In the Taoist tradition, the Heart is where the shen resides, the spirit of the divine, the energy of love and oneness that is in all of us if we keep our hearts open and clear. When we interact with life during our waking moments – with nature, people, animals – our shen flies out and connects with all. We see shen in the eyes of beings with whom we share a moment. It is often fleeting, a glance – or it can be held in deep intimacy. It’s our love vehicle.
The shen is compared to little birds that fly out, interact and then return to the heart space. They can be quite busy during our conscious awake hours, and – requiring rest and respite – they come home to roost in the heart when we sleep. But if we have packed that airy, free space of the heart with clutter, noise, darkness and unresolved, undigested energies – there will be no room for the birds and they will fly away. If not all of them, then at least some.
leaving us longing for connection, for shen, for the divine
leaving us incomplete, depressed, anxious, sad
the ancients called it shen disturbance
This states of our heart are on a continuum – sometimes it’s a black mess in the heart space, sometimes it’s passable, sometimes we feel the shen in its powerful entirety, our hearts filled to the brim with ecstasy. This time around, on this planet – our work is to gently clear out what does not belong and allow for shen to reside completely in our heart space. With constancy and focus. With love. Courage.
What are you taking to Heart?
Three Gates to the Heart
In its infinite wisdom, the Heart has created 3 gates through which everything we encounter in this life must pass before the final entry to the Palace of the Heart. As children, perhaps we were not aware of this selective process, and took to heart the stories, the trauma, the limits that came up – unfiltered, raw experiences. As we do our work, our conscious mapping of our joy and happiness, we can go back in there and gently sweep out the detritus of our childhood, of our lineage, our ancestry, our past whatever. We clean out the Palace of the Emperor/ess so that our joy can be free and unbounded.
There are many ways to do this. Alchemical acupuncture is one. And it all starts with the Heart and our desires.
Warm / Cold?
Again, there are 3 gates before entry to the Heart. The outermost gate is the Triple Heater, the San Jiao, a non-physical organ system that regulates temperature in the body and also the warm/cold reactions we have to the external on a psycho-spiritual-emotional level. Are we warm or cold to a situation, person, idea? If there is no heat, so to speak, it’s cold. It’s out. If this warmth is present – then this entity is allowed to pass through this first gate. It’s a visceral barometer, a feeling-generated assessment.
Safe or Unsafe?
The next gate is the Pericardium or Heart Protector. On a physical level, the pericardium is a membranous sac that contains and protects the Heart.
On a psycho-spiritual-emotional level, it helps us determine what is safe or unsafe to take into our heart space. Will this energy hurt me? Will it bring me pain? If so, it does not belong in the Heart. It belongs somewhere else – in the digestive system. More on that later, but what comes to us in life requires a breaking down, a process of taking what benefits and discarding what does not. A process of time, patience, and attention to utilize all we are given and to only let go the undigestible – on a physical but also emotional level. That’s the life process.
The Heart is about shen, about spirit, about joy, requiring a different focus.
Enter …. or Not
The next gate is the Small Intestine, The Sorter. After we have decided what we are warm to, and then what is safe, the Small Intestine makes the final decision as to what will enter the heart space. We cannot let everything into the Palace of the Heart, the Emperor/ess. Overwhelm would ensue. So the gate of the Sorter, does just that – sorts and decides. Yes / No. Come in / Stay out. A clear determinant.
When the Heart is filled with warmth, safety, valued treasures, our shen moves in and out freely and joy enters. No matter what we are working on, no matter what tragedies prevail, no matter what the stress is in our lives, if we can attend to the clarity and openness of the Heart space, anything is bearable. It’s a 4th dimension arena, which we can enter at any time. It is the only space that can make suffering worthwhile. An embrace, a held glance, a refrain of music, an expression of our creativity, a smile, a mantra, an encouragement – when this enters our heart, all joy is possible. No matter what we are digesting in our lives.
So as you bask in the summer sun, delight in the offerings of Fire, revel in the long days of light … check into the 3 gates to your heart space, and choose only what is worthy of your love to enter. When we play in the arena of the Heart, in the arena of love and courage, during its optimal time, this summer moment, it can build up our reserves for whatever lies ahead.
The Heart knows. As do you.