Unlike western medicine where one’s health is determined by the body’s overall wellness – how it feels, how it moves, its agility, stamina, and overall health – Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sees the body as one part of a greater whole. According to TCM, health is a combination of the mind, body, spirit and our environment .
In our practice at Acutoronto, we often hear patients describe their physical pain or discomfort, or when it’s specific to fertility challenges, the body’s inability to conceive. What is often overlooked as a component to the existing concern is the mind, the spirit, and the emotions carried as part of the overall picture of health.
What we have been conditioned to do is look at the outward expression of our health and disregard the internal mechanisms that are causing it. We want to see x-rays, ultrasounds, or blood work to tell us what is wrong instead of listening to our body. While these are all valuable and much needed tests, it’s equally important to stop and listen to what our body is communicating to us on a more holistic level.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, our bodies are made up of 5 internal organ systems (LV, HT, SP, LU, KD) and 6 external organ systems (LI, GB, PC, SJ, BL, ST). Each of these systems have their vital substances called Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang and fluids.
In addition to these organ systems, we have 5 Spirits that make us who we are, enabling us to perceive and react to the world in our unique way and are responsible for our expression and how we connect with each other in the world.
The 5 Spirits of TCM are:
- Shen (Mind)
- Po (Corporeal Soul)
- Hun (Ethereal Soul)
- Yi (Thought and Intellect)
- Zhi (Will Power and Wisdom)
Each of these spirits are embodied within each of the 5 internal organs.
Shen resides within the Heart system, Po within the Lung system, Hun within the Liver system, Yi within the spleen system, and Zhi within the Kidney system. The health of each of these organs will determine the health of each of the spirits.
So, what does this all mean and how do we know what part of our spirit needs help? Here are some signs and symptoms that show an imbalance.
Shen is responsible for consciousness, memory, thinking, and sleep. Disruptions in memory, sleep quality concerns, and cloudy thoughts are showing a disharmony with the Shen.
Po (Corporeal Soul)
Po is related to breathing and feelings of grief and sadness.
Hun (Ethereal Soul)
Hun is responsible for one’s ability to plan and find a sense of direction in life. If the Hun is weak there may be a feeling of loss of direction in life.
Yi guides our thinking, concentration, and focus.
Zhi (Will power)
Zhi is responsible for perseverance and remaining focused – allowing one to follow through on their goals set out by the Yi.
The 5 Spirits in TCM are the foundation of who we are. When the spirits are imbalanced over a long period of time, it can cause physical conditions to appear. This is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
Ever have the feeling of being stuck in a job or relationship that you know is not right for you but you just can’t seem to make a change? How many times have these types of situations resulted in undue stress causing insomnia, digestive concerns, headaches, and pain?
This is the spirit in a weakened state and the body communicating that you are in a situation that is not good for you and you need to make a change!
TCM helps to restore the vital substances that have declined over time, strengthening the body, mind, and spirit so that you can find the strength, mindset, will power and ability to make the changes that are needed.
The 5 Spirits are a critical part of our health and well-being, and in my opinion, are often the root cause of disease.