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Shen Root of the Spirit

Learning & Resource Center Articles

The Definition of Shen: Root of the Spirit
By: Acufinder Magazine

Shen (shen), n.

Root of the Spirit -

“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.

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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.

Shen One of the Three Treasures

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.

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