Harmony of Body and Spirit

Article published in « Mot à mot » in laboratoires Motima in september 2011 et introduced in the conference of MEDNAT (natural medecine) in Lausanne on the 2nd April 2011

Reins grossesseChinese energetic medicine focuses on maintaining good health through "the art of nourishing life" rather than on the science of illness. With an emphasis on prediction and prevention, it is more concerned with the patient than the illness. The patient is the energy field in which certain kinds of illness flourish: this is the concept of the seed (illness) and the ground (patient). The symptoms of the illness are the "branches," and the patient's energy field is the "root," acting as an ecosystem that encourages an illness to take hold. Chinese medicine is interested not only in the physiology of the internal Organs, but also in the emotions, psyche, personality, nutrition, hygiene, and lifestyle that make up the patient's cultural and social environment. A balance between the internal Organs Energy and the functional nutrition of our cells is necessary for maintaining harmony between Body and Spirit, which is the secret to sustainable health. A diet based on food energies is essential for "nurturing the Life in the immense secret garden that is the Body."

The Three Treasures: the foundation of good health and the Body-Spirit connection

1. Jing (Essence) is the reservoir of the life force and the roadmap of life.

Jing, the quintessence, is the latent potential of energies, and the foundation of the physical form. Jing is the seed from which life, in its many manifestations, will blossom. Jing is stored in two forms. Prenatal Jing, the innate, ancestral quintessence, is inherited from the parents at conception. The quantity and quality of this Jing are established at birth. It could be compared to DNA, the hidden guidebook of life whose genome contains the latent potential of producing the molecules of life an organism's molecules (transcription of DNA to RNA, followed by translation of RNA into proteins and enzymes).

Postnatal Jing is the quintessence acquired from food, air, blood and bodily fluids through activity of the internal Organs energy. Acquired Jing continuously replenishes the reserve of innate Jing in order to slow its natural depletion over time and with age. Thus, in order to maintain your health as you age, it is critical to nourish your acquired Jing through your diet, breathing exercises, and physical exercises that increase blood flow. These two vital Essences are stored in Kidneys, which are considered the candle of life: the wax and the wick are the innate essence; the oil we add to slow the consumption of the wax is the acquired essence; the flame that burns the wax is Kidney yang; the light is Kidney Qi; the wax is Kidney yin.

2. Qi, the Energy of the Organs, is the hub of all transformations

Qi, the energy called the Breath of Life, is neither matter nor spirit. Qi is perceived through its manifestations and transformations that which it influences and that which it transforms. It manifests itself through Spirit and physical forms. On a physiological level, Qi is the force that sets life in motion. It is the hub for all energetic transformations that occur as a result of the activity of the internal Organs. Qi itself can transform energy, the Vital Essence-Jing, blood, and bodily fluids. The combined activity of each Organ and its Hollow organ pair is related to a natural element. These are known as the Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water).

The Liver and Gall Bladder pair corresponds to Wood. The drainage Shu Xie function of Liver is essential. It represents relaxation, release, and unhindered circulation. Thus Liver controls the four basic directions of energy movements: upward, downward, inward, and outward. Without these Qi movements, there would be no birth, no growth, no transformation, no maturation, no harvest, nor storage. Life is movement. And movement creates Life. These 4 Energy movements ensure the harmonious functioning of the 5 Organs, the 6 Hollow Organs, the 12 Meridians, blood, bodily fluids, nutritive energy (Ying Qi), protective energy (Wei Qi), yin and yang. And it is Liver Qi that ensures the unhindered circulation of the Vital Energy through of these different bodily structures.

Unhindered expression of emotions depends on Liver's draining function. Liver controls critical thinking. When Liver Qi is well drained, you are emotionally stable, your spirit is peaceful, your reasoning is clear, your perception is acute, Qi and Blood are in harmony. In addition to draining emotions, as well as the energy of the 5 Organs, blood and bodily fluids, Liver also ensures food digestion and nutrients absorption. Stomach ingests and breaks down food. Spleen transforms food into nutritive essences, which will be distributed in the whole body. Liver Qi uplifts Spleen Qi, while Gall Bladder draws Stomach Qi downward. These two opposite thus interdependent movements influence each other, ensuring the separation between cloudy and clear fluids.

In Western medicine, this mechanism corresponds to the process of digestion and intestinal absorption. The nutritive clear fluids are transformed into blood, while the cloudy fluids are eliminated by Large Intestine through stools, and by Bladder through urination. It is easy to see why emotional imbalance can affect digestion and bile secretion. Gall Bladder is paired with Liver. It stores bile, which is considered to be the quintessence of Liver Energy. Gall Bladder's ability to secrete and eliminate bile depends heavily on the draining and circulating function of Liver. When Liver Qi stagnates, bile secretion slows down and digestion becomes sluggish and difficult. The resulting symptoms are hypochondriac pain and a bitter taste in the mouth. Haven't we all heard nervous or ill-tempered people referred to as "bilious" or "full of bile"?

