Shen: The Inner Light

What is Shen?

Shen is one of the “three treasures” in Traditional Chinese Medicine. These three forms of Qi are regulated initially by the Triple Warmer, which has no direct correlation in Western medicine. The energies represent three different forms of condensation, or moisture regulation, which is performed in the Triple Heater. Jing is more fluid, more material, in nature; Qi is more rarefied, less physical or material, and Shen is the most rarefied, least substantial form of Life Force energy. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Shen energy is the spiritual or heavenly aspect of chi. Chi is the Life Force Energy that we are born with, and which we can continue to foster and nourish throughout our lives in order to maintain the reservoir of healing energy we need to live long, healthy and robust lives. 

Shen resides in the cosmos, the heavens, the air around us and the natural environment. It can be felt most strongly when we spend time outdoors, especially in areas of natural woodland or landscapes that are not industrialised or too crowded. In any form of Qigong practice you will find that the movements often involve three stages. This can be as simple as bending low to gather up Jing energy, raising the hands to the area of the torso to replenish Human Chi, then continuing the movement of the hands and arms above the head to gather in Shen. 

Our spiritual reserves of energy, or Shen, do not reside in the brain. According to TCM, Shen resides in the heart and this energy has a lighter vibration than either Jing or Human Chi. We strive to keep all forms of chi in balance in order to achieve well-being, and when any of these forms is depleted you may experience different effects or symptoms. Weak or depleted Jing may well lead to feelings of lethargy, weakness of the limbs and lower back issues. Disturbances or lack in Shen energy can often result in emotional upset, feelings of depression, anxiety or fear, sadness or grief. The most common cause of Shen depletion is shock. The shock may have happened recently or it may stretch way back in a person’s experience. 

Disturbances or lack in Shen energy can often result in emotional upset, feelings of depression, anxiety or fear, sadness or grief.

What Happens When Shen is Disturbed? 

Insomnia is a very common occurrence when Shen is depleted or disturbed. In cases of chronic insomnia this can very quickly lead to other problems. Mental and emotional traumas are often found to be the culprit when Shen is out of balance as this energy is responsible for thinking, consciousness, memory, emotions, intuition and insights. Residing in the heart, and the vessels which nourish the heart, Shen is necessary for our creative and spiritual activities, and thus plays a big part in maintaining good mental health. 

Shen disorders reflect a wide range of conditions that can become detrimental to overall health from mild depression to psycho-emotional and psychological conditions. Emotions, as causes of disease, should not be repressed or ignored. The mental-emotional body is sensitive to energy imbalances, and the energy expended in keeping old wounds out of mind can lead to physical and emotional problems in the present. When emotions become overwhelming, excessive, or prolonged, they can impair the internal organs in the body. For example, grief and sadness injure the lungs, anger injures the liver, fear affects the kidneys, rumination and pensiveness harm the spleen, and shock and excessive joy affect the heart.

What Can it Look and Feel Like when Shen is Strong?

The eye are the sense organ associated with the liver, and they also provide a good indicator of healthy Shen. Bright, shining eyes, an overall feeling of vitality and energy, restful sleep patterns and regularity in all of the elimination systems of the body all show a strong and healthy level of Shen.

TCM recognises something called Essence, which is stored in the kidneys, along with Qi, which is produced by the spleen and stomach. If both Essence and Qi are nourished then Shen energy will be at an optimal level.

Strong Shen produces an individual who is calm, peaceful and wise, at ease with their mind and their body. Free flowing Chi is the goal of all TCM interventions, and this can be achieved in a number of ways.

Sound and Acupressure

In a previous article we looked at the role played by nitric oxide in boosting the immune system and keeping us clear of infection. Humming has been shown to increase nitric oxide levels by up to twenty times, and other forms of sound therapy can achieve similar results.

Heart 8 is a command point used to relieve excessive Heart Fire, which may manifest as extreme insomnia, psychological disturbances of heart disease. The Qigong movement known as “bending forward wagging the tail” addresses imbalances in heart fire and can be usefully combined with humming as you swing from side to side. Heart 7 supports the Heart and tonifies the Heart Blood and Heart Qi.

Strong Shen produces an individual who is calm, peaceful and wise, at ease with their mind and their body.

Tuning forks may be placed on the body with corresponding tones to these command points to help to balance the flow of Shen. Additionally meditations involving chanting or vocal toning will help to disperse any blockages of the meridians, thus allowing Qi to flow freely.

Using sound to stimulate the meridians of the body is an excellent, non-invasive way to support your autonomic nervous system. Within this system we have the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems, both playing a role in the body’s reaction to stress. The Sympathetic, is responsible for mobilisation and fight or flight reaction, and the older, Parasympathetic, which causes an organism to freeze in immobility, or to rest and digest.

Sometimes, people who are healing from adrenal fatigue will slow down for a time, take some interventions, follow a short program of self-care and then launch themselves back into their stressful lifestyle without having healed fully. The beauty of using sound to support the treatment of this kind of condition is that it can be incorporated very easily into any lifestyle, giving people the power and control they need to effect changes in their approach to their own health. Sound therapy gives you some of the tools you need to balance and replenish your Qi and to ensure that Jing, Shen and Human Qi are all in harmony within your body.