Cultivating a Health Mind Pt. 2

In case you missed it or need a refresher, Cultivating a Healthy Mind Pt. 1

In East Asian medicine, the Spleen is the organ of the YI or the intention. The character shows a musical note being sounded over the character for the heart. The intention is what the heart is humming, because Xin, the character for the heart, is also the character for the mind. It’s consciousness.  

The intentionality of the Spleen is the note being hummed—hmm, hmm—that allows us to keep our consciousness on one subject for a while. When we can keep our consciousness on the subject, we are holding intentionality, and we are able to have focus. 

This is very, very different than having a mind that is like a dog off the leash, and that won’t come when you call. A healthy mind, a well cultivated mind, is a lot like a very well trained dog. You can let it off the leash to wander and explore, because you know that when you need to make a decision, you can go, “Heel!” and bring your mind back to where you are able to focus it with your YI. 

When the mind is, shall we say, remedial—when it’s been running wild and doesn’t actually come to heel so that we can use it intentionally—sometimes we need to go even deeper than the YI to the ZHI, which is the will. Sometimes before the will can strengthen the intention, we may need to do things to help strengthen our will. A lot of people have a disempowered will, which leads to an undisciplined and unintentional mind.  

To re-build the will, we may at first need to do things like say out loud, “I am going to move that chair,” and pause to feel our will. Don’t be casual about it. Where do you feel it, what does it feel like to assert it? Then follow through, and move that chair. Feel what it feels like to have willed something, and to have done it successfully.  

“I am going to pick up that watering can, and water three plants.” Feel it in your body. It’s like a muscle that, if you don’t use it, it gets weak. Then, when you want to have willpower and follow through on something, the muscle is not toned, because you have not been using it. At first we may need to do reps with very small weights, to re-build the will. When the will is felt underneath the intention, supporting the intention, it strengthens the intention. 

This is really crucial, because when the mind is weak and undisciplined from having just run us around all the time, we have a hard time thinking about things that can’t be thought through immediately. We have this feeling that, “Okay, I need to think about where I’m going after college.” But if the intention is not strong, if the YI is not strong, and the mind is not used to doing a good hard day’s work, when you try to think about it, you have no stamina. If you can’t figure it out in a few minutes, then you’ll say, “Aw, I don’t know,” and go do something else. 

This is very common when the muscle of the YI is not toned. There is difficulty with having the muscular resiliency of the mind necessary to hold a subject, and work it over time. When the mind is weak, if we can’t figure it out in half an hour, our Earth element goes into loss of heart: “I can’t figure it out. I can’t digest it. I’ll never be able to figure it out.” Then we just go eat things that we shouldn’t eat, or watch TV, or whatever each of our particular manifestations of loss of heart might be.  

When there is something that we need to think through that is going to take more than a half an hour, it may actually require what I call “crock pot time.” “Crock pot time” is an important practice in the remedial stages of cultivating a healthy mind. This is time when whatever we are thinking about is held in the mind and just mushed around, neither dropping it and changing the subject, nor being able to get anywhere very quickly.  

Mulling, pondering… The Chinese word for this is SI. When it’s happening in loss of heart, it’s worry, and it’s a pathology. But when it’s happening with heart, it’s the deep crockpot of digestion on a particular subject. To regain this capacity, to tone up our crockpot loaded with the ingredients that are intentional (“This is what I want to think about…”) and then be able to hold that is one example of what we will be practicing and learning about how to cultivate a healthy mind. 

Look for part 3 of this blog series on September 8th.

Would you like to learn more about building a strong and healthy mind? Join us at the Earth Seasonal Retreat: Cultivating a Healthy Mind, September 24th 2023.

For more Earth element resources, check out our Seasonal Resources page for Late Summer.

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome)

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