Heart and Small Intestine are paired Organs. They are both related to Fire element. Heart regulates blood and blood vessels. Heart Qi ensures Blood circulation. Small Intestine receives food from Stomach. It continues the process of separating cloudy fluids from clear fluids under the influence of Heart Fire. Pure and clear fluids move up into Heart and Lung thanks to Spleen ascending Qi, then Heart Fire transforms these pure fluids into blood, while the cloudy fluids move down toward Bladder to be eliminated in the urine.

The Spleen and Stomach pair is related to Earth element: Spleen governs transformation of food into nutritive essences, which then produce acquired Energy, blood, and bodily fluids. Spleen and Stomach are responsible for postnatal acquired Qi through food and breathing. This energy then contributes to the stores of prenatal energy inherited from the parents. The function of Spleen corresponds to enzymatic digestion and intestinal absorption of nutrients.

The Lung and Large Intestine pair is related to Metal element: Lung governs breathing and the unhindered circulation of fluids in the Water Path called Triple Heater. Large Intestine eliminates cloudy fluids in the stool.

The Kidney and Bladder pair is related to Water element: Kidney governs the opening and closing of the urethral and anal sphincters. Excretion of cloudy fluids by Bladder depends on Kidney yang (the Qi Hua function of Bladder).

3. Shen or Spirit, the guiding Consciousness that orders Life

An individual's overall vitality is expressed by the Shen-Spirit as a healthy complexion, clarity of thought and perception, a sure gait, and harmonious behavior. The physical form is the spirit incarnate. And, in turn, the spirit animates the physical form. The physical form must exist for the spirit to exist: when the physical form withers, the spirit fades. In Chinese medicine, life is thought of as the accumulation of Qi, and death as the dispersion of Qi. Qi condenses to become the physical form of the body, just as water becomes ice. This is when life begins. When people die, they become spirit once again, in the same way that ice melts into water.

  • In Chinese medicine, no distinction is made between the physical body and the immaterial spirit due to the interactions between the Three Treasures: Jing, Qi, and Shen. Jing is the roadmap of life programmed into the genes at conception. Qi is the energy produced by the activity of the internal Organs. Shen, the individual spirit, is a highly refined form of Qi-Energy. Each of the 5 internal Organs is managed by its own spirit.
    • Shen, the spirit of Heart, governs conscience, thought and cognitive functions.
    • Po, the spirit of Lung, is necessary for the taking of physical form. It gives the body the ability to smell, feel, hear, and see the outside world.
    • Hun, the spirit of Liver, is the soul that leaves the physical body and continues to exist after the physical body dies.
    • Yi, the spirit of Spleen, governs creative thinking, logic and reasoning, the ability to comprehend, to study, to learn, to concentrate and to memorize.
    • Zhi, the spirit of Kidneys, governs will power, the endurance that leads to mental fortitude, determination to reach a goal, the will to live, the capacity for self-realization.
    • The spirit of each Organ is the expression of its energy. The energetic functions of the internal Organs must be optimal in order for the Spirit to be stable and to ensure harmony between Mind and Body. Vital Essence-Jing is a form in which Energy and Spirit are stored.
    • Everyone's vital Essence is inherited from his or her ancestors (innate, genetic). Innate essence is nourished by the acquired Essence specific to each of the internal Organs, which is produced by the transformation of energy, blood and bodily fluids.

The Three Treasures: a fundamental concept of Chinese medicine

Energy and Spirit are the manifestations of Vital Essence-Jing, while the Vital Essence is a form in which Energy and Spirit are stored. This is how Chinese medicine sees the intimate relationship between Mind and Body as a whole. This concept is the basis for our popular saying, "A healthy body is a healthy spirit, a healthy spirit is a healthy body." Kidneys store the innate Essence inherited from the ancestors, a treasure that must be preciously preserved and used wisely if we are to maintain our vitality and age in good health. Kidney Essence is necessary for fertility, reproduction of the species, longevity and the energetic make-up of every living creature at birth. It produces blood, strengthens innate immunity, and is essential for healthy Bones, Bone Marrow, and Brain.

La règle des Trois moins pour nourrir les Trois Trésors

Less desire, in order to nourish the Vital Essence. Desires are excessive temptations resulting from the arrogance of the ego. Desire leads to pleasure. Pleasure leads to addiction. Addiction is the source of a physical, mental, or emotional dependence. And dependence is the source of suffering. Desire for power, wealth, and sex depletes the vital reserves of Kidneys.
Less speaking, in order to nourish Energy. Every word you speak uses Qi, and too much speaking depletes Qi. Those who understand how to care for their health speak little and meditate more in order to restore their Qi.
Less thinking, in order to nourish the Spirit. Too much thinking agitates and depletes the Spirit. Achieving balance between Mind and Body, between the internal Organs energy and nutrition of our cells depends on:

1. A healthy lifestyle, adopting good habits

  • Adjusting the pace of your life to the four seasons
  • Striving to keep a regular schedule. Energy and blood are distributed to each internal Organ according to a specific schedule by means of the invisible network known as the Meridians. This regular internal tide of energy reflects the fluctuations of energy in the universe. This unvarying tide is essential to the optimal functioning of the internal Organs.

