Heart: Fire energy yin organ
The heart is called the 'King' of the organs. The Internal Medicine Classic states: 'The heart commands all of the organs and viscera, houses the spirit, and controls the emotions.' In Chinese, the word for 'heart' (shin) is also used to denote 'mind'. When the heart is strong and steady, it controls the emotions; when it is weak and wavering, the emotions rebel and prey upon the heart mind, which then loses its command over the body.
Physiologically, the heart controls the circulation and distribution of blood, and therefore all the other organs depend upon it for sustenance. Thoughts and emotions influence the function of various organs via pulse and blood pressure, which are controlled by the heart, where emotions arise.
Internally, the heart is functionally associated with the thymus gland, which is located in the same cavity and forms a mainstay of the immune system. Extreme emotions such as grief and anger have an immediate suppressive effect on the immune system by inhibiting thymus function, a phenomenon that has long been observed but little understood in Western medicine.
Externally, the heart is related to the tongue, to which it is connected by the heart muscle. The color and texture of the tongue thus reflect the condition of the heart. Speech impediments such as stuttering and mutism are often caused by dysfunction or imbalance in heart energy. Facial complexion, which is a direct reflection of blood circulation, is also a major external indicator of heart function. Fire energy makes the heart the dominant organ of summer, during which season the heart must increase circulation to the surface in order to dissipate excess body heat.
- Paired Organ: Small Intestine
- Color: red with slight blue tint
- Peak Hours: 11am-1pm
- Physical Branches: blood, tongue, throat, sweat, facial complexion, adrenals, thyroid, prostate, pituitary
- Functions: pulse/circulation, house of the spirit
Heart: Psycho Emotional Aspects
The Heart's associated organ is the Small Intestine; its element is Fire. Long-term memory, thinking, emotions, intimacy, cognition, intelligence, and ideas are all dominated by the function of the Heart. The Heart is sometimes called The Emperor, or "supreme controller of all Yin and Yang organs". The Heart houses the body's spirit (Shen).
The Heart dominates sleep; if the Heart is strong the patient will fall asleep easily and sleep soundly. If the Heart is weak, the patient's mind will "float," resulting in an inability to fall asleep, disturbed sleep, or excessive dreaming. The Heart's positive psycho emotional attributes are love, joy, peace, contentment, propriety, insight, wisdom, orderliness, forgiveness, and courtesy. Its negative attributes are hate, guilt, shock, nervousness, excitement, longing, and craving.
... It is only recently that the intelligence system of the heart has been discovered. The heart is not just a pumping machine. It is an intelligence system. It is in fact the most intelligent system of all our brains, with its own receptors, its own electromagnetic force, from 45 to 70 times more powerful than the brains of the neocortex, and the only force capable of changing our own DNA.
It can turn the mortal into immortal, glial cells into heart cells, mortal center into immortal walls in any cell. It is in fact he heart that turns each one of us from dead into living cells. No one of us is human until the heart beats. And vice versa, that first beat of the heart is what makes us human. In summary we can affirm the following: a) The heart contains its own nervous system and nerve ganglia that process information and send it to the neocortex. b) Th heart is a hormonal gland producing its own neurotransmitters, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrin, the catechlomines, which affect the kidneys, the adrenal gland, the circulatory system and the neocortex. c) The heart generates from 45 to 60 times more amplitude electrically than what we call the brain, plus all emotions alter the heart's electrical field. d) Electricity emanating from the heart of person A can be detected and measured in the brain waves of persons near or touching person A. e) Cellular memory resides in the heart cells, as can be seen from transplant cases. f) DNA can be altered in the hands of a person practicing head/heart "entrainment," or what we know as yoga.
The second beat, and the first in what will determine our identity, is the amygdala. The amygdala starts forming immediately after the heart's first beat. It stores all the memories of our life in the womb, with the placenta, the water, the fluids of life and the terror of losing them, and also the joy of being fed, of bouncing, of moving. But the amygdala stores also the life of the mother, her depressions, her fears, her life.
