Kinesiology and the Five Shen
For many Kinesiologists first encountering Chinese medicine, one of the greatest attractions is that it addresses the whole person, seamlessly integrating body, mind and spirit within its understanding of human health and disease.
Life is the organisation of the vital life force Qi, manifesting in body, mind and spirit through the Laws of Five Elements. The idea that all of nature is governed by yin/yang and the Five Elements lies at the heart of Chinese medicine.
Five Elements is a translation of the Chinese phrase Wu Xing (五行), meaning five (wu) fundamental processes, agents, interactive phases, movements, transformations, or powers (xing).
The Five Elements, which are Fire (火), Earth (土), Metal (金), Water (水) and Wood (木), represent the fundamental matter in the universe.
Like the seasons of a year are separate but still comprise the whole, the Five Elements are part of a ring of energy that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. The concept of blocks in the movement and balance of energy is the cornerstone of many traditional healing systems.
The goal of Five Element treatment is to enhance personal alignment with what the ancient Taoists called the Laws of Nature. When living in accordance with these Laws, the health of the body, mind and spirit is supported.
These Elements act as maps that reflect all levels of human function.
In the context of Kinesiology, the Elements correspond to a matrix of specific muscles, organs, glands, meridians as well as emotions, attitudes, virtues and behaviours.
Each element corresponds to both a Zang (yin) and Fu (yang) organ.
- Wood – Liver and Gall Bladder
- Fire – Heart and Small Intestine and Pericardium and Triple Heater
- Earth – Spleen and Stomach
- Metal – Lung and Large Intestine
- Water – Kidney and Bladder
The Qi of each Element is unique in its nature.
Yin corresponds to the organs that store Qi.
The yin organs are more stable and constant, representing more of the homeostatic mechanisms of the body. As they work with maintaining the body’s foundation, they’re both more consequential and more vulnerable.
Diseases of these organs is considered deeper and more critical.
- The Liver stores the Blood and regulates the even movement of Qi.
- The Heart propels the Blood and is the seat of consciousness.
- The Spleen generates and distributes nourishment.
- The Lung receives and disperses Qi.
- The Kidney stores the Vital Essence.
The function of the yin organs is to produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances such as qi, blood, and body fluids.
Clinically the Pericardium is the sixth yin organ, complete with its own respective meridian, but in general it is not distinguished from the heart. It governs the blood and protects the Heart from invasion by external pathogens.
Each Yin organ also ‘houses’ a particular spiritual aspect of a human being.
- Mind (Shen) – Heart
- Ethereal Soul (Hun) – Liver
- Corporeal Soul (Po) – Lungs
- Intellect (Yi) – Spleen
- Will-Power (Zhi) – Kidneys
Collectively these are referred to as the ‘Five Shen’, a complex of all five mental-spiritual aspects of a human being, i.e. the Shen itself, the Hun, the Po, the Yi and the Zhi. This is also often translated as the ‘Five Spirits’ or vital organ intelligences embodied in our heart, liver, lungs, spleen and kidneys.
Five Shen theory is the Taoist understanding of the working of ego, or personal self, called ‘heart-mind’ (xin) in Chinese.
The Shen represents the forces that shape our personality including mental and spiritual aspects.
Shen belongs mainly to the Fire Element but Shen itself is divided in Five Elements.
It is the most subtle and non-material type of Qi.
The connection between the Five Shen and the vital organs is a staple of Chinese medicine, and dates to the earliest medical texts of the Yellow Emperor Internal Classic in 215 BCE.
An important characteristic of Chinese medicine is integration of body, mind and spirit which is highlighted by the integration of the three vital substances (jing, qi, and shen) called the ‘Three Treasures’.
Jing is the essence, inherent drive, the DNA.
Qi is energy that animates all life.
Shen is the spirit that guides and inspires the flow of qi.
The jing, qi, and shen represent a type of ‘information’ vibrating at different frequencies.
The Nature of the Mind (Shen 神)
The Shen of the Heart is translated as ‘Mind’ rather than Spirit. The Mind is responsible for thinking, memory, consciousness, insight, emotional life, cognition, sleep, intelligence, wisdom and ideation.
The Mind is responsible for self-consciousness and the integration of various parts of our psyche. It is the Mind (and Heart) that can ‘feel’ the emotions. Each emotion affects one or more organs but it is only the Mind that actually recognises, feels and assesses them.
Methods that connect a person to their Heart Shen can provide the opportunity to realise
knowledge, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance regarding the unity of life.
