Clearing the Health Jungle: Choosing from the Heart
In my last Body Ecology article I raised the question of how to choose among the thousands of dietary philosophies and supplements on the market. Each comes complete with its own logic, its own research, and its own testimonials, yet in one way or another, they all contradict each other.
You might ask a similar question about any choice you face in life. Each option has its own pros and cons, its own reasons, its own body of evidence, its own “what if’s”.
Whether in nutrition or anywhere else, it is easy to get confused. We then crave even more information, hoping that a final solution will present itself that will explain all the contradictions and provide a sure basis for choice.
This approach cannot work. It leads into an endless labyrinth of reasons, costs, and benefits, and it will never bring clarity. It cannot work because it misunderstands the true nature of choice. You see, choice is not supposed to be a function of the reason, the head, the intellect. We are not meant to “figure out” what to do.
The Three Parts of Humans According to the Ancients
The ancient alchemists had a useful analogy to explain this. They saw the human being as composed of three parts, each with its own qualities and symbols. The head, symbolized by silver, possessed the qualities of coolness, reflection, and stillness. Its function was to ponder, to consider, to reflect upon things.
Next came the thorax, containing the lungs and, most importantly, the heart. It is symbolized by gold. In contrast to the head, the heart possessed the qualities of warmth and rhythmic motion. Whereas the head is analytic, reducing things to reasons and causes, the heart is holistic. Its function is not to reason or figure out, but to know, and therefore to choose.
(Note: Be sure to read, Whatever It Is You Think You Don’t Know, You’re Probably Wrong on this topic.)
Interestingly, the neural structure of the heart and brain parallel these contrasting functions. The brain is divided into numerous semi-autonomous structures, but the heart (which contains more neurons than myocardial cells) has no internal neural structures — it is an integrated whole.
The third part of the human being is the abdomen, the viscera, symbolized by sulfur and exhibiting the quality of heat and the function of transformation. If the head thinks and the heart knows, then it is the gut that feels. It represents the function that digests and integrates our experiences, transforming the raw material of experience into the energetic and spiritual essences we use to create our being.
We’ve Got It Wrong as a Culture … and Here’s How to Get It Right
In our culture, the functions of the head have usurped the proper function of the other parts, resulting in all kinds of maladies.
On the physical level, when the head’s quality of coolness and stillness invades the heart and viscera, the result is “hardening”: sclerosis, tumors, stones, lumps, cysts, and so on. The organs lose their flexibility, elasticity, and softness; they may become frozen, spastic, or swollen.
On an energetic level, candida overgrowth may be the body’s way to deal with the excess of cold, damp energy that does not belong in the viscera. Chinese medicine, perhaps drawing from a similar understanding, groups many candida symptoms under the diagnosis “damp Spleen Qi”.
From a psychological perspective, when the coolness and stillness of the head take over the function of the heart and viscera, we may also become frozen or paralyzed. This is what happens when we try to make choices from the head — we are paralyzed by indecision.
Donna Gates, Body Ecology Founder
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To free ourselves, we must dare to choose from the heart, and not put rationality before it or in opposition to it. The heart’s knowing is unreasonable. Often it leads us to do things that we cannot justify rationally, especially when it comes to “matters of the heart” — love. But in reality, every relationship we have, to each other and the world, is supposed to be a relationship of love.
When the head’s cool stillness usurps the visceral functions, the results are equally devastating. As with knowing and choosing, transformation cannot come from the head. Therefore, neither can healing.
When we try to impose change from a place of ego and willpower, we find ourselves stuck in old patterns. Like an animal trapped in quicksand, the harder we struggle the faster we sink. The language of the head, of costs and benefits, threats and incentives, is actually not effective in creating change.
How many times have you vowed to stop getting angry, or stop smoking, or stop eating sugar, or start an exercise program, reminding yourself of the benefits, scaring yourself with the consequences of failure, but in the end helpless to stick with the program? It is impossible, because change cannot come from thinking and forcing, it can only come from feeling, digesting, and integrating.
This understanding suggests a new approach to nutrition and healing, to choosing and to transformation.
Read all you want, familiarize yourself with the research and the factual information, but don’t struggle to choose based on this. Reflect upon it, absorb it, and let the choice come from the heart. You cannot figure out whether the Body Ecology Diet is better or worse than a thousand other contradicting diets on the market. You cannot figure it out! But you can know it. Real knowing is a heart function, and reveals itself as those heart qualities of warmth and resonance. If it is right for you, you will resonate with it.