy to the spiritual heart and the brain. To the synthesis of the heart connecting people and creating agreement as opposed to the brain being analytic and separating things and people. If you only use the head or brain when you relate to people you will end up alone and separated, this is a small intestine dominance. If you use the heart you go to the yin level and a bigger holon and connect with your group, because you act out of the best for the all. The function of the brain is to see things clear and use wisdom, the function of the heart is to connect and use love.
When you use the pericardium you are centred, you feel protected and connected to a higher holon that helps to protect you, the triple heater helps you to process, eliminate the things that pull you down.
We have to mayor regulatory mechanism in our bodies according to western medicine. They are the nervous system and the hormonal system. On controls through electrical signals the other through chemical signals or hormones.
The two yang organs of the fire element; small intestine and triple heater, can be compared to these two; the small intestine to the nervous system and the triple heater to the hormonal system. The triple heater regulates the waters of the body from the mist to the drainage ditch. This fluid related process has a paralell to the fluid transmitted hormones a manifestation of our conscious and unconscious feelings. Feelings and thoughts have been related to water and air, as mentioned before.
So we can say the fire element and its organs help us to stay in the centre, help us to keep our posture and inner stability as well as guide us in our conduct and mastery in life.
To be on the top of yourself, to master yourself, you need a balance of all these qualities; to regain a connection with the centre with a strong heart, to be able to stay untouched and stable with the pericardium, to discriminate and take the right decisions, and through each down pulling experience being able to lift yourself up again and again with the triple heater.
The virtue I connect with the heart is goodness or purity. To be good hearted is a goodness towards everybody. Goodness is the foundation of the universe what gives us life and nourishes us. (Read more about goodness and charity here). When you have a healthy heart your foundation towards humanity and nature is based on goodness.
A good heart or the cultivation of the virtue goodness, is closely connected to your ability to stay centred, to focus on what is important in the bigger perspective. This is the same as your ability to be present and awake or conscious. If you are absent minded, unconscious and sleepy your “heart power” is weak. You might need to reload your batteries (More about this in the 5.th article about kidneys) and sleep. All activities that lift you up, inspire you and centre you to your inner core strengthens your heart.
In the next article we will look into the stomach and the spleen with their emotions.
Read more articles like this in my blog.