In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there is no division between the health of the physical body, the clarity of the mind and the vitality of the spirit. In order to achieve optimum health and spiritual integration, these three facets of the human experience need nurturing and appropriate treatment when imbalance arises. The word for spirit in TCM is Shen, and it is the Shen which initiates change. It awakens and transforms human potential in order to chart one’s path in life. It is the active, self-creating principle, connecting the sacred and spiritual realm of non-being in the universe with the mundane and material realm of form on Earth. The Shen is the unique expression, individualized nature and foundation of one’s character.
Shen resides in the heart where it balances our inner world with the outer world. It is said to govern the activities of the body/mind from its place of abode in the heart. The Shen is in direct contact one’s true feelings normally hidden behind the protective mask of the ego. It is pure, unobstructed intelligence and gives one the capacity for intuition and insight. It is Shen which gives rise to mental vitality, concentration, attention, focus, intelligence, and clarity of perception.
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How does one find a state of stillness and equanimity when the mind is preoccupied trying to make sense of the conflicts and injustices of life?
The health of Shen may be reflected in the brightness of the eyes, the luster of the skin, the strength of the voice and the vitality of the pulse. The Shen loves stillness and equanimity, which enable objectivity. Yet we live in a time with many emotional stressors that create a lot of mental chatter. Our core perceptions, values and beliefs are challenged as we face the reality of environmental, political, economic and health crises that exist today.
Disturbances of the spirit or Shen manifest as imbalances of the emotions, dysfunction of the heart, and mental illness. Insomnia, anxiety, difficulty with verbal communication, confusion, apprehension, apathy, mistrust, mental dullness and forgetfulness are all signs of Shen disturbance.
There are many ways to integrate and heal the spirit self with the physical self. The origins of acupuncture and spiritual integration are rooted in the wisdom that healing the body will help to heal the spirit and vice versa. There are many points on the body whose primary function is to restore imbalances of the Shen and Heart. By regulating the movement of Qi or energy, the mind, heart and Shen can be calmed and still. Through intentional practices, mindfulness based exercises, breath manipulation and reconnecting in nature, we calm the disturbances of the Heart and Shen and reestablish a state of equanimity. The disciplines of Tai chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga are all healing methods designed to regenerate an inner state of peace, nourish the spirit and harmonize the body-mind-spirit connection.
If you have been feeling connected to life, have difficulty experiencing joy, or feel overwhelm and anxiety, then spiritual integration is an important area of focus on your healing journey.