The Heart and the Brain

Traditional Chinese Medicine does acknowledge the presence of the brain but not in the same way we do in western society. The brain in CM is seen as the “store of marrow” and an extension of the kidney. Its relationship with the heart is acknowledged but during my training as an acupuncturist, it was not much emphasized or discussed. Many of the things we might associate with the brain are in fact ascribed to the “officials” or organs in the body, especially the heart. The western view, on the other hand, does emphasize the brain and “intelligence” or “thought” are considered primarily as brain functions. This is the most fundamental contradiction between a western and an eastern approach to medicine/healing. Is it more to do with something we “work out” or “discover” or is it something we “sense” or “feel”? You can guess what I’m going to say…… it’s actually both!

What is really exciting about this is the work that pioneers in brain health and functional medicine are doing now. It transpires that the brain and heart are so closely and inexorably linked that it is folly to try and separate them. There are millions of nerve pathways between them and all those meditation and self-development techniques we have been using have been, on one level at least, aimed at improving communication and harmonization between them.

Perhaps the most effective and easy method I have found to help ourselves (and therefore all around us) with the heart/brain relationship is heart mapping or heart math as it is known. This is something we can do for ourselves simply by stopping our thoughts at moments of stress and shifting focus to the heart. We then find something to be grateful for at that moment. I think this also applies at important moments during a treatment, such as when we are listening or at the moment we are needling an acupuncture point.

There are various devices available that monitor the heartbeat, its speed and coherence and then teach us to be more heart focussed. I may say more about that in another post.



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