Why are this most common side effect of acupuncture having better sleep, more energy and better focus? Because acupuncture nurtures the three pillars, or three treasures of health.
The three 'treasures' of health according to Acupuncture and Oriental medicine (OM) are Shen, Qi, & Jing. Shen is our Spirit plus consciousness, our Spirit-Mind, Qi is our vitality & energy, and Jing is our genetics plus the energy we derive from nutrition and the breath. Together the Three Treasures form the foundation of our well being. When the Three Treasures are flowing and in harmony the Yin and Yang (symbolized with the Taiji image) within are in balance and a state of wellness pervades; in Western (or BioMedicine) Medicine this state is referred to as homeostasis. When one or more of the Three Treasure becomes Empty or Full, the flow of Yin & Yang becomes impeded and a lack of wellbeing, a state of dis-ease, ensues.
Jing is the Essence, the Source of who we are. Our Prenatal Jing is the legacy we receive from our parents (and all our ancestors) at the moment of conception and during gestation. From a biomedical perspective it is our genes and DNA. In Chinese, the character for “Jing is drawn as a pivot and central loftiness. It means great, exalted, height, a metropolis, a capital and a centre of the empire.” (Kaatz, 2005 p. 509). Thus Jing is the pivotal center from which all that we are unfolds. It determines our growth, reproduction, and is the underlying root of our overall health. Our Prenatal Jing is fixed and finite. It is like a Trust Fund we inherit. It is a precious resource and should be used wisely and intentionally conserved. “Essence is also responsible for the development of the deepest awareness and wisdom... Disharmonies of Essence might involve... the incapacity to be self-reflective as a person matures.” (Kaptchuk, 2000, p.57) Jing can be ‘burned off’ during the Excess tendencies of youth (and beyond), before wisdom and self-reflection fosters an appreciation for the preciousness of this resource. These Excesses include ‘burning the candle at both ends’; working long hours and staying up too late (not getting enough rest and sleep), and drug use (including overusing prescription drugs). To protect your prenatal Jing, prioritize rest and good quality sleep and minimize your (prescription) drug and alcohol use and practice. Acupuncture is phenomenal for helping us shift from stress mode to relaxation mode; promoting rest and relaxation and alleviating insomnia, while cultivating deeply restorative sleep pattern.
Our Postnatal Jing is derived from food, drink and breath. Since the Jing is the Root, or the foundation of all our Yin and Yang energy we are given daily opportunities to enhance our wellbeing by making healthy choices. Consciously selecting the highest quality whole foods and drinks in harmony with each Season enhances our Postnatal Jing. Limit your intake of processed and ‘junk’ foods. Focus on food and drinks as being a source of self-administered preventative medicine. Shopping at your local Farmer’s Market is a good way to eat in Season. Follow the maxim of ‘eating the rainbow’ with locally grown, in Season foods.
We can also enhance the Postnatal Jing by engaging the breath with conscious intention, e.g. Mindfulness Mediation with a focus on the breath, Pranayama (yoga breathing) techniques, and/or QiGong breathing techniques. Try developing a 15-30 minute a daily deep breathing meditation practice. You’ll notice immediate benefits, improving both your digestion and your energy. Overthinking, constantly ruminating or being overly-analytical, can negatively effect our digestive process and decrease our postnatal Jing. Stress negatively effects both the rate of digestion and the absorption of nutrients. A mediation practice can help us cultivate a more serene mind. Acupuncture also helps quiet the mind as well as promoting and regulating digestive health.