And this accumulation of memories goes on in us till the age of three. Which means that all this time we have lived, our life has been recorded for us in the amydgala. After the age of three the hippocampus matures in us. In it conscious memories are stored and we have access to them However, the hippo campus, we, have no access to the memories and the life we lived in the amygdala of the previous three years, even if from this point on amygdala and hippo campus converse with each other ( Carter, Rita, 1998). What happens to the memories of the amygdala? They become our individual nightmare, the invisible conditioning of all our actions, the blind spot of our lives, the origin of all our terrors, the unknown reason why we do what we done even when we do not know why we do it.
This is the reason why there is karma, and why we speak of previous lives, and we create, those vengeful gods waiting to destroy us around every corner, and the faces of the gods are so distorted and our bodies are paralyzed with fear and inaction. And this is why there is yoga. Can we destroy these nightmares to which we have no access to, can we change those distorted faces of the gods, can we dissolve our conditioning? The answer is, of course, yes, and the path is YOGA. And this, why? Because the conditioning of the amygdala can only be removed by the intelligence system previous to it, and this is the heart, with its electromagnetic force and its power of transformation. Otherwise, the amygdala can act on its own by passing the intelligence centers of the neocortex. The gunas keep acting in spite of our good intentions. We live in vain tied to the wheel of samsara.
The Heart Channel Pathway, Acupuncture Points, and Internal Trajectories
This channel begins at the heart and emerges via the surrounding blood vessels to pass down through the diaphragm to the small intestine. Another internal branch extends through the throat to the eye, and a connecting channel goes to the tongue. A third branch goes first to the lung before surfacing at the center of the armpit. From here the channel descends along the inner aspect of the arm on the opposite side of the biceps to the lung channel, passing the inner end of the elbow crease. It continues down to the tip of the little finger by the corner of the nail on the thumb side.
Internal Trajectories of the Heart Meridian
The heart, hand shao yin vessel, starts at the center of the heart, comes out and permeates the supporter of the heart, goes down to and spirally wraps the small intestine. A branch following the supporter of the heart surrounds the throat and passes up to and makes contact with the supporter of the eye. The main meridian following the supporter of the heart goes up to the lungs, comes out below the armpit, and then starts at HT-1.
The heart meridian has its origin in the heart itself, but does not permeate the heart, rather it permeates the "supporter of the heart", probably the aorta and other major blood vessels entering and exiting the heart. Following the descending abdominal aorta, the descending part of the small intestine, spirally wrapping the small intestine. The branch that passes upwards, surrounding the throat, and going to the "supporter of the eyes" (the optic nerve), probably follows the blood vessels passing up into the head, i.e., the carotid artery. The main meridian passes from the "supporter of the heart," probably along the pulmonary artery, to the lungs and thence to the side of the body, exiting at HT-1. A passage from the Su Wen tells us how the heart and uterus are related:
When the menstruation doesn't come, it means that the blood vessel of the uterus is stagnant. The vessel of the uterus, belonging to the heart (meridian), spirally wraps the inside of the uterus. In this case, qi rises up and presses the lungs from the lower parts. The heart qi cannot pass down smoothly, therefore the menses do not come.
There are several important distinctions regarding the heart meridian trajectory. The heart meridian does not permeate the heart itself, rather it permeates the "supporter of the heart", which becomes the descending abdominal aorta. This vessel is palpable as the moving qi between the kidneys. The energetic consequences of this distinction are enormously important. We feel that this is making a very direct statement about the energetic nature of the heart, especially about the relation of the heart to the blood and to the Shen.
As we shall see later in this text this has a major influence on how we understand the nature of the source, the source qi, the moving qi between the kidneys, and ultimately the way in which the authors of the Ling Shu understood the origins of life. The relationship between the heart and the uterus is very significant. Some authors see the uterus as the place where the moving qi between the kidneys resides. This tends to reinforce the energetic connections that the heart has to this source. Further, it is the superficial trajectory of the supporter of the heart that is the main meridian. This is possibly one reason why many great practitioners have consistently refused to treat the heart meridian directly.
