There are many ways in which the holiday season can make us feel crazy. We all have our own individual ways in the which the combination of family, consumerisms and various social situations can bring us to our knees emotionally. What I want to tell you about in this blog post today is a way in which Chinese medicine can help us to stay balanced and engaged during this season. I say balanced and engaged, because what I am proposing is not a way to slip into some higher spiritual state and leave the madness below you. No. I am talking about a way in which we can be fully present with all the chaos of life, while remaining centered and connected with that which is deeper within ourselves. Deeper than the chaos. Deeper than the fray. That part of us that is universal and is connected to everyone.
Before we can get into this too much we must first understand the nature of the Chinese system of medicine. Specifically, we need to know what a heart is. Because in Chinese medicine, the organs do not exist in the democracy. It is an absolute monarchy, and the heart is the emperor. All of the other organs, which have both the traditional western characteristics, as well as emotional signatures, are in health when they are in service to the heart.
What is the heart? In Chinese medicine, the heart is more than the physical muscle pumping blood. The heart is a radiant void. It is the place inside ourselves in which Shen, the Chinese word for spirit, resides.
A good way to get in touch with your heart, with this radiant void, is to put a hand on your chest. Sit like this for a few minutes, feeling the warmth of your hand as it radiates onto your chest. When you feel you are connected to this part of yourself, start to visualize that there is a space in your chest through which light is coming through. This is the light of Shen. And this light, Shen, is the same in every person. The light coming through me is the same as the light coming through. How fully can you take that in? You have in your chest this beautiful radiant void, through which comes a light that is completely pure and totally sane. My teacher, Thea Elijah, uses the metaphor of a donut and a donut hole to describe the Chinese heart. In this metaphor, you can think of yourself as a donut, and other people as donuts as well. There are all sorts of different flavored donuts; the ones that are our favorites, and the ones that we can’t stand. But in all of these wildly different donuts, there is always the same exact hole in the center. That hole is heart space.
The donut metaphor helps to bring us into awareness that the radiant void opens from both the front and the back. See if you can feel this. This light that comes not from you, but through you.
Getting in touch with that light is one of the keys to successfully navigating the holiday season. The holidays can really help us get in touch with all the messy emotional stuff that goes on between humans. Using the donut and donut hole metaphor, we can think of the emotions as being part of the donut. “You hurt me and now I want to crawl up in a ball every time I am around you.” Or, “I’m still made at you for how you treated me in the past.” Or even, “You cut me off in line at the grocery store and I hate you!!!” And everything else that goes on inside of our minds that is not completely loving. All of this is the donut. Can you get in touch with the fact that, in the midst of all the poison darts of our emotions and the emotions of others there is a radiant void? That the light coming through me is the same as the light coming through you? This light is the nature of who we are. I am not a woman, but light coming through a woman. You are are not a man or woman, but light coming through a man or woman.
Notice what you feel when you are doing this practice. Likely you will feel a decrease in tension and an increased sense of ease. The person that you are interacting with may or may not change what they are doing right away. Most people are not used to being treated as light coming through a woman or light coming through a man. They are used to being treated as an amalgamation of all of their stories and all the things they have screwed up. It takes some time to change that, but interacting with someone in the way described above can be incredibly healing for both people involved. Even if you forget 90% of the time, keep trying. It takes practice. Make it a habit to come back to heart space; to come back home. Put a and on your chest and breath. Feel the warmth. Remember who you are. Remember who we are. We are carrier mediums for light.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to cultivate heart space and stay sane in the midst of chaos, please contact me about my Medicine Without Form classes.
I learned the concepts that I’ve spoken about in this article from studying with Thea Elijah, a master teacher of Chinese medicine and Sufi healer.