Your heart has a spirit that might need attention.

Your heart has a spirit. Some cultures call the heart spirit the "center of human cognition” or “origin of intentional activities.” Pretty heavy stuff! Modern medicine measures an unhealthy heart by function like heart rate and pressure. Holistic and ancient medicine factors in our uncontrolled thoughts and feelings. A healthy heart muscle functions low, slow and at ease. An unhealthy heart is erratic, impaired and fragile. The healthy heart spirit might measure in stillness, calm and patience. The unhealthy spirit measures in anger, sorrow and fear. Modern medicine has only just begun to study the effects of stress on your heart. Eastern philosophy has long held the heart spirit as the manager of stress. The heart spirit is the origin of action and center of thought. Less stress means less mess. Your heart has a spirit and it might need some attention.

Heart spirit disease is when our emotions seem out of our control. Reactions to everyday life events are bigger than the situation. Little things trigger the flight/fight/freeze response, our pulse rate goes up, our blood pressure goes up and our thoughts fire like fireworks. You may act out with excessive anger, being overly anxious or emotionally out control. Think a toddler having a temper tantrum. The stress function is great for a life-saving emergency. However, reactions like that to the everyday life of finance, family and funk develops into many chronic diseases. If you find yourself feeling frenzied and frustrated at usually insignificant things, and reacting rather than acting with intent, you may have heart spirit disease.

A healthy heart spirit can handle crises. Thoughts and feelings are settled, situation-related and fully in control. Specifically, your actions are conscious meaning that you evaluate, contemplate and then respond. The current finance, family or funk stressing you out is not usually life threatening. But, boy can it feel like it! Remember the toddler? A healthy heart spirit still experiences anger, sadness and fear. However, you can reasonably and respectfully deal with the situation. The calm heart keeps your blood pressure and heart rate low which is better for chronic diseases. Thoughts work for solutions to the messes of life and you don’t throw any temper tantrums.

To heal the heart spirit is to spend time listening to it. Taoism has a practice called ‘fasting of the heart’ – a state of stillness – not thinking, not moving, not reacting to any external or internal stimuli. It's essentially a dopamine fast that asks you to remove all pleasure. The idea of ‘fasting of the heart’ goes beyond meditation. The benefit comes from learning to let go of our desires. Wanting something is always the beginning of the toddler’s temper tantrum. To sit still and not react IS the practice. Fasting heals the heart spirit by giving you conscious control over thoughts and actions. Stillness teaches you to intentionally control your responses to stress. Put the toddler to bed and give your heart spirit some love.