It was Paul McCartney’s birthday recently. The Beatle is 78. How did that happen? His age that is!
He was Knighted in 1997 by Queen Elizabeth ll for his “service to music” and it’s been a delight listening to him serenade us about love well before then and ever since. It was a hoot to watch James Corden travel with Sir Paul through his old Liverpool haunts in Carpool Karaoke. Paul appeared relaxed, genuinely happy, greeted everyone with a “Hello, Love” and still seemed to have that…spark.
Chinese Medicine defines that glitter in the eyes, that twinkle in the gaze as “Shen". Shen is translated as “Spirit” and “Mind". It refers to that aspect of our being that presides over our consciousness. It is the energetic vitality that radiates from us as we move through our lives.
The Shen, our overarching spirit, resides in our blood and is a part of the Heart system. Cultivation of the spirit is essential for our overall health, according to Chinese Medicine. In addition, there is no separation between the health of the body, the mind, or the spirit, as all aspects are intertwined and in an ongoing and dynamic energetic relationship with each other.
What is spirit and is the Shen truly residing in the heart and blood as the ancient Chinese suggest? Mankind has had a difficult time coming to agreement as to the definition of spirit and where it might reside.
Phew. Hasn’t this been the subject of inquiry by great sages since the beginning of time?
It is fascinating to me both personally and professionally as an acupuncturist, that thousands and thousands of years ago, the ancient Chinese system of energetic medicine linked the physical heart and blood to our essential spirit and our conscious mind.
While that concept was not completely forgotten over time, it is curious how the path of the understanding of consciousness diverted to a predominantly scientific understanding which is that consciousness resides and is a function exclusively of our brains.
Many would agree that, at least in part, consciousness has something to do with being alert and responsive.
Does one need to be awake to be aware?
Consciousness seems to be a state of being in which an individual is aware of feelings and sensations from both the internal and external environments. While scientist hypothesize that consciousness is formed from the arousal of a specific area of the brainstem and two areas of the cortex, we certainly can’t observe that from gross anatomical inspection.
Regardless of the debate, poets, artists, and philosophers across all civilizations have, for eons, continued to assert, and beautifully express, the understanding that spirit and awareness or consciousness dwells in our hearts. Thankfully, in the last few decades, scientific research has circled back to exploring this ancient knowing.
The HeartMath Institute is involved in interesting psychophysiology research and training. While I myself have not done the training, I am extremely interested in the implications. Doc Childre, the founder of HeartMath, offers techniques for quieting what Buddhist call the “monkey mind”. This allows easier access to the innate intelligence of the heart or “heart brain” and creates a specific rhythmic pattern referred to as “heart coherence” which is associated with emotions of joy and love.
Neurocardiology has discovered that the heart has its own unique nervous system which actually sends more signals from the heart to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. These signals, sent from the heart, seem to influence cognitive functioning and emotional processing within the brain. Sound familiar?
Without any high-tech machinery, ancient civilizations seemed already to have realized this heart brain existence. They also knew that other areas of the body, similarly posses an innate intelligence and relationship with the brain.
I’ll save the “Gut Brain” conversation for another day. Have no doubt, it is equally as fascinating!
With certainty, we know the autonomic nervous system takes care of the amazing rhythm of the heart as electrical impulses from our brain activate heightened nerve centers within the chambers of the heart. It is truly amazing when you stop and think about it. When you stop and become aware of it. When you stop and become conscious of it. Hint. Hint.
It circulates the blood that holds oxygen, and without any consideration on our part, it goes on tick tocking, lub dubbing, all day long, day in and day out. Of course until one day it decides not to, and that is indeed another subject entirely.
How can we cultivate our Shen or spirit despite perhaps not being in agreement as to where it might be found?
How do we nurture the essence of the spirit or consciousness?
To ponder these universal puzzles seems especially arduous to consider of late as I observe the current spiritual condition of the world. Who couldn’t use a little bit more lovin’ right about now! Looking back in history, when the Beatles were at the height of their careers during the 1960s, I am struck with the similarities between our current cultural state and the racial riots, civil unrest and inequity, and political upheaval of that equally tumultuous decade.
And yet the Beatles sang about love.
The Beatles had 11 hit songs with the word love in the title and the vast number of the remaining 200+ songs which they wrote, had a great deal to do with love and relationships. Perhaps they were our collective counter-balance to the anger and hatred that was then spewing in the streets.
Who is singing love songs to us now, as again, anger and hatred are at the forefront of the daily news?
How can we individually and collectively be the shift in mind and heart that is the necessary counterbalance to the current global disharmony much as the Beatles did for us through their music?
There are many paths to expanding our spirit. While some deepen their connection to divine consciousness by studying the Bible or other holy books from the major religions of the world, others practice a multitude of meditation techniques.
Many find the divine spirit in nature and take walks to balance the Shen. And for others, engaging in creative endeavors such as music and the arts, promotes a connection to that spark.
No doubt Sir Paul’s Shen is a direct result of his unwavering devotion to cultivating his spirit through the creation of music. He has been tapped into IT and turned on to IT for decades. We all love him for it. (And a shout out to our other beloved Beatles and all musicians across the planet who have raised our collective vibration through their gift of connectedness to spirit.)
And so we return to love. A few years ago, when the political climate in our country escalated into constant bickering, I was saddened that some people had even resorted to mean spirited bumper stickers. Geeze!
I physically felt ill stacked in traffic reading the car's message in front of me. I thought, “How can I be the counterbalance to this energetic?” As I often listen to the Beatles station on Sirius radio, it occurred to me that the Beatles were right. All you need is love. I have printed and freely distributed over 1,000 bumper stickers which say, “All You Need Is Love”. It’s my little quiet campaign.
What’s your campaign plan?
Writing to your local politicians, marching in solidarity with both strangers and neighbors, donating to like-minded causes, and certainly voting, are all possible actions to create the long overdue shifts in current injustices and inequities.
I dare to ask though, is new legislation enough? To focus solely on one’s analytical mind may not be enough. We need to tap into that heart-brain axis. What we need is a return to heart centered consciousness. We need to return to the spirit of love within each of us. And again I ask, how do we cultivate that loving spirit consciousness?
Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi poet writes,
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
With these eloquent words, I am reminded that love and it’s healing energy is already literally embedded in our hearts. We are hardwired for this and it is the only cure for hate and fear. We have known this simple truth since the beginning of time. Wake up to the remembering.
All you need is love.
If not now… when?