According to traditional Chinese medicine, each organ is not only identified with its physical structure and function, but also with seasons, emotions, color, sound, and elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood). Since it is summer, the season of growth, I’d like to dedicate this article to the related organs: Heart, Pericardium, Small Intestine and San Jiao. All together, these organs correspond with summer, the fire element, the color red, the sound of laughter, and the ability to communicate and authentically connect with people.
The Fire element corresponds to the more active and social aspects in life, quite the opposite of the Water element that is associated with the season of winter and being more introspective and quiet. We are all familiar with these two very distinctly different experiences and see that both are just as important as the other. There are also those moments where we feel more outgoing in the winter, or more introspective in the summer, depending upon life circumstances. In any event, balance is key. When we are in touch with what the seasons have to offer, and correspond to them accordingly and openly, we then know that the organ(s) associated are also in balance.
When summer time comes around we usually experience that increased desire to socialize, dance and play. The Heart feels more “open” to possibilities. Also, the Heart has a strong connection with the mind, however in this case the mind is not thought of as just brain function but more of the relationship between the two. In Chinese medicine this relationship between the Heart and the mind is referred to as Shen. The Shen is revealed through the eyes, we can see how someone is feeling on a mental/emotional level just by looking into their eyes. In addition to the Heart, there are three other organs involved within the Fire element. The one physically closest to the Heart is the Pericardium, an organ that is seen as the “Heart Wrapper” and functionally protects the Heart. As we look at our own “Heart Wrapper” we can ask ourselves, are we protecting ourselves too much / not enough or is there an appropriate balance of both?
Next, the Small Intestine is the Yang paired organ to the Heart. All organs have a paired organ, and the physically hollow organs are considered Yang, the more solid organs considered Yin. The main function of the Small Intestine is to receive food from the stomach and further digest and absorb it and send the residue to the large intestine and urinary bladder. Essentially, the Small Intestine “separates the pure from the turbid”. On an emotional level, the ability to provide ourselves with clear boundaries and know when to appropriately separate emotionally also pertains to the Small Intestine. For example, sometimes there is a need to separate the many different roles we play such as in the work place and at home. If it is difficult to separate each role appropriately and find ourselves mixing the roles together, the purity dissipates and becomes muddy and unclear. As a further example, as a parent we cannot truly be “buddies” with our children since parents are the people providing love, structure and security, which provides children with what they truly need in order to then create their own strong and lasting friendships.
The last organ associated happens to be the only one not recognized in Western medicine, and therefore has no direct English translation. It is the San Jiao, the Yang paired organ to the Pericardium. There are three jiaos; upper, middle and lower, each pertaining to the organs in those locations of the torso. In a very small nutshell, the San Jiao connects all the organs, with a strong connection with water (the human body is about 72% water) “the San Jiao is the irrigation official who builds waterways”. This function of essentially keeping proper functioning and communication between the organs might be translated emotionally to that aspect that keeps us physically and spiritually connected with the people close to us and with the community. Together, the organs related to the Fire element help us to keep our actions, words and thoughts clear and full of loving intention.
Before engaging in a “serious” conversation or any other action it seems important to ask the question of intention…what are my intentions? do my intentions come from a place of love? compassion? If they don’t, then why bother? Social connectedness is one of the most important factors in keeping the Heart healthy. When we are able to do so with loving intention, we are witness to the feeling as it vibrates throughout our life and into the people around us and into the community.
When you have the courage to open your heart completely to love, a miracle happens. You start perceiving the reflection of your love in everything. Then eating, walking, talking, singing, dancing, working, playing – everything you do becomes a ritual of love. – Don Miguel Ruiz