Chinese Medicine and the Mind

The Mind in Chinese medicine is referred to as Shen. Although Shen is loosely translated to mean Spirit in the west, in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is mostly used to describe the activity of thinking, consciousness, insight and memory—all of which depend on the health of the Heart. One ancient text states, “The Heart is the root of life and the organ of mental life.” Of all of the organs, the Mind is most closely related to the Heart which is said to be the “residence” of the Mind and is responsible for thinking, memory, sleep, consciousness, insight, cognition, intelligence, wisdom and ideas. It also influences all of the senses; hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. This further demonstrates the vital importance of cardiovascular health.

Thinking depends on the Mind. If the Mind is strong, thinking will be clear. If it is weak or disturbed, thinking will be slow and dull. It is interesting to note that the Chinese characters for “thought”, “to think”, and “pensiveness” all include the character for “heart.”

Memory indicates the capacity of memorizing data when one is studying or working. It also refers to the ability to remember past events.

Consciousness is used to describe the totality of thoughts and perceptions. The Mind is responsible for the recognition of thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Consciousness also refers to the state of being conscious. In this, when the Mind is clear, we are conscious; if the Mind is obfuscated (unclear; interrupted) or suddenly depleted, we lose consciousness.

Insight reflects our capacity of self-knowledge and self-recognition. Emotional stimuli, feelings and sensations are perceived and recognized by the Mind. It is only the Mind that recognizes emotions and feels them and for this reason that all emotions eventually affect the Heart.

Cognition indicates the activity of the Mind in perceiving and conceiving in reaction to stimuli.

Sleep is dependent on the state of the Mind. If the Mind is calm and balanced, a person sleeps well. If the Mind is restless, the person sleeps poorly.

Intelligence also depends on the Heart and a healthy Mind. A strong Heart and Mind will make a person intelligent and bright. A weak Heart and Mind will render a person slow and dull.

Wisdom derives from a strong Heart and a healthy Mind. As the Mind is responsible for knowing and perceiving, it also gives us the discernment to apply this knowledge critically and wisely.

Ideas are another function of the Mind. The Heart and Mind are responsible for our ideas, our projects and the dreams which give our lives purpose.

Much of the above functions of the Mind are attributed to the brain in Western medicine. In Chinese medicine the Heart controls all mental activities of the Mind, is responsible for insight and cognition and also plays a role in the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. It is referred to as the “Emperor” of all of the other organs as its proper functioning directly affects every other system and level of health.

Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 17+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299.

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