The Heart Minister treatment functions as a simple yet effective diagnostic/treatment tool that balances the san jiao. This subtle tool was developed from a concept derived from the late Dr. JD van Buren's final Shokanten lecture. The word shokanten means Nine Continents in Japanese. Nine Continents evolves from Heaven and creates Earth, which then creates Man.
Each of these concepts of Heaven-Earth-Man is further subdivided, thereby creating Nine Continents. The Nine Continents are reservoirs of energy which regulate the physiology of man, which in turn regulate the psyche. By using this treatment, we can affect and regulate the Nine Continents, which in turn regulate the physiology which then regulate the psyche.
Philosophy of the Heart Minister
The san jiao is the father of qi, the energy producer, which directs all other energies in the body. If the san jiao is not functioning at an optimum level, all other energies will neither be created nor directed in a proper fashion. From this, we can understand that if the san jiao, which is responsible for the physiology of man, is not in balance, then the psyche or psychological functions will also be in disharmony.
In the Heart Minister procedure, we attend to the emanations of heat and cold. One of the functions of the san jiao is to give warmth from the internal aspect of the body to the skin. When one feels various temperatures (hot/cold, warm/cool) on the body, one is really feeling the san jiao. The Heart Minister treatment simply assesses and corrects the temperature of the body with the palm of the hand. If there is an extreme in an area, the palm stays there, giving warmth or removing heat until it is balanced, neither too hot nor too cold.
The Western anatomical position has Man standing erect with his arms down by his side. In the Asian anatomical position, the arms are extended above the head with the fingers extended and pointing to Heaven. Draw an imaginary horizontal line through the base of the neck. Everything above this line corresponds to Heaven. Included in this correspondence is the head itself, the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, upper arms, lower forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers. Out of all of these, the most "heavenly" are the fingertips and fingers. The palms are more earthly and correspond to the Heart Constrictor or Heart Minister. Although the Heart Minister is Fire Element/Transformation, the energy belongs to Earth. We use what belongs to Earth to make the connection between Heaven and Man. In a previous article (see Acupuncture Today, September 2008), I discussed how this connection between Heaven and Man within Oriental Medicine can be translated into Jewish mysticism.
Asian medicine uses cultural images to structure its medicine. The Fire Prince corresponds to the heart organ and meridian, relating to the Emperor and the head of the Kingdom. Its element/transformation is Fire and its direction is south. The Emperor was considered eternal and could not become ill. This was extrapolated to the heart. The heart could not become ill. In Asian culture, the emperor relies heavily on his minister and does not move anywhere without him. There is an equivalent importance in the heart/Heart Governor relationship. Any illness or disease accosting the heart would be passed on to the Heart Minister. In turn, the Heart Minister would pass it on to another organ, sometimes the spleen or another compromised or unhealthy organ that was the body's weakest link. The Heart Minister is the chief adviser to the Fire Prince/Heart. Other names for the Heart Minister include: Fire Minister, Pericardium, Heart Governor, Heart Constrictor and Circulation/Sex. Each of these names reminds us of the functions of the Heart Minister.
This treatment comes alive within my clinical setting. A new patient fills out a health history questionnaire. While this is being done, I ask for the birth date and determine the constitutional energies and which energies will make the patient feel better. It is always a good idea to make the patient feel better during the first treatment. It is the best assurance that there will be a return visit.
Without knowing the symptoms or diseases, I can ascertain the strengths and weaknesses, probable illnesses that will present, and what energies will make the patient feel better. A tentative treatment plan is created. As I review the health history with the patient, the treatment plan may be modified. Next, I pay attention to the pulses, and do the usual Asian medicine observation/listen/smell/palpate. As I walk from one side to the other to feel each set of pulses in turn, I leave my hand at about waist height, six inches or so from the patient's body. As I walk, I can determine with my hand whether there is any extreme in temperature emanating from the patients's body. If there is, I use my palm to either warm it up or cool it down.
Afterwards, the pulses are re-evaluated to assess any changes. Additional Heart Minister treatment may be done by palpation of the Shokanten areas. The pulses are assessed once again. This can be a very powerful treatment and is often the only treatment for the first visit. If not, I continue with the rest of the treatment, using moxa, needles or finger pressure. After each treatment, I either do a physical or mental cold-water wash of my hands, releasing all of the unhealthy energy into the water and allowing it to wash away back to the Earth.
For additional information on this treatment or on Shokanten, please e-mail me at
Wendy A. Williams graduated from the International College of Oriental Medicine (U.K.) in 1982 and practices in Florida. While in England, she studied tai chi, ba gua and Chinese calligraphy. Contact her with questions or comments at www.shokanten.com.