The Blood Carries the Spirit: The 9 Heart Pains
Within Chinese Medicine, the body consists of 12 Primary Energy Channels, each corresponding to a major internal organ. Each channel possesses a role within the normal functioning of the body. The channels are also associated with various stages of psycho-social development, emotional expression and cultivation of the virtues. The channels support physical development and function, as well as mental-emotional-spiritual development and function.
The Heart Channel and its partner the Pericardium Channel are associated with a concept known as “The 9 Palaces.” A palace is a type of life-lesson to be reckoned with throughout life. Chinese philosophy names 9 main life-lessons: Health, Wealth, Prosperity, Relationship, Children/Creativity, Travel/Adventure, Career/Vocation, Wisdom and Family. Through working through these palaces, wisdom and enlightened evolution is achieved. When a person becomes stuck in a palace, unable to come to terms with its lessons, it becomes a “Heart Pain.” The 9 Heart Pains can manifest physically, mentally or emotionally. Their origin is from a spiritual struggle to transcend one of the 9 Palaces.
Both the Heart and Pericardium channels govern circulation of blood within the body. The Heart is also involved in the final production of blood. Within Chinese Medicine blood is given a very important role. The spirit and mind are believed to reside within the blood.
Western medicine sees blood as the vehicle by which nutrients and oxygen are transported to the tissues of the body; it is also the way waste is removed. A similar process is seen to occur relating to the mind and spirit in Chinese Medicine.
To fully understand the role of the blood in relation to the spirit and mind, the Chinese Medical Classics created images of the organs as officials within an imperial court. The Heart is the Emperor, while the Lung is the Prime Minister and the Pericardium is the Imperial eunuch (or chief of the secret police). These are the 3 main channels involved in circulation.
The Heart, as emperor, is the residence of the spirit. The Lung assists the Heart in carrying its decry to the entire kingdom, including all the other officials within the government. The breath of the Lungs helps pulsate the blood, which carries the message of the heart (spirit and mind) throughout the body.
Taoist and Confucian philosophy believe each person is born with a curriculum: or lesson to explore within life: similar to the belief that every person has a purpose in life. This curriculum creates the person’s life circumstances prior to birth. The curriculum is born from combining the spirit and the essence (bestowed by the parents during the copulation process). The spirit chooses parents from which it will be able to explore its desired curriculum throughout a lifetime. We’re born to live out our spirit’s desired lessons, as well as to work through the lessons carried through the family line: whatever has not been resolved within the family is passed on to us.
The blood carries the message of the curriculum throughout the body. Every cell of our body receives this message. From this, our desires are created, as is the way we see the world, our physical constitutions, and the experiences we draw to ourselves.
The spirit brings us into our Palace. It may be a palace the spirit desires to explore, or it may be an un-transcended palace from our families. When we become stuck in a palace, this creates a heart pain. The Heart channel provides the secrets to overcoming the heart pains.
A disturbance to the spirit can stagnate the blood: a disappointment, trauma, disillusionment. Sometimes this can manifest with chest pain; sometimes with personality disturbances, or the inability to control the emotions. For example, if the disturbance is translocated into the Lung Channel, a person may be unable to stand quiet or being alone: needing to always be busy. If the disturbance is in the Gallbladder Channel, it may manifest as hopelessness and depression. There are many possible manifestations to the Heart Pains.
It is the Pericardium Channel that assists in letting go of long-standing Heart Pains. The Pericardium is described as the head of the secret police. It has a tendency to be repressive. It often requires the unconditional love of the Heart and the unconditional acceptance of the Lungs to open and release.
I’ve shared this information to help illuminate the power of acupuncture in both the spiritual path, as well as psycho-emotional wellness. In my experience, this is the true power of the medicine. Treatment of pain: yes. But what is underneath the pain can be life-changing. It can provide understanding of the struggles you are going through, as well as support resolution of them. A Tibetan Buddhist teacher once said to me: “we don’t meditate to be good, or to be spiritual people, but to become free.” The same can be said for acupuncture treatment. While being an extremely effective physical medicine, it can also support the spiritual path to freedom.