Small Intestine: Fire-energy yang organ
Known as the 'Minister of Reception', the small intestine receives partially digested food from the stomach and further refines it, separating 'the pure from the impure', then assimilating the purified nutrients and moving the impure wastes onwards to the large intestine for elimination. Associated with the heart by Fire energy, the small intestine controls the more basic emotions, as reflected in the Chinese term duan chang ('broken intestines'), which is equivalent to the English term 'broken heart'. Its energy meridian runs into the head, where it influences the function of the pituitary gland, the 'master gland' whose secretions regulate growth, metabolism, immunity, sexuality, and the entire endocrine system.
- Paired Organ: Heart
- Color: pink
- Peak Hours: 1pm-3pm
- Physical Branches: blood, tongue, throat, sweat, facial complexion Functions: absorbs nutrients, digestion and elimination
Small Intestine: Psycho-Emotional Aspects
The Small Intestine influences the patient's mental clarity, judgment, and powers of discernment. The ability to distinguish relevant issues with clarity before making a decision is attributed to the Small Intestine.
The Small Intestine Channel Pathway, Acupuncture Points, and Internal Trajectories
This channel starts on the other corner of the little fingernail from the heart channel and follows the edge of the hand to the wrist, where it turns slightly to flow up the forearm, close to the outer edge of the (ulna) bone. Passing the elbow at the "funny bone", it continues up the back of the arm, behind the shoulder joint.
It then curves across the shoulder blade to connect with the governing vessel at GV-14 as do all yang channels. It crosses forward to the hollow above the collarbone where the internal branch penetrates, first to the heart, then along the esophagus to the stomach, before connecting with its own organ, the small intestine. From the collarbone region the superficial path continues up behind the muscle on the side of the neck (sterno-cleido-mastoid), then over the cheek to the ear. Two internal branches separate on the cheek. They lead to the gallbladder channel on the outer corner of the eye, and to the bladder channel at BL-1 on the inner corner.
Internal Trajectories of the Small Intestine Meridian
After rising up the arm from SI-1, a trajectory passes to ST-12: ...then it enters, ST-12, [passes down to] and spirally wraps the heart. It circles down and around the throat [and esophagus], passes through the diaphragm to the stomach, then permeates the small intestine.
This trajectory is generally accepted and uncomplicated. The Lei Jing author comments that CV-10 is the "place of the small intestine". Thus, it may be reflective of the small intestine.
Pericardium: Fire-energy yin organ
Known as the 'King's Bodyguard', the pericardium is the heart's protective sack. Although it is not recognized as an organ in Western physiology, it is regarded in Chinese medicine as a Fire-energy organ whose special function is to protect the heart. Not only does the pericardium provide the heart with physical protection, its energy also protects the heart from damage and disruption by excessive emotional energies generated by the other organs, such as anger from the liver, fear from the kidneys, and grief from the lungs. In the Chinese system of health, extreme outbursts of the Seven Emotions are regarded as powerful disruptors of internal energy balance and major causes of disease. Without the pericardium to protect it, the heart would be subject to injury from the radical fluctuations in energy caused by every emotional up and down of the day.
The pericardium also helps regulate circulation in the major blood vessels that run in and out of the heart. Emotionally, pericardium energy is related to the loving feelings associated with sex, thereby linking the physical and emotional aspects of sexual activity. It does this by moderating the raw sexual energy of the kidneys with the all embracing love generated by the heart.
Note: The Pericardium Meridian is also commonly referred to as the "Heart Constrictor" Meridian and the "Circulation-Sex" Meridian
- Paired Organ: Triple Burner
- Color: purple red
- Peak Hours: 7pm-9pm
- Mental Qualities: love, sex
- Physical Branches: blood, tongue, throat, sweat, facial complexion
- Functions: protects the heart
Pericardium: Psycho-Emotional Aspects
The Pericardium has a powerful influence on the patient's mental and emotional states. Its goal is to "create feelings of joy and/or pleasure for the emperor (Heart)."
