In Chinese medicine the spirit, consciousness or soul is just as important as any other organ system. We refer to this as the “Shen”. The Shen is considered to reside in the heart organ itself and thought of as a vital substance of the body. Shen also has to do with mental faculties so for many of us practitioners we consider the Shen to embody thought and mind. When you consider this through a Western medical paradigm looking at things like schizophrenia or bipolar we know that these do indeed exist in the brain. Equally, TCM looks at this as a disturbance of the Shen or a clouding/misting of the Shen.
Again, the theory is that the Shen resides within the heart. If a patient has disturbed Shen anxiety, shortness of breath, stress, heart palpitations and other symptoms may present themselves. Insomnia is even considered a Shen disturbance and chronic insomnia can actually lead to mental illness. Following this logic its easy to see how the Shen and mind are interchangeable from an Eastern and Western perspective.
Its no surprise that there is a lot of Shen disturbance in the world today. From general stress and anxiety to a healthcare system ill equipped to deal with mental illness Shen disturbance is something that I commonly treat in my San Diego acupuncture practice.
The goal is to have a harmonious Shen that is balanced and level. In practice this looks like realistic and and appropriate response to external stimuli and the feeling that we are able to self-regulate our emotions. Crucial to maintaining a healthy Shen is to maintain a healthy body. A strong Shen like a strong body is fundamental to good health. When the Shen and the body are weak both will eventually fail. This is nurtured through exercise, self care like acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, massage, nutrition, time in nature and spending time with people we love and enjoy being with.
For more ways you can nurture your own Shen or if you feel like your Shen needs a little detox and boost come see my in my North Park, Mission Hills and Bankers Hill acupuncture offices in San Diego.