In my continued studies of the Chinese medical Heart system and the Anahata cakra of yoga, I’ve come back, again (for the nth time), to the simple concept of stillness preceding movement, as the natural order of things. In matters of health, illness, and healing, this simple concept has far-reaching and immediate implications.
In Chinese medicine, there is a central aspect of the Heart that is the void. Even on a gross, mechanical level, the heart organ, as a pump, is absolutely dependent on its emptiness to maintain its function. A clogged, blocked pump is a broke pump.
On the more subtle levels of being, this void is just as important to our healthy living. Where the emotional heart clings, holds onto thoughts and emotions, the person suffers, and where the heart experiences, but allows all to flow through, the person can find peace.
When holding this peaceful void, this presence to experience without attachment or holding onto, a person is set – open – to receive.
What does a person receive, in their hearts, through their hearts, when they are able to enter that stillness?… Awareness, knowingness, an understanding through clear perception – direct perception of reality, as it is, uncolored by the “knowledge”, based on experiences, of the mind…
Truth, in a word.
This is neither distant, nor difficult. It happens all the time, every moment, right now. It’s just not, currently, as… efficient as it could be.
Think of your attempts to know something. It happens nearly constantly, but try to feel the movement from the very beginning. If you’re quick – really, really quick – you can catch that very first impression, that initial knowing.
Within a billionth of a second, though, the mind enters. The thinking, analyzing, comparing and contrasting, measuring and judging intellectual mind jumps onto the scene and immediately distorts that original, crisp impression.
You knew, but then you questioned…
You still know, but continue to doubt. The servant has become the master…
And that would be fine, if there were nothing to do, nothing important about life. But there is. We have decisions, big and small, countless of ‘em a day.
Now, thinking about the opening lines – stillness preceding movement – we always begin in stillness, such is the nature of things, but our actions tend not to be guided, rooted in that stillness and the awareness that such stillness invites, but, instead, we act based on all the rumblings and frenetic actions of that thinking mind.
Going no further, it is already evident how a life lived rooted in the ceaseless movements of the mind simply can’t lead to real happiness or true health.
Simply put, the mind analyzes, but it’s the heart that knows.
Think of walking around a house you’re unfamiliar with, eyes closed. You’re looking for a box sitting on a shelf, in a room, on the second floor.
Undoubtedly, the analytical mind can be of service. You can reach all around you, taking in input from what you touch. You can walk around and adjust which direction you go based on walking into objects and whatnot.
But compare that person, walking into walls, flailing about with their arms outstretched, tripping over the carpet, to the person who stops and opens their eyes…
With eyes open, and seeing the inside of the house around you, you can then use the mind as a tool, to act based on, in accordance with, and guided by the perceptions of the heart, as the analytical mind was intended.
Taking action without truly seeing, knowing with our hearts, is, essentially, stumbling through life, as if in the dark. Even if you find what you want, you won’t recognize it.
The problem, of course, lays in calming that mind so that we can hear with the heart, stilling the ceaseless mental fluctuations, so we can enter stillness, experience the void, in order to truly know.
This calming the mind is a complex topic.
Acupuncture can be practiced with this as the ultimate goal. Symptoms are specific indicators of how 1) the system is disrupted, blocking clear perception with the heart, and 2) how the person is suffering either directly from the obstruction, or more generally from not being in contact, and thus guided, by the heart. I believe this is the highest form of medicine, in fact, the only way to truly end suffering.
On a day-to-day basis, you can actively work to calm the mind to better allow awareness through the heart. Breathing is probably the quickest and easiest way to bring the active mind to a standstill.
Yoga has this concept at its core, the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. A good yoga class will give you many tools, and working one-on-one with a teacher will maximize all yoga has to offer.
Tai chi is also a great tool, much in the same way as yoga.
Or, simply, just pay attention.
By merely looking, and holding attention, the mind is calmed, the heart engaged. The longer you hold such focus, the more empowered heart’s awareness becomes and the weaker, the more translucent the mind’s rumblings appear.
By acting in absence of the heart’s guidance you put the cart before the horse and risk a very… eventful life ;).