The Pericardium Channel Pathway, Acupuncture Points, and Internal Trajectories
This channel begins in the middle of the chest at the pericardium. A branch descends internally through the diaphragm to the upper, middle, and lower burners. From the starting point a branch of the main channel crosses the chest to emerge just outside the nipple. It then ascends on the surface around the front of the armpit and flows down the arm, through the biceps muscle. At the elbow crease it passes just to the inside of the biceps tendon, then down the middle of the front of the forearm, between the heart and lung channels to the wrist. It crosses the middle of the palm to PC-8 where it divides. The main channel continues to the outer corner of the middle fingernail, and a connecting branch goes to the fourth finger to join the triple burner channel at TB-1.
Internal Trajectories of the Pericardium Meridian
The vessel of the master of the heart, hand jue yin, heart wrapping luo [pericardium], starts at the inside of the chest, comes out and permeates the heart-wrapping luo, passes down through the diaphragm, then timelessly spirals down through the triple warmers.
The "inside of the chest" is commonly viewed as CV-17. The internal trajectory starts at CV-17, then passes to the pericardium. From here it passes downwards, probably along the aorta or the esophagus, through the diaphragm, then "timelessly" spirally wraps the triple warmers.
The idea of timelessness offers fascinating insights into the nature of the triple warmers. The character we translate as timeless is li . This character has a number of different meanings, including "to pass through" and "successively." Our selection of "timeless" is based on the Nan Jing and Zhuang Zi. We propose that this interpretation ameliorates commonly emphasizing the absolute energetic nature of these concepts. In a discussion relating to the reasons why there are five yin organs and six yang organs, the Nan Jing comments:
The triple burner has the function of dividing the source qi and controlling each of these qi. This has a name but no form.
Another passage discusses the same problem:
The master of the heart with the triple warmer are the outside and lining of the body. They have a name but they have no form
This idea of "no form", in this context, is usually seen to refer to the absence of a physical organ in the body for the set of functions which we identify as the triple warmer. It actually has much deeper implications than the absence of physical substance
The term "no form", wu xing, is used by Zhuang Zi. We feel that the Nan Jing references the idea of no form from Zhuang Zi.
Absolute jing has no form. The jing is tinier than the small [the concept of smallness]. Rough jing has form. No form means that it cannot be divided further.
The idea of no form does not simply refer to absence of material substance. It refers to the essential change of state between matter and energy, to the basic underlying substrate of material substance. Much like the concept of the atom in pre-relativistic physics, or quarks and multidinous sub-atomic particles of current physics, it is the theoretical smallest particle of matter. The "absolute jing" is the precursor of matter or form. While it is always delightful to find an idea of such sophistication in an ancient medical text which Western scientific prejudice has overlooked, this is not such a rare idea. Other classical texts have referred to the concept of no form in similar terms and we will meet this idea again in our studies. For now, however, the essential information that we must relate to the interior energetics from classical description is the sense that rather than the attachments of so many imaginary wires, the connections indicated are the confluence of quintessential forces. What occurs at this intersection is not completely described by a terminology that allows us to think of the connection of simple electrical currents. It is more like the opposed coils of a generator or transformer where the currents create a change of state or a cyclotron where matter becomes energy.
While admitting that the "passing through" translation of the character li is sufficient for the description of the body's interior "wiring diagram," and certainly less subject to the criticism of orthodox translation, it lacks the recognition of the profound relativism of the classical idea of energy. It is not just that the trajectory of the pericardium intersects the triple warmer. The pericardium and triple warmer intertwine and become identical. It is not just that both the triple warmer and pericardium have no material organ. Both are gateways to an energetic environment that is not limited by the boundaries of form. Space, matter, and time are not descriptions that suit the "tiny absolute jing." These are the dimensions of form, not the boundaries of energy.
We feel at least poetically justified to allow the concept of timelessness to indicate that this deep, interior connection represented for the classical authors a boundary where the particular human energies of the body meet and become the more absolute energies of cosmology
Regardless of our reader's willingness to accept our feelings that there is a tremendous relativism in the ideas, the fact remains that the master of the heart, the heart-wrapping luo (pericardium) is intimately connected to the triple warmer. It carries out similar functions. There are effectively three distinct aspects of this meridian. The first is the branch, arm jue yin, which emerges at PC-1 and passes down the arms to PC-9. The second is the heart-wrapping luo which is a trajectory that passes only around the heart, in normal usage, the pericardium. The third is the master of the heart. There are many places (for instance Ling Shu) where these three names are used in reference to the one meridian.