Thinking (or cognition) depends on the Shen. If the Shen is strong, thinking will be clear. If the Shen is weak or disturbed, thinking will be slow and dull.
A flourishing Shen is reflected as a settled mind and clear thinking.
The Ethereal Soul (Hun 魂)
The Ethereal Soul is another level of consciousness, different from the Mind but closely related to it. The Ethereal Soul contributes to the mental activities of the Mind (Shen) by providing it with ideas, intuition, images and creativity.
The Ethereal Soul enters the body 3 days after birth; at death, it survives the body and returns to ‘Heaven’. It influences our capacity for planning our life and giving it a sense of direction.
This activity of the Ethereal Soul depends on its ‘coming and going’. If the Liver is flourishing the Ethereal Soul is firmly rooted and can help us to plan our life with vision, wisdom and creativity.
On a psychic level, the Ethereal Soul gives us ‘vision’ and insight.
The Corporeal Soul (Po 魄)
The Corporeal Soul (Po) resides in the Lungs and is the physical counterpart of the Ethereal Soul. It is formed 3 days after conception and is closely related to the Essence (Jing).
The Corporeal Soul is related to our life as individuals.
It is responsible for all physiological processes; it is the ‘soul’ that animates all physiological activities. It is responsible for breathing and acuity of the sense organs. It gives us the capacity of sensation, feeling, hearing and sight.
It also plays a role in our emotional life and is affected by all emotions, especially pensiveness, worry, grief and sadness. These emotions ‘constrict’ the Po, creating a Lung-Qi stagnation in the chest.
When the Po is imbalanced, focus is directed on the desire for physical and self-pleasure. A balanced Po seeks a healthy expression of enjoying the physical body.
The Intellect (Yi 意)
The Intellect (Yi) resides in the Spleen and is responsible for applied thinking, studying, memorising, focusing, concentrating and generating ideas. The Spleen is involved in issues of nourishment, on both a physical and psychic level.
The relationship between the Intellect (Yi) of the Spleen and the Mind (Shen) of the Heart is very close. Yi governs personal opinions, thoughts, obsession, and knowledge translating into words.
A strong Yi can take over a weak Shen.
The Yi processes our life experiences; it organises, categorises, filters, and makes sense of our experiences.
If the Spleen is affected by pensiveness and worry it may generate obsessive thinking. For example, a very intelligent person may be able to verbalize knowledge, but may find it difficult to translate that knowledge into practical action.
Yi can be thought of as the Qi aspect of the Spirit. The condition of our Yi, which includes the way we perceive, experience, and process life, influences the Hun, Po, Zhi, and Shen.
The Willpower and Memory (Zhi 志)
The spirit of the Kidneys is called the Zhi, and it rules the will, drive, ambition, and the survival instinct. This includes the will and power to follow one’s destiny.
The Kidneys, water, and Zhi contain a blueprint of life, or a destiny code. Allowing the Zhi to unfold is fulfilling one’s destiny.
The Willpower (Zhi) must be coordinated with the Mind (Shen). The Willpower is the basis for the Mind and the Mind directs the Willpower.
If the Mind is clear in its aims and plans, and the Willpower is strong, then the person
will have the drive to pursue goals.
Supporting the Five Shen with Kinesiology
The five shen are an example of the ancient Chinese awareness of the unity of the body, mind, and spirit. It is important to view the Five Shen as five aspects of one Shen (a person).
One of the underlying principles of acupoint selection in applying Five Element acupressure is that each point on a channel has a unique effect on the Organ, much like each hole on a flute produces a different note.
It is easy to suggest that it is important to treat the client at the ‘spirit level’, but reaching the level of spirit is not always possible. This information is essential in developing an appropriate treatment plan.
Often the emotional, psychological, and spiritual condition reveals areas of life that a person needs to understand in order to grow. It is common for a person to act in a way that causes the imbalances to be expressed in their life; this expression may be necessary to bring awareness of the condition.
The awareness provides an opportunity to bring consciousness of the situation and begin a path of change and transformation.
The application of specific acupressure treatment within the Law of Five Elements can assist in this path of change, transformation, and self-realisation.
Ready to learn more?
Five Element BioEergetics brings a vision and understanding of how to assess and treat the roots of illness, whether on a body, mind or spirit level.
In the healing model of Kinesiology we are looking to restore balance – although one condition may have multiple causes (imbalances), there may be one fundamental imbalance at the root of a seemingly complicated condition.
A key feature of this course is harmonising the Five Shen (Spiritual Qi) and in turn creating a new and deeper level of integration between the client’s biology, psychology, and spirituality.