The Equal Importance of the Heart and Spine

I came across this phrase in one of ZMC’s books. He was obviously coming from the point of view of a chinese doctor, yet it struck me a totally different way. The concepts aren’t entirely foreign to western thought. Boxers especially, talk a great deal about ‘heart’ and ‘having heart’. The connotation is one of bravery and resilience. Being able to face daunting tasks and/or rebound from setbacks is an essential component of perserverance. The spine, in the west, is often called ‘back bone’ or ‘nerve’. While, also, having a connotation similar to bravery, it is generally used more in the context of ‘doing the right thing’ or ‘standing up’ or, to get biblical, ‘walking upright’. To me these represent all of these meanings and more. To maintain a proper ‘stance/posture’ while still being free to move according to the dictates of the ‘unconscious’ mind is ideal, IMHO. Note: I don’t like the term ‘unconscious mind’. What I’m talking about is most definitely ‘aware’, just can’t think of a better term.

Conversely, I’ve met several people with ‘heart’ who were passionate people, quick to anger, quick to forgive, and generally ‘flighty’. I’ve also met people with a well-defined, rigid sense of right and proper, and yet lacked the ‘will’ to act on that knowledge. Again we find a need for balance. Becoming emotionally engaged without an anchor puts us at risk of ‘losing ourselves’. Whereas, knowing what to do and not doing it seems a very serious sin indeed.

Just a reminder, but I am not well versed in TCM. I would be interested in hearing more from that point of view. I won’t be suprised to find out how badly I’ve butchered the original idea. I also wouldn’t be suprised if my understanding is merely a gross simplification. Oh well. Live and learn.


~ by aedhcarrick on October 16, 2009.

5 Responses to “The Equal Importance of the Heart and Spine”

  1. Heart in TCM is about Shen (Shen, Jing and Qi) – one of the three treasures it is often translated as spirit. Slightly different from heart/spirit meaning in the west.

    • sorry it took me so long to reply (see: getting my head straight).
      what about the “spine”?

      • I’m not familiar with the works of ZMC and spine does not have an obvious TCM translation like heart does. I also don’t have the full context, but I’ll take a wild guess and say that it might mean structure or alignment (for IMA).

  2. On a physical level at first, an emotional and spiritual guide later, tuning into the heart translates pretty quickly to calming down and making better choices. Whether one’s under duress of combat or wondering which way to go in the woods, the heart is a better guide than the brain.

    I dig your thoughts and the simple phrases about heart and spine really suggest a lot.

    • Thank you for the kind words. Much has been written about the physical effects of taijiquan, but i find myself much more interested in some of the ‘non-physical’ facets. i haven’t found a lot of good literature on these. just a bunch of new-agey, pop-bull. suppose it’s just as well, there is no substitute for direct experience.

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