Diagrammatically these three aspects can be seen as follows: The master of the heart most logically relates to the aorta. It is an extension of the heart; branching from this is the heart-wrapping luo and the arm jue yin. That arm jue yin branches from the master of the heart is something we can derive by inference from an understanding of how the other meridians branch from their main pathways, and from the text of the Ling Shu:
The heart-wrapping luo is the vessel of the master of the heart.
The master of the heart is likely the main pathway, with both arm jue yin and the heart-wrapping luo as branches.
The master of the heart carries out the functions of the shen; the heart stores the shen. The pericardium, heart-wrapping luo, functions to protect the heart from all types of disturbance. If the heart is injured, the shen will be disturbed and this will result in death or an incurable disease. The master of the heart functions energetically as a communicative pathway for the shen between the heart and the moving qi between the kidneys. In conceptualizing these pathways and functions, it is even possible to see this pathway as the meridian of the "small heart" or ming men:
The Su Wen says, "AT the sides of the seventh vertebra on the inside, is the small heart." Mr. Yang, the writer of the Tai Su, says, "There are twenty-one vertebrae in the person. Counting upwards from the lower parts, to the sides of the seventh vertebra, on the left is the kidney, on the right is ming men. Ming men is the small heart." The Nan Jing says, "The source of the heart comes out at PC-7; thus PC-7 belongs to arm jue yin. Wrapping-luo, helping fire, this is the meridian of the small heart."
This particular passage from Liu Wan Su gives us a significant description of the pericardium meridian, as it is commonly called, and its various internal trajectories. This significance will become clearer in later chapters. For now, however, we may expand our diagrammatic representation of the internal trajectories to the kidney (see last figure).
Triple burner: Fire-energy yang organ
This organ-energy system, which is not recognized in Western physiology, is called the 'Minister of Dykes and Dredges' and is responsible for the movement and transformation of various solids and fluids throughout the system, as well as for the production and circulation of nourishing energy (ying chee) and protective energy (wei chee). It is not a single self-contained organ, but rather a functional energy system involved in regulating the activities of other organs. It is composed of three parts, known as 'burners', each associated with one of the body's three main cavities: thorax, abdomen, and pelvis. An ancient Chinese medical text states: 'The Upper Burner controls intake, the Middle Burner controls transformation, the Lower Burner controls elimination.'
The Upper Burner runs from the base of the tongue to the entrance to the stomach and controls the intake of air, food, and fluids. It harmonizes the functions of heart and lungs, governs respiration, and regulates the distribution of protective energy to the body's external surfaces.
The Middle Burner runs from the entrance to the stomach down to its exit at the pyloric valve and controls digestion by harmonizing the functions of stomach, spleen, and pancreas. It is responsible for extracting nourishing energy from food and fluids and distributing it via the meridian system to the lungs and other parts of the body.
The Lower Burner runs from the pyloric valve down to the anus and urinary tract and is responsible for separating the pure from the impure products of digestion, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating solid and liquid wastes. It harmonizes the functions of liver, kidney, bladder, and large and small intestines and also regulates sexual and reproductive functions.
Some medical researchers believe that the Triple Burner is associated with the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which regulates appetite, digestion, fluid balance, body temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure, and other basic autonomous functions.
It's originally referred to as the 'Triple Burner', but 'Triple Warmer' and 'Triple Heater' are also commonly used.
- Paired Organ: Pericardium
- Color: orange red
- Peak Hours: 9pm-11pm
- Physical Branches: blood, tongue, throat, sweat, facial complexion
- Functions:regulates transformation and transportation of bodily fluids, and...
