By Kevin Niv Farrow and Rochelle Taylor
In his book A Gesture of Balance, the Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku, says ‘When positive or joyous feelings and attitudes pass through each organ and circulate throughout our whole system, our physical and chemical energies are transformed and balanced’. This is the natural way of the heart. Just as the heart circulates bioelectricity and blood, it circulates love, joy and trust, which affect the make up of the tissues.
Although keeping the heart open and letting love flow is the natural way of life and health, it is often seen as dangerous by some people. They fear that an open heart will leave them open to being hurt. This is a seemingly logical idea but the truth is that although situations and sometimes relationships come and go, keeping the heart shut doesn’t help. It is actually the condition that causes the misery. We are very similar to sea anemones in our reaction to situations we don’t like – one little prod and we close up very quickly. Really, it’s the same as having a handful of tacks in your hand. If you keep your hand open, they don’t hurt and if you close your hand then it begins by being a little prickly and then as you shut it tighter, it really hurts. Keeping our hearts open lets us experience life as it is, through its flows and changes and it also feeds the nutrients of love, trust, understanding and joy to our whole body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is called ‘The Emperor’, a fairly accurate description of its role in our energetic physiology. Things that affect the Emperor affect the empire and similarly, the things that affect the heart, affect the whole body.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Chinese and the Sufi perceptions of the heart are quite similar. There is a common Sufi saying deriving from the Qur’an that says ‘The heavens and the earth cannot contain me; only the heart of my faithful servant can contain me.’ The Sufi Master Kabir Helminski notes ‘the heart is an intelligence beyond intellect, a knowing that operates at a subconscious level, the only human faculty expansive enough to embrace the infinite qualities of the universe. Intellect can take us so far; it can think about faith, hope, and love, for instance, but it cannot entirely experience these qualities. This is the function of the heart. The heart is the faculty of knowing that can apprehend a qualitative universe.’
The heart is the organ representing the present moment, and this is shown in the heart’s function as both the storage of memory and the connection between our small spirit – our I sense and our higher spirit or our connection to the divine awareness. This connection ensures appropriateness in our social interactions as our small spirit acts with the divine as a guide, ensuring compassion and our understanding in our actions.
The positive aspects of the heart’s energy are beauty, love, forgiveness, compassion, joy, trust, contentment, propriety, insight, wisdom, order and courtesy. Negative aspects are hate, guilt, shock, nervousness, excitement, and craving. Blocking the heart can have wide ranging effects on the body. Anything from feeling unhappy, emotional, anxious and reactive to having pains in the chest, a feeling of heaviness, pins and needles in the hands or arm, cold hands and feet and poor circulation. And those are just the mild symptoms. Blocking the heart can also cause a heart attack, frozen shoulder, depression, heart palpitations and fertility problems. The Ling Shu, an ancient Chinese medical text notes; ‘If there is grief and anxiety, the heart is affected; if the heart is affected the five Zang and the six Fu tremble.’ (Note: The zang and fu are the internal organs). This means that the health of the heart will impact the other organs in the body. So having tension in the heart is not limited to the heart itself and the potential problems that could arise are endless.
Blocking in the heart is very common and there’s a big misconception about the connection between an open or closed heart and being a good person. The truth is, many ‘good’ people are blocked in the heart. Lots of us can be beautiful, kind and generous people and hold tension in our hearts. One of the most common ways we block in our hearts is by not trusting, which blocks the back of our heart. We see this a lot in our clinic and when treating people.
Many people associate a blocked or closed heart with someone being an unkind, selfish or horrible person, but generally speaking that is not the case. Most of the people we see with tension in their hearts are very kind and friendly, who are scared or hurt or who have experienced a trauma of some kind and this is the reason they block their hearts. The good news is we can treat the tension in the heart, restore the flow of bioelectricity and open the heart again.
The heart is an amazing organ and we should take care to nurture it daily. Try starting each day with the Inner Smile heart meditation. This will allow you to gradually start to release any tension in your heart and allow it to return to its natural state – open, flowing and beautiful.
Kevin Niv Farrow and Rochelle Taylor