There’s no coincidence that in many cultures the mind was said to reside in the heart, as opposed to the brain. Wellness can come from healing and re-connection with the self and others.
The heart — it always comes back to the heart
That’s the message I keep receiving about what’s happening in the world now. Whether it’s a client, a friend, or what I read or hear about in the news, I can’t help but wonder how much of the issues present are affected by the sense or lack of connection with one another.
Love = Attraction
Love is how we attract what we need to us, but also how we can be attracted to something (seemingly) outside of ourselves. In Daoist philosophy, there isn’t a duality between subject and object. When our heart/mind seeks to attract, and be attracted, what we are seeking is union. A kind of complete merging with all of reality.
Remember how it felt when that person you loved so deeply separated from you?
Remember that awful sensation in the middle of your chest?
I don’t think it’s without reason that we refer to this sensation as ‘broken-hearted’. Essentially, the connection and inter-relationship between two people has been severed. Suddenly there is an experience of separation and a loss of energy (qi) from the heart.
The qi of the heart
When we are relating well with another, our heart-qi is said to be flowing freely. When we feel disconnected it is said that we are lacking heart-qi. Separation from a loved one hurts, because the disconnection is palpable.
This depletion of qi from the heart is likened to the dampening of a fire. It is a disruption of our consciousness, and our capacity to expand outwards to engage with the wider world.
If we were truly connected with the world around us, we would be aware that we are part of the world. Further, that the world is part of us – there would be a kind of dissolution of the boundaries between ‘me’ and ‘everything else’. Most likely, we wouldn’t experience that same sense of separation, that loss of heart-qi.
The pain of separation
It reminds me of the Judaeo-Christian myth of the fall of Lucifer. He was said to be the most beloved and trusted of the angels who dwelt by God’s side; his love for God was beyond doubt or question. But he disagreed with God’s love for humanity, and his jealousy led to Lucifer and his followers being banished to Hell as punishment.
Hell was the furthest place from God; the ultimate punishment for one who was so enamoured of Him. It represented the antithesis of union and connection; it was the realm embodying total disconnection from all that is.
Have you ever described your life as a ‘living hell’?
If so, are you feeling disconnected from reality, from yourself, and from the world around you?
Ultimately your heart is aching for union. And at the same time your anger, jealousy, or hate – all ultimately underlined by fear – prevents you from re-establishing that connection.
After some time, we get accustomed to this sensation, and will block any attempt to re-ignite the fire and open our hearts. Over time, it gets perpetually pushed down deeper and deeper.
So, we become distracted. Work, play, exercise, staying fit and healthy – they are activities that can stop you from feeling the pain of separation and disconnection. When they become ways of ignoring the pain, they fail to serve your highest purpose, even if they are enjoyable and maybe fulfil other desires.
How does this relate to wellness?
In Daoist Medicine, there is no separation between mind, body, or emotions.
Psychological and emotional wellbeing are inextricably linked in with physical health. Emotional imbalance can cause illness, and illness can also cause emotional or psychological imbalance.
There is no linear chain of cause/effect. Instead it is inter-related and co-causative, all part of the same ‘pattern of disharmony’.
When one suffers from chronic illness, there is always a tendency to psycho-emotional disturbance. The capacity of the heart to connect with yours and others’ true nature is diminished.
When people get particularly affected by the loss of a loved one – either through separation or death or otherwise – their inability to move on can eventually lead on to the development of certain somatic illness, or the augmentation of underlying disorders. We’re all familiar with the debilitating effects of stress on our health; emotional pain is just another stressor which can lead to stagnation of qi.
Essentially, emotions are an expression of how qi flows and transforms, as described by the 5 phases: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.
All the emotions are useful at appropriate times. It is when we get stuck into the expression of one emotion that constraint occurs. And if the qi is constrained into expressing in one particular manner, then it begins to damage the associated organ-system. For example, anxiety is related to the heart-system, and when we are overcome with anxiety, this creates insomnia, tiredness, and/or fatigue – complaints of the heart-system. This in turn creates stagnation in the heart channel, which will then further affect the channels and systems related to digestion, and so on and so forth.
Healing as reconnection
Often, it is the role of the healer to ‘calm the spirit‘. In doing so, it may provide the impetus the Self needs to begin its own process of re-integration and self-healing. Ultimately, good health can lead to happiness, and vice versa. It means re-connection and union with not just who we are but with the rest of the world.
And whilst it is useful to have a practitioner who can help you heal from the illness, the true healing – that reconnection and opening of the heart – can only truly be achieved by you.
It requires a certain degree of trust, yes. And certainly, resilience and resourcefulness can come from feeling physically well. It also requires taking a risk, and being able to surrender into trusting that you’ve got this.
Because there is no actual separation, even though it feels like it. When we take that moment to feel and acknowledge what is there, eventually it subsides and the relatedness reappears.
The illusion of self, and the illusion of our own misery and suffering is precisely that – an illusion. When we honour our heart, we become fully present to our existence and once again become part of the Dao, the wider world.
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