Qi is your energy and your metabolic activity. The source of all motion and vitality is Qi and motion creates Qi. Qi moves in four directions: ascending, descending, entering and leaving. Qi holds, warms and protects the body. The eternal dance of yin and yang create Qi. “Qi is the pulsation of the cosmos itself....In a single syllable, the word Qi proclaims one of the deepest root intuition of the Chinese civilization...Qi is the thread connecting all being. Qi allows any phenomena to maintain its cohesiveness, grow, and transform into other forms. Metamorphosis is possible because Qi takes myriad forms. Qi is the potential and actualization of transformation... Qi is the fundamental quality of being and becoming.” ((Kaptchuk, 2000, p. 43 & 44) Qi is the energy behind motion and within motion. Qi is better understood as a verb than a noun, but its more about Being than Doing. The Chinese character “Qi is drawn as the steam that comes from boiling grains of rice. It is the energy that creates and nourishes all life.” (Kaatz, 2005, p. 39) Qi is influenced by external factors: Wind, Heat, Summer Heat, Dryness, Cold, and Dampness. And Qi is also influenced by internal factors, the emotions of: Anger, Joy, Worry, Grief, Fear, Melancholy, and Sorrow. To foster one’s Qi is to find a balance between Yin and Yang motions; too much rest is just as detrimental as excessive exercise. Learning to master one’s emotional tendencies and encouraging a more flowing emotional nature greatly enhances Qi. Tai Chi and Yoga are both excellent methods for moving Qi when done with focus and intention. To maximize the Qi flow, one must focus and anchor the mind in the present moment within the motion and attune to the energy and the philosophy behind the motion. Acupuncture is an excellent way to both promote the activation of Qi and well as getting you in touch with the flow of your Qi.
To nurture the Postnatal Jing with mindful nutrition and conscious breathing and to harness the power of Qi with appropriate internal and external movement all require a vital Shen (Spirit + Consciousness or Spirit-Mind). If our Shen is vibrant and in harmony than we naturally select the best foods, drinks, the breath flows easily, and we are intuitively drawn towards the motions, emotions and relationships that will enhance the flow of Qi. And to have a vibrant Shen requires balanced Jing & Qi. Many acupuncture points contain the word Shen and excellent for both calming and harmonizing Shen. During an acupuncture treatment, you can feel your Shen returning to a state of harmony. “Shen is drawn as the sun, moon, and stars and two hands reaching towards the heavens extending a rope. It means mysterious, inspiration, genius, soul, spirit, force, and gods.” (Kaatz, 2005 p. 41) When the Shen is in harmony we have a deeper sense of purpose, an inner guidance system that directs our every thought, word, and action. And we also have the desire and ability to reflect upon our thoughts, words, and actions and shift them if a new direction is needed. “What we think, we become.” (Buddha) Too often people seek direction from external sources; advice from experts, magazines, commercials, the person next door, etc. And we lose our connection to Shen with the distractions of the 10,000 things of this world. Shen is an intrinsic process. Shen “... depends on self-relationship”. (Kaptchuk, 2000, p. 58) Through quiet contemplation and meditation we can attune to the Shen; this is often what is occurring internally during an acupuncture treatment. Cultivating Shen we are able to examine and master our emotions and learn to direct our Qi. “Sentient beings are primarily all Buddhas: It is like ice and water, apart from water no ice can exist; Outside sentient beings Where do we find the Buddhas? Not knowing how near The Truth is, people seek it far away, What a pity!” (Hakuin, Zen proverb). Shen is infinite and eternal. Shen can direct the flow of Qi and influence the positive choices we need to build Jing.
“To the Taoist, spirituality is not religion; it is the practical self-cultivation of three forces that embody Heaven, Earth, and humanity; jing (essence), Qi (vitality) and Shen (spirit). The restoration, accumulation, and transformation of these three inner forces are what constitutes true spiritual illumination and immortality.” from The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic: The Taoist Guide to Health, Longevity, and Immortality by Stuart Alve Olson
The Three Treasures are interdependent; wellbeing is a state of balance within and between the Three Treasures. The state of taiji, is the balance point between yin and yang, a state of dynamic stillness amid constant change. Find your inner balance and cultivate your three treasures with acupuncture! Schedule your acupuncture session today!
Kaatz, Debra, (2005) Characters of Wisdom: Taoist Tales of the Acupuncture Points, The Petite Bergerie Press
Kaptchuk, Ted J. OMD, (2000) The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, McGraw-Hill
Olson, Stuart Alve, (2003) The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic: The Taoist Guide to Health, Longevity, and Immortality, Inner Traditions