2. Emotional balance, meditation

  • The physical body is where the Spirit resides, and the vital Essence-Jing holds the Spirit-Shen. Spirit is the expression of the body and the manifestation of the vital Essence. Spirit is manifested by thought and emotion. It receives information from the outside world, as well as our perceptions of our inner world. Our spirit intercepts and analyzes this sensory information. It then tells the brain, the energetic internal organs, and the cells how to react to a new, stressful situation.
  • Meditation is a modified state of consciousness that is achieved by focusing attention on a thought, an object, an image, or through energetic breathing. Its essential purpose is to "anchor the Spirit within the body" by calming passions. It teaches us to let go, to detach ourselves from toxic relationships, to understand and accept our suffering, and then to let go of it with the help of that extraordinary power that love provides: the ability to forgive. Meditation allows us to live intensely in the present moment in order to be free of the prison of our past, and to become the pioneers of our own future. It gives us new insight into ourselves and others, free of all destructive passions or value judgments. It is a way to conquer self-love and learn to love others. It is the path to inner freedom and true happiness through self-realization.
  • Global health benefits of meditation: It is an effective tool against the detrimental effects of stress, it improves sleep, increases memory and learning abilities, contributes to overall emotional balance improves acquired immunity, and slows the cells' natural aging process.

3. The rules for healthful eating, eating well to live well. Foods can be your best allies if you "eat to live." In other words, when your diet is appropriate for your personal energy field. They can also be dangerous internal enemies if you "live to eat" without respecting yourself, when you "dig your grave with your teeth." Hippocrates was right when he said, "Let food be thy medicine." The Chinese energetic approach to food recommends a diet that is appropriate for each individual's personal energy field. Diet is an essential element in the overall maintenance of the energy field. Many modern illnesses that are linked to stress could be avoided by an appropriate diet, intelligent nutrition, and learning a new approach to eating based on good sense.

4. Sex: always in moderation, just like champagne! "Too much love kills love," they say. Excessive sexual activity depletes Kidney Jing, which is the foundation of life. The vital Essence must be used in moderation and carefully preserved. This does not suggest, of course, that we should deprive ourselves of pleasure!

5. Be sure to alternate between activity and rest. Rest replenishes the energy reserves of the internal Organs, which is essential to their physiological stability. Refreshing sleep is particularly important for nourishing neurons and strengthening the vital-Essence Jing, which is essential to the harmonious expression of the Shen-Spirit.

6. Regular physical activity: Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan are a form of meditation in motion. These martial arts are based on the principles of yin and yang. They foster the circulation of energy through sequences of smooth and harmonious alternating movements: open and closed, empty and full, up and down, inward and outward. The movements are uninterrupted and continuous, "like clouds moving across the sky, and water flowing in a stream." Intention rather than effort: it is intention and visualization that power the motion rather than strength.
Energy is used in a state of calm, not a state of pressure. Focusing on the intention of the movement is what makes your motion fluid and enables the harmonious circulation of the vital Energy. Tai Chi is has the fluidity of water, which is essential to life. It strengthens immune defenses, which help us "win the war without fighting it," if the Spirit-Shen is well anchored in the body. Tai Chi maintains overall vitality by stimulating cell metabolism, enhances circulation of energy and blood in the Meridians, and soothes the emotions, enabling clarity of mind. Much more than a type of exercise, it is the art of longevity and wisdom.

7. The principle of "Ten More and Ten Less" is a perfect guide to the Chinese art of maintaining health: Less meat, more vegetables. Fewer words, more actions. Less salt, more vinegar. Less sugar, more fruit. Less clothing, more bathing. Less alcohol, more water. Less food, more chewing. Less driving, more walking. Less worrying, more laughing. Less medicine, more exercise.


Good health is a sequence of energy transformations that require a dynamic balance between the physical form and the expression of emotions, between the nutrition of the cells and the energetic diet of the internal Organs. For good health you need excellent inherited characteristics but, even more, you need to live a disciplined life built on self-respect and respect for the planet that gives us Life. We require a clean environment, a diet that is appropriate to our personal energy field and regular physical exercise that serves to anchor the spirit in the body. Regular meditation helps to maintain emotional balance. The traditional Chinese "art of nourishing life" is truly a recipe for happiness.

Happiness is not something measurable. Rather, it exists in the feeling of being one's authentic self. A self-image that is in harmony with our deepest hopes, and beyond the reach of the critical eye or judgment of others.