Shen

The ‘Spirit’ or ‘Mind
Shen embodies consciousness, emotions, and thought. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Shen is said to preside over activities that take place in the mental, spiritual, and creative planes.

Chinese Medicine considers Shen to be one of the three treasures that constitute life: Jing, the essence; Qi, the life force; and Shen, the spirit. TCM views the spirit as an integral part of our health and our well being and cultivation of the spirit is considered essential for health maintenance.

Heaven abides so that we have virtue. Earth abides so that we have Qi. When virtue flows and Qi is blended there is life. ” Huangdi Neijing Lingshu

Shen is usually translated as spirit and refers to that aspect of our being that is spiritual. It embodies consciousness, emotions, and thought. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Shen is said to preside over activities that take place in the mental, spiritual, and creative planes.
 
Chinese Medicine considers Shen to be one of the three treasures that constitute life: Jing, the essence; Qi, the life force; and Shen, the spirit. TCM views the spirit as an integral part of our health and our well being and cultivation of the spirit is considered essential for health maintenance.

Chinese masters say it is through Shen that we radiate ourselves into the world. This spiritual radiance manifests as our wisdom, emotional well being, and ability to see all sides of an issue. Shen refers to that aspect of our being that looks to the universe around us, and is not focused on emotions. Shen draws our attention to the divine. It contributes to wisdom, virtue, and calmness, and maintains our whole being in order.

The spirit can be harmed by external factors if we fail to maintain vitality through good habits, physical strength, and adequate nourishment. The spirit can also be harmed by internal factors, especially excessive emotions.

Disharmony of Shen often manifests itself as anxiety, insomnia, lackluster eyes, muddled thinking, forgetfulness, chronic restlessness and, in severe cases, mental illness, including depression and mania.  It is said that Shen can be strengthened through meditation, physical exercises such as Tai Qi and Qi Gong, and by acupuncture and herbal remedies.

To summarise, Shen can be translated as “Spirit” or “Mind”, and implies our consciousness, mental functions, mental health, vitality, and our “presence”.

Shen lives in the Heart, where it retires to sleep during the night. If the Shen is disturbed, there may be insomnia. Shen is specifically said to live in the Blood Vessels (part of the system of the Heart) and to be nourished by the Blood. In TCM pathology, therefore, deficient Blood may fail to nourish the Shen. Alternatively, Heat (of various Organs) may disturb the Shen.

State of the Shen is said to be visible in the eyes. Healthy Shen produces bright, shining eyes, with vitality. Disturbed Shen produces dull eyes, which seem to have a curtain in front of them – as if no one were behind them. Often seen in those with long-term emotional problems or after serious shock (even a shock that occurred a long time ago.)

Healthy Shen depends on the strength of the Essence (stored in Kidneys) and Qi (produced by Spleen and Stomach). Thus, Shen is dependent on the Prenatal Jing and the Postnatal Jing. If Essence and Qi are healthy, the Shen will be nourished. As mentioned above, the Shen lives in the Blood Vessels, part of the Heart system in TCM. Blood is closely related to Qi in TCM, and is formed from the Postnatal Jing derived from food and fluids, hence Blood formation is simultaneous with that of the formation of Qi.

Jing, Qi and Shen are the “three treasures” in TCM. They represent three different states of condensation of Qi, ranging from Jing (more fluid, more material) to Qi, more rarefied, and Shen, more rarefied and immaterial.

 

To find out more about the key concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, click on the links below…

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About Kimberley

Kimberley, Acupuncturist and Clinic Director at Life + Lemons, is a registered TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) Acupuncturist, passionate about helping women reclaim their feminine edge. After graduating with a First Class Honors in York, she has undertaken specialist training in the area of pain management, natural conception, IVF support, menopause + pelvic pain (endometriosis/dysmenorrhea).

 

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