Awakening the Spiritual Heart
Sep 02, 2015 11:34AM
● By Patrice Green
In ancient China, around the time that Buddhism was becoming more popular, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners gathered to form “heart schools” to help people deal with changes in a society that was becoming urbanized, disconnected from nature and fast paced. If this sounds familiar, so do some of the remedies. They focused on awakening the heart and restoring inner balance with special tonics.
Ancient herbal healing systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Greek-Arabic Medicine (Unani) understood that the body is more than physical; it also encompasses emotional and spiritual aspects of being. To support health, all three systems need to work together in a subtle collaborative relationship.
The seat of consciousness/spirit or awareness, home of the spiritual heart, is called Shen in TCM and Pneuma in Unani medicine. A disruption of the spiritual heart, referred to as disturbed shen, describes many conditions including deep grief, sadness, melancholy, depression, rage, sleep disturbances and anxiety. In the Unani tradition, the inability to experience joy is a primary indicator of disease of the spiritual heart. Both belief systems held that any extended disruption of the spiritual heart initially led to emotional and spiritual distress, and ultimately to physical ailments. Maintaining a spiritual heart benefits the emotions, spirit/consciousness and ultimately physical well-being.
In order to maintain a spiritual heart, it must first be awakened. An inward journey, requires a willingness to find that still place of knowing which resides deep inside each person. Avicenna, the father of Unani medicine, described a three step process for awakening the spiritual heart. The initial focus was on protection, then centering and finally opening or sharing wisdom developed through this inward journey. In order to have a centered heart, one which rests in equanimity, the heart must first be protected. In order to be open, the heart must combine protection with centering, so that true opening and wisdom can flow.
Unani medicine describes a category of herbs called exhilarants which arouses the pneuma (shen) and uplifts vital heart and brain centers. These herbs when taken in larger quantities are sedative, yet in homeopathic doses bring a sense of joy. Fir, mint, cinnamon, basil in any variety, cassia, frankincense, lavender, coriander, lemon balm, lemon peel, sandalwood and rose fall into this category.
Some TCM shen tonics include reishi, albizzia (aka: mimosa), hawthorn, passionflower, and Chinese peony. Flower essences, the energetic imprint of the flower in water, are extremely helpful when dealing with anything of an emotional or spiritual nature. Essential oils, the concentrated essence of the plant, act on the strongest sense, smell. Used in conjunction with exhilarants, flower essences and essential oils help deepen the inner connection necessary for developing spiritualheartedness. Rose can be used either as an herb, flower essence or oil for protection. Chinese peony helps to center while fir, best as an essential oil, aids opening.
There is also the need to engage the mental processes, so often overloaded in today’s society. A daily practice of meditation and mantras help quiet the mind and facilitate an inward journey to calmness so necessary for a spiritual heart. Specific mantras and meditations can focus and enhance each phase.
History is repeating itself as our culture becomes increasingly less heart-friendly. Technology brings many gifts, but also adds disconnection, despite the rise of social media in all its forms. The tendency to look outside for balance, only found within, creates more disconnection and the development of shen disturbances. The antidote: awaken the spiritual heart; support the individual’s inward journey to experience different octaves of healing— physical, emotional and spiritual.
Patrice Green is an herbal educator, certified aromatherapist, flower essence, energy medicine and Reiki practitioner and founder of Green Aromatics. Beginning this month, Green is teaching a four-month Awakening the Spiritual Heart intensive through the Boston School of Herbal Studies. To learn more, call 781-646-6319 or visit BostonHerbalStudies.com.