Eileen T. Dube, MAc, MS-PREP, LAc, DiplAc (NCCAOM)
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The Heart of the Matter

“In Taoist tradition, it is said that when the yang and yin essences of the parents unite at the moment of conception, the star seeds of the shen are scooped up in the ladle of the Big Dipper and poured down into the heart of the developing embryo.”[1]

All ‘organs’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are energetic as well as physical and encompass body, mind and spirit as one. They often have some unique properties that we don’t normally associate with the organs the way we are used to thinking of them.   TCM theory views the heart in its own way… it is more than simply the organ that moves blood in our bodies.

    Home of the Shen

The heart houses the spirit, or ‘Shen’.  The Shen guides us in life, provides us with intuition, and insight.  It is that knowing that goes beyond logic… the place where we can access our deepest being.  When a person is aligned with their life’s purpose and their energies are balanced, it shows up in their lustrous complexion and bright eyes.

    Emptiness as the gateway

There is emptiness at our center of our being.  This is the Tao’s home.  This type of emptiness does not mean that nothing is there, but rather the potential for creation lies there in waiting.  It is the moment between in breath and out breath.

    Fire within

The heart is the place where those ‘star seeds of the shen’ reside.  The fire that lights this empty space is the fire of the heart.  To be able to access this fire, we must be quiet. When we can even momentarily silence the chatter of our minds, this is when we can hear their whisper quietly guiding us back to our Source of being.

In Taoism, the wu wei (the way of emptiness) resides in the heart.   So when we calm our mind and nourish those deepest aspects of ourselves, we strengthen our hearts. This holds true for our physical as well as our spiritual heart.

How does one calm the mind?  Meditation, tai chi, qigong are superb traditional methods.  But it matters less what we do, than how we do it.  Some find quietly painting or perhaps actively, rhythmically running are ways to nourish emptiness and calm the mind.

May we all find the fire of the shen within and follow the way that it is being lit uniquely for each of us.


[1] Dechar, L. E. (2006). Five Spirits: alchemical acupuncture for psychological and spiritual healing. New York, NY: Chiron Publications. pg 171

Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video NASA Goddard Space Flight Center