If you've been following along, you may have noticed that, lately, I have had love on the brain. In June, I was dreaming about warm summer nights. In July, I wondered what happens when the heart breaks. My thoughts are (mostly) about how we value love. How we continually revisit and realign ourselves to love over the course of life and carve new pathways that allow us to open to the experience. Well, it's August, summer has finally arrived here in Cleveland, and I thought I'd share something I learned about the heart itself.
I have always been a very light sleeper. Night terrors and disruptive sleep patterns have been a part of my life for decades. These conditions are common outcomes of the trauma I experienced as a child. A night terror (in very lay terms) is like having a panic attack in your sleep, and it was common for me to experience several during the course of a year. These are profoundly frightening experiences. Anxiety and fear followed and often rendered me sleepless for days (sometimes weeks) at a time. Under medical supervision, I used various medicinal and holistic aids to help me sleep.
I was encouraged when my sleeping patterns began to change last year. I told myself I was “cured” if I could go a whole year without a terror. A few weeks ago, I reached that mark. I crafted a plan with my doctor to eliminate medicinal aids. We discussed alternative methods to encourage restfulness during this transitional period. Part of this plan includes a Chinese medical practice in existence for more than two thousand years.
Acupuncture (in very lay terms) interacts with meridians along our circulatory system to unblock and invigorate flow throughout the body. It’s widely known to relieve pain, reduce anxiety, help with hormonal imbalances, and assist with addiction recovery. A certified practitioner knows how to engage specific points along these meridians to achieve the goal. These points are accessed and manipulated with a small needle-like device. In my experience, it’s a pain-free process.
I learned that, according to Chinese Medicine, sleep comes from the heart. Sleep disorders often are deficiencies of heart flow and the origins are considered physical and/or spiritual (emotional) in nature. There is an underlying blockage of Yin energy impacting flow around the heart. Yin energy is night, the softer, intuitive, restful side of our energy flow. Yang energy, in contrast, is day, dominating, driven, and active. We need both and we need to keep both in balance.
I found it fitting that my heart was once again being called to task, as it has been centric to my journey these past six years. I have leaned heavily into Yang energy as I worked on matters of the heart. The goal now is to realign, encourage Yin flow, and (hopefully) remove the elusiveness of sleep. Acupuncture becomes one conduit to this possibility through the activation of a point called Shenmen. Shen means spirit, mind, and consciousness. Men means door, gate, and entry. Shenmen (aka the Spirit Gate) stimulates the flow of Yin energy into the heart and brings calmness and balance.
It tingled a little the first time the practitioner activated Shenmen during a treatment. As soon as he had everything in place, he dimmed the lights and left the room. Then, something amazing happened. I fell asleep. When he returned (and woke me up), I felt my heart beating, not strong and rapid like after a run, but with a steadiness and quiet confidence. It seemed somehow to echo the way I’ve felt about life lately. This feeling remained for days following treatment, and with it, came easy, sound sleep.
So it seems the road to sleep, like so many things, travels through the heart. Much of my travels to heal my heart have involved letting go, the work (or Yang) of releasing pain and unhealthy bounds. I feel like that part is safely in the rear view mirror. Now, I find the first opportunity to grab hold. Not to chain or bind, but to gently join my heart and spirit and allow my entire being to integrate and embrace Yin energy, and (hopefully) create softness, rest, and love. Part of love's journey asks asks us to let go of what no longer serves our heart, thus creating opportunity for expansion and growth. Shenmen opens the gateway to engage heart and spirit, allowing deeper, richer love to flow. Perhaps the era of sweeter dreams has officially begun… good night!