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Your Shen Mind is what the Chinese called your personality. The Chinese word is Shen.
I've just put Shen and Mind together because you may hear your acupuncturist talking about your Shen and wonder what is meant.
However, describing it as your personality really does no justice to the huge amount written about it over the centuries.
Today there are excellent text-books such as by Giovanni Maciocia on the Psyche in Chinese Medicine.
Make no mistake, just as mental health in Western medicine is a big subject, so is the Chinese approach to it.
This page is a huge simplification of a deep subject and may leave you with more questions than answers.
The Western concept of a Soul does not arise in Chinese medicine or, if it does, it is a later addition. The basic idea in Chinese medicine is that everything is a form of energy. There are condensed forms of energy, and more refined, less material forms of energy.
When you light a fire, one way is to start with kindling, paper, small bits of wood or bush. When these are lit, you gradually add heavier, larger pieces of wood.
So, the more Yin (heavy, slow) the substance, the more Yang (fire, heat) it can produce.
If you could put the materials for a fire in a huge room, the weight of the room would not alter, whether the fire was still unlit, whether it was alight, or whether - after a time - it had burned out.
As long as you didn't let any smoke out, the weight would stay the same. (Actually, that's not quite correct, because you'd have to keep all the heat inside the room, too.)
What I mean is that, whatever form the Qi took, it was all actually still Qi, and was all contained in the room.
The total amount of energy would have remained the same, just in different forms.
When your body is made, a tremendous amount of energy goes into it, and part of that also produces what the Chinese called the Mind.
The Mind is intrinsic: if the baby is born dead, that part of it called the Shen Mind failed to develop and the baby's body will begin to decompose.To be the human being, both the body and the Mind are necessary and they are both forms of energy.
With the Shen Mind present in the body, life proceeds. Like during a dance with five dancers, the dancers come together and, while they dance, the dance exists.
At the end of it, when they stop dancing, the dance ends. At the same time, the participants cease to be dancers, until the next dance.
The dance is the collection of all the parts that go together to appear as a living human being. One part of that is the Mind.
But, taking the concept even further from that of the Christian 'Soul', the Chinese thought - and think - that the Mind is actually made up of 5 (five) constituents.
Each of the five Yin organs, like each of the five dancers, contributes one of the five constituents, being
[I've used the word 'soul' several time in the above, because English lacks a suitable equivalent to the Chinese word. Don't confuse it with the Christian concept of the Soul.]
Why is this important?
Because if a practitioner of Chinese medicine, eg an acupuncturist, can work out which of the Yin organs is affected, he can deduce how the patient's mind is affected.
Conversely, if he sees how the patient's mind is affected, he knows which of the Yin organs is probably most affected. That information helps him to plan the correct treatment.
For example, if the patient worries obsessively about things, probably the intellect - from the Spleen - is affected. That means the acupuncturist knows that somewhere in his treatment he needs to pay attention to the Spleen energy organ. Doing so will help the patient worry less, bringing more balance to the overall Shen Mind.
Each of the constituent Yin energy organs need to be functioning properly for the Shen Mind to function correctly.
The syndromes used in Chinese medicine as building blocks to explain health problems apply just as much to the Mind. For example
If a syndrome affecting the Mind is diagnosed, correlating evidence might be sought in the physical symptoms. Then a diagnosis can be made in terms of Chinese medicine.
When you have a diagnosis, you have the solution, because over the thousands of years, treatment strategies have been developed.
For example, someone diagnosed with Liver Yang excess would probably tend to be angry and to suffer from tension in his shoulders and jaw, and to get headaches, sometimes even migraines.
By treating the Liver Yang excess, both the mental and physical symptoms would be expected to improve.
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
Please note! The Kindle editions are less easy to read! Although the paper editions cost more, they are much easier to read and to refer back and forth to the contents and index.
Here are some of the books Jonathan has written:
Still only one comment, though personally I think this is my best book so far.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
No comments yet: just published. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!
By the author of this website, it explains in simple English how to use stress to improve and enhance your life.
NB You can also order 'Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress' from your bookseller.
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