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Imagine, or perhaps it’s true, that it’s midday, you’re belly’s rumbling and you’re about to clock-out or otherwise disengage from your workday for a precious break to nourish yourself.  How do you invest this small fraction of your day that is entirely for you?  Perhaps you negotiate life’s greater goals and find the time too pressing to fantasize, then go on, hurrying to run errands, eating whatever is available while catching up on the eternal to-do list.  Grabbing another caffeinated beverage to boost you through the afternoon.

Coming home from work, you negotiate the evenings routine and find the exhaustion of the day’s work to predominate over any greater goals.  Settling into your usual spot, be it kitchen counter, couch or favorite chair, you sift through the mail or click on the TV while mindlessly consuming the quickest available caloric sustenance, a meal prepared far away, long ago and made to last many months in your cupboard.

Perhaps this scene is familiar to you or someone you love, perhaps it is not.  Consider for a moment, how a collection of events such as this might accumulate into a month, year or even decade of neglect to those greater goals that once seemed vitally important.  Granted, the midday or evening hours may not be the most abundant in energy or ambition, nonetheless for people whose 40 hour work-week does less than satisfy the heart’s desire, what other time is there?

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According to Chinese medicine, the heart is the body’s emperor.  The Emperor demands that all other aspects of life obey his command, and will only fail when all those before him have already fallen.  That said, the heart as an organ can endure great strains with many other organs working diligently to protect the most vital, essential rhythm that keeps everything else going.  Many organs suffer silently for many years, giving small signs that can be adapted into a slightly different posture, energy level and by ignoring changing lab values.

Maintaining a health heart is something that must be done beat by beat.  Every family in America is in some way touched by heart disease.  Be it coronary artery disease, stroke, myocardial infarctions, depression, insomnia, mania or simply the lack of love for life.

Sure, a myocardial contraction results from a change in voltage across the cell membrane (depolarization), which leads to action potentials in the sinoatrial (SA) node.  This depolarization causes a wave of contraction to pass across the atria. Following atrial contraction, the impulse is delayed at the atrioventricular (AV) node. From here purkinje fibres allow rapid conduction of the electrical impulse via right and left branches, causing almost simultaneous depolarization of both ventricles, approximately 0.2 seconds after the initial impulse has arisen in the sinoatrial node. Depolarization of the myocardial cell membrane causes a large increase in the concentration of calcium within the cell, which in turn causes contraction by a temporary binding between two proteins, actin and myosin.  Sounds very straight-forward, yet how it all begins remains a great mystery of life.

Supporting this mysterious and essential action is a major aspect of cultivating health and happiness in our daily lives.  It is a task that is greater than paying our bills, repairing our homes or watering our gardens.  Yet, any task throughout our day can lend to heart health when the Emperor within is ruling from a place of peace and harmony.

In the 5-element Chinese medicine tradition, much of the effort is on what we call, “restoring the emperor or empress to his or her throne.”  This includes restoring the appropriate perspective on what truly matters in life.  It critically requires that we come to truth with ourselves about what we believe in and what we put up with.  In our truth, the reveal of how we may be living without integrity or honesty can require significant changes in our lives.  Every step of this process is valuable, as we come into closer relationship to our heart, our purpose and ultimately the greatest gift of happiness in life.

Life is a journey, and when the heart’s strengths are held at the center (love, compassion, happiness, joy and connection) we are sure to find a path that allows us to thrive.  This journey takes effort often greater than the work required to keep the daily cogs of a system turning.  Rather it may require breaking down the system in order to find a new path, a new model that reveals a more fulfilling life.

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