If you are arriving here from Instagram – welcome, I’m grateful that you are taking the time to read this and appreciate your curiosity. Are you wondering why my Instagram feed doesn’t feature many photos of acupuncture? The reason is I wanted to explore YangSheng or roughly translated – Nourishment of Life. The ancient Chinese not only aspired to physical health but also mental and emotional balance. I particularly wanted to cultivate the Heart Shen to bring some joy through beauty in Nature and Art. It’s my take on beauty and that might not be yours, but I’m guessing if you are here then you might like joining me for some of the journey.
Nature and Art in Chinese Medicine
The Daoist self-cultivation tradition places humans at the heart of the nature. Being in nature is where we belong and we are nourished by this connection. The mental health benefits of nature are well known. Chinese culture – art, poetry, philosophy and medicine are interwoven with nature. Chinese Medicine directly links the ebb and flow of nature with that of the physiological and psychological workings of the body and mind. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm.
What is the Heart Shen and why should we care?
Shen includes our Spirit; it refers to our consciousness, thinking and feeling, memory, our emotions, sleep and how we connect to the world. This Spirit of the mind or Shen in Chinese medicine resides in the Heart. One of the challenges of life self-nourishment is how we cherish and stabilise our Shen so that we become resilient and can deal with life’s ups and downs. A strong Shen gives us balanced emotions, wisdom, courage, clear thinking and that all-important resilience. If our Shen is strongly rooted in our Heart we act appropriately and have good social relationships. The Heart Shen is the reason why we have to go and see wonderful scenery and Art, be well rested, have good food and drink, in order that life is more refined. But when our Heart Shen is disturbed we experience anxiety, become socially awkward, restless, and experience excess fear and insomnia. At its most extreme we can suffer mental illness such as depression. Joy in the sense of a deep contentment is a positive emotion which nourishes the Heart, but if the intensity of this joy is too strong it can damage us. This may seem counterintuitive, how can too much joy be bad for us, you may wonder. However, it is the intensity of excitement which can lead us to thrill-seek and result in many kinds of self-harm such as drug taking, binge eating, alcoholism, even perhaps being addicted to social media. We constantly seek-out the next hit, the next high. The key to rooting our Heart Shen is to achieve a space for the Heart to be calm, tranquil and peaceful, to moderate the excess and allow our Shen energy to flow freely so that we can feel the joy of living.