Triple Burner: Psycho-Emotional Aspects
The Triple Burners are considered the Ambassadors or "intermediaries" for the body's Yuan (Original) Qi. On a psychological level, they can be used to move Qi and lift depression derived from stagnation of Liver Qi. When the Triple Burners, which regulate the consciousness, are full, the consciousness becomes stable and the Mind's intent is benevolent and kindhearted. The Triple Burners are also linked with the Heart and Pericardium and are affected by the emotion of joy. When the energy of the heart is strong and pure (without guilt), and the desires and thoughts of an individual are at peace, then the energy of the boy's sexual essence (Jing) will spread into the Triple Burners, and the Blood will flourish within the individual's vessels. If the "fire of desire" is allowed to Heat and combine with the energy of the Triple Burners, the energy of the individual's sexual essence will overflow, mixing itself with the energy of the Mingmen and will leave the body via the reproductive organs and tissues. This leads to Jing and Qi depletion.
The Triple Burner Channel Pathway, Acupuncture Points, and Internal Trajectories
Beginning on the fourth (ring) finger, by the outside corner of the nail, the triple burner channel passes between the knuckles of the fourth and fifth fingers to the wrist. From here it ascends between the two bones of the forearm (radius and ulna), through the tip of the elbow, and up the back of the arm to the shoulder. Behind the top of the shoulder it joins the small intestine and the governing vessel channels. Then it rises over the shoulder to the collarbone region, descends internally to the pericardium in the upper burner, and then to the abdomen and the middle and lower burners. Re-emerging from the chest at the collarbone, the channel ascends the side of the neck and around the back of the ear. One branch rises internally to meet the gallbladder channel on the forehead, then descends to join the small intestine channel on the cheek. The superficial branch continues to the front of the ear and crosses to the outer corner of the eyebrow, where it joins the gallbladder channel again.
Internal Trajectories of the Triple Warmer Meridian
Having passed up the lateral aspect of the arm from the ring finger, the triple warmer meridian passes to ST-12:
[It] comes in at ST-12, then passes down to CV-17, disperses [into the chest], and drops down into the pericardium. It then passes down through the diaphragm, circles down through and permeates the triple warmers. A branch starting at CV-17 passes back up to ST-12.
When the meridian "disperses" into the chest it is like a pervasive spray. The stream widens and becomes less dense, the picture is one of rain covering and moistening rather than a river passing through. Notice also that it does not spirally wrap the pericardium. Rather, it "drops down" as if it filtered through after dispersing from CV-17 into the chest.
This idea helps us see the relationship of the triple warmer to the breathing process. Perhaps this relationship to breath and the movement of breath downward to below the umbilicus is related to the action of "dispersion into the chest." Air is drawn into the lungs upon inhalation; once inside the lungs (inside the chest), it then mingles with the triple warmer pathway which is dispersing into the chest.
Then, it filters down to the the pericardium. From there it may circle downward through the triple warmers. This downward movement through the triple warmers may well be the means by which the qi of breathing arrives below the umbilicus where it is an important ingredient in the formation of the source qi and the nourishment of the source.
Excercise for strengthening Manipura
Breath of Fire: This is a rapid diaphragmatic breathing, designed to clean toxins from the body and stimulate Kundalini. Sit in an upright posture with back straight and legs relaxed. Using the muscles of your abdomen, SNAP in your diaphragm, causing a quick exhale to escape through your nose. Keep the mouth closed. By relaxing the abdomen, air will natually enter your nose and chest, causing an inhale. When this process is comfortable, repeat quickly, causing several quick, sequential exhales. Do in sets of fifty, with a long, deep breath at the end of each set. Three sets of 50 are usually a good place to start. After a while you can pace yourself according to what feels right.
Bow Pose: Lie on your stomach, hands to the side and relax. Take a deep breath and bend yourknees while arching your back so that your hands grab onto your ankles. Let your hands do the work of maintaiining the arch while you rest your body as much as you can in this strange position. Breath deeply and let the breath rock you back and forth slightly. If you can hold this for a while (30 sec. to 2 mins.) you will feel an energizing of your solar plexus.
Pike Pose: Hard to maintain without practice, this little gem tightens tummy muscles and develops balance. From a position of resting on your back, bring your feet and legs up (knees as straight as possible) to make a V-shape with your torso. Hold as long as possible then relax.