Why am I so tired? Pt. 2: The heart of the matter

February 22nd, 2015




“One ought to hold on to one’s heart;

for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too.” 


― Friedrich Nietzsche




Actor and rapid fire comedian Robin Williams once remarked about his declining state of health preceding his heart bypass surgery:


“I just began slooooowiiing dooooooowwwwnnn.”



Curiously, it is not unusual for comedians to joke about heart disease nor suffer from it. In part two of this short series on energy and health we will look at the connection between the heart’s role in regulating and distributing energy along with its stewardship of our mind and wellbeing.




This dual role can have profound effects on how we feel and the energy we can (or can’t) access. In part one (click here if you missed it ) we looked at the role of breathing and the lungs in energy production or sabotage. We said that in the chi model of energy the lungs were the ‘bellows’ that drove the force of chi around the body. Contrastingly the heart had the role of regulator and distributor of that force.


In the same way that our car does not use all its petrol at once but instead feeds small amounts into the pistons for regulated and controlled ignition, the heart’s role is to apportion regular and rhythmic amounts of our total energy for controlled distribution around the body. Think of a mechanised water sprinkler chopping up the available flow into regular streams for distribution over a greater area.





If you still think the heart is the master of your pulse and not your lungs try this simple experiment. Hyperventilate for 10-15 seconds while taking your pulse. It speeds up. Now, intentionally slow your breathing so each in breath and outbreath takes 10 seconds each to complete with a short pause in between. Notice how the pulse slows down to reflect this?


The heart is part of the Fire element. That fire can be fanned or suffocated by the lungs and their control of Da Chi (air/oxygen). There are other ways to restrict the heart’s regulation of energy however.



 Cutting the supply lines


Many an army has been defeated in foreign campaigns when their supply lines have been compromised. The heart has the title: ‘The Emperor’ – in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This emperor relies heavily though on his ‘Fire Minister’ for reliable communication with his kingdom.


The Fire Minister has been known in these blogs under other names – The Heart Protector/The Heart Constrictor/The Kind-Cruel Guardian of the Heart/The Pericardium – and its responsibility in the body is to ensure proper circulation back and forth to the heart via the blood vessels.[1]


It is actually quite rare that the heart itself has issues. This is usually considered a genetic anomaly that is sometimes not even detected until adulthood. It can also be damaged through exhaustion and overtraining.



The vast majority of physical heart issues are due to the build-up of obstructive plaque, particularly in the coronary arteries immediately supplying the heart



Observe the flow of water from a garden hose. Now step on it, narrowing the gauge of the tube and increasing the pressure of the water that does get through. Now think of the strain on a heart muscle trying to push through such obstruction.






In a healthy person the heart beats somewhere between 50-85 times per minute unless there is greater physical activity. That is well over 100,000 times per day! Consider how much drain there is on our energy if our heart has to work with this extra load of partially blocked blood vessels. It would be like driving our car with the handbrake half on.



Diet, damp and disease 


Last week we talked about the TCM concept of ‘damp’. One aspect was mucus produced by irritated mucosal surfaces of our lungs and intestines.


Another form of damp is arterial plaque. These are composed of aggregations of white blood cells, low density lipoproteins, triglycerides, calcium and the crystalizing remnants of dead cells. To make matters worse the white blood cells cause inflammation of the arterial walls.


Then of course there is the rise in peripheral resistance – the effort each stroke of the heart makes to push blood through this clogged up network of blood vessels. That in turn raises blood pressure. Can you imagine the energy drain on someone whose heart is struggling through that 100,000 plus times a day, seven days a week?



The ‘tears of the heart’


The combination of damp (plaque) and heat (inflammation) stresses the heart as if we were constantly exercising without rest. One symptom is spontaneous sweating even when performing minimal tasks. In TCM, sweat is called “the tears of the heart”.




This also serves as an insight into the divergent philosophies about health and fitness between East and West. Where the West strives to improve health through cardio-vascular fitness training – raising the pulse for controlled periods of exercise – Eastern philosophy seeks to slow the heart rate through gentle, rhythmic movements and controlled breathing.



