Discernment and Clarity

Part IX of "Decoding the Mysterious Language of TCM" 

In my last blog I explored the functions of the Heart, and today I want to talk a little about its partner, the Small Intestine and its role in discernment.

The link between the Small Intestine and the Heart is found mainly on the psychological level. While the Heart is responsible for 'housing the Mind' and governing our mental and emotional life overall, the Small Intestine gives us the power of discernment. The mental activities of the Heart rely on the ability of the Small Intestine to make clear judgements and critically appraise our options. It helps us find clarity of mind so we are able to distinguish issues in order to make choices. A person with a deficient Small Intestine finds it hard to arrive at decisions because they cannot clearly distinguishing between relevant issues.

The Small Intestine's mental function is mirrored in its more physical task: Just as it separates those options that are beneficial to our lives from those that may be detrimental, it also separates the food received from the Stomach into 'pure' and 'dirty' parts. The 'clean' or usable part is sent to the Spleen to be transported throughout the body to nourish the tissues. The 'dirty' part is sent to the Bladder and Large Intestine to be eliminated. This concept very closely resembles what we now know through science; that the Small Intestine is the place where we absorb nutrients out of our food. I think that it's fascinating that thousands of years ago, in a time when there was no way of looking at the microscopic activities at the cellular level of the Small Intestine, the ancient Chinese doctors still formulated a theory that comes so close to our modern understanding!