“The truth? You can’t handle the truth!” [2] – Emotional energy and the heart 


The Heart is considered our emotional centre that possesses the qualities of joy, compassion and intuition. In a healthy emotional life this means that the interplay between what the heart feels and perceives and what is communicated by our ‘Kind Guardian’ to our conscious awareness is one and the same.


Learnt or conditioned social repression mechanisms however play a role in how we repress our inner voice and emotional expression. If we associate our inner emotional life with shame, fear or pain for example our well-meaning Heart Protector can block these signals by our unconscious request.



The power of negative thinking


The strength of the heart energy lies in its role as the emotional centre – in particular the unifying principle of love and joy. It has been stated many times in these blogs that love is as much a state of being, of consciousness, as it is an emotion. Within that state is the programming language for healthy cells and full access to our potential.


By far the biggest ‘software’ reason for low energy is negativity


Negative, self-destructive feelings and thoughts split our consciousness and put us at war with ourselves. Exhaustion, suffering and disease are the only possible outcomes.



The defence of being always ‘on’


Other compensatory activities can include an almost ‘manic’ happiness where the person presents as always bright, jovial and loud. One gets the impression that if they stopped to rest even for a while in silence with themselves a wave of these repressed emotions would overtake and swamp them.


We mentioned the comedians’ use of humour as a defence against their personal demons. Consider this an attempt to stay in the natural joy and fiery light of the heart. The heart also represents our truth however, even the parts we don’t always want to feel.



Such a situation may outwardly spare us feeling the full force of our emotional reactions but at the cost of creating emotional dissonance in our system. That ‘static’ is the software program that creates the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.


It may come as no surprise then that cortisol stresses and ages the heart muscle over time while adrenaline speeds up heart rate – and here we are again accelerating with the hand brake on.



Drugs, medicines and the heart


If we were to add recreational drugs used to keep us ‘up’, like cocaine, amphetamines and even overconsumption of stimulant drinks amongst many others, the toll on the heart becomes critical.



It is worth noting that the heart is the centre of everything passing through it via the blood. That includes medicines as well. The unfortunate fact is that all medicines (including ‘natural’ ones like herbal formulas) are toxic to the body. It is just a matter of amount and time.


A toxic system overloaded by multiple medical prescriptions and/or complicated by recreational use of legal and illegal substances severely compromise the heart’s ability to function properly. Every up has a compensatory down on our energy as well – as anyone who has experienced ‘a day after the night before’ can testify.



The mechanics of posture and the heart


Peripheral resistance in the blood vessels to the push of each heartbeat can be exacerbated by poor posture. This can be due to a number of factors:


  • Unconscious habits of a slumping posture
  • A reflection of our inner emotional life
  • Too much sitting or looking downwards (mobile devices encourage these postures for example)
  • The effects of osteoporosis where skeletal changes and a decrease in mobility combine to stagnate our circulation.
    • In extreme cases a stent may have to be surgically inserted to prop open important blood vessels.






Any or all of these conditions will eventually be felt in both our energy levels and the health of our heart.



The heart of the matter


So, let us look at a short summary of how we sabotage our own energy at the level of the heart.


  1. A diet high in foods that create arterial plaque and inflammation
  2. Repressing our emotional life or our inner voice. Not only do we divorce ourselves from our truth, we sabotage our energy and create tension patterns that flood our body with stress hormones and further stress the heart
  3. A slumped posture places mechanical pressure on the major arterial supply lines to the heart and can cause irregularities in the pulse rhythm, rate and blood pressure


But hey, cheer up. Look on the bright side. The heart energy system’s natural state – when not obstructed physically or emotionally – is one of joy and tranquil wisdom. We usually have to do quite a lot wrong over a fairly long time to cause it problems.



One of those things is to get in early by sabotaging our digestive system. That is where a lot of the rot starts.[3] By an amazing coincidence that just happens to be the subject of part three in next Monday’s installment in this short series on energy and health.



Till the prospect of another Monday makes our heart sing,



[1] For more on this energy system click here 

[2] At least JackNicholson (and your Heart Protector) may not always think so…

[3] Well, ‘rottening and ripening’ actually – as digestion is referred to in TCM




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

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