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  • Writer's pictureRichard Lai

#58 Understanding the Five Spiritual Aspects: Dive into the 5 Shen

Podcast Version of Episode: Link


Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:00:00]:

Hey everyone. Doctor Richard Lai here with study acupuncture with me. And if you're new here, I welcome you. My name is Richard, and I make acupuncture study content for busy acupuncturists and acupuncture students just like yourself. Now in last week's video, I went over 2 functions of the heart that I've been revisiting for myself in hopes of finding some new ways that I can either use it in treatment for myself or I can use it in treatment for my patients. Now in that video, I talked about the heart and how it governs blood and how it houses the mind. And that led me to another topic in TCM, which is the 5 spiritual aspects. So this episode is all about the 5 spiritual aspects of TCM, which is also known as the 5 shen.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:00:43]:

Now the 5 shen we have the mind, which is the shen, we have the ethereal soul, which is the hun, we have the corporeal soul, which is the po, And then we have the willpower, which is the or the and then we have the intellect, which is specific yin organs. So for example, the heart. The heart houses our mind. Our mind is also known as our shun. And we have our liver. Our liver houses the ethereal soul. The ethereal soul is also known as our hoon. The lungs house our corporeal soul.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:01:18]:

That corporeal soul is also known as our po. We also have our willpower, which is housed in the kidneys, and this willpower is also known as zi qi. Now my mom, for example, would always tell me that I need to have which means I need to have willpower, I need to have determination, I need to have grit. And then there's the spleen, which houses the intellect, which is your yi. And you can use these organs in treatment for all of these spiritual mental aspects. And we, as acupuncturists, we're actually really well versed in the fact that we have internal causes for disease. We have external causes for disease. We also have miscellaneous causes for disease.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:01:57]:

And an internal cause is basically something like an emotion that takes over us, and it possesses us, and it causes a pathology in our body. Emotions are normal, if they don't possess you. So for example, joy is normal. It's normal to be happy about something. But if that joy turns into mania and it possesses you, then that's when pathology can happen. Now another example is sadness or grief. They have a very specific cause on chi, which is that sadness can dissolve chi, which That just means that it depletes chi. And it actually makes sense when you think about it when you think about someone who is sad for someone who's depressed.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:02:38]:

They're really not up and at it all the time. They're really sort of down in the dumps. They mope around. Right? They don't have any energy to do anything, and it's because they're sad that sadness has possessed them. And because sadness has possessed them, sadness But the effect on qi is to dissolve qi, so that's why they feel so qi deficient, which that brings me to my next point, which is that There's this interaction between our body, our emotions, and our mind, which as acupuncturists, we know this very well that there's this connection with our mind, spirit, our body, which includes our internal organs, and then also our emotions. Right? They all affect one another. So, for example, if someone is suffering from something like liver chi stagnation. When you think of someone who has liver chi stagnation, Now what kind of temperament does that person have? Now, of course, as acupuncturists, we know that that person is gonna be irritable.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:03:35]:

And that's because that internal organ, that liver cheese stagnation, is having an effect on that person's emotions. Now the same is true vice versa. And in this diagram I have on the screen, the arrow points both ways in both directions. So our emotional state can injure or can affect our organs. It can cause a disharmony in the organ. And so, for example, if someone suffers from fear or anxiety. And they're anxious about this. They're anxious about that.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:04:04]:

That anxiety, that emotion, that fear, that can actually injure the kidney, and it can cause the kidney to become deficient. And each organ has a corresponding emotion that can cause an issue both ways. So for example, with the kidney that we just talked about, on the one end, you have someone who's anxious, who's fearful, and that causes kidney deficiency. The same is true the other way around, though. So if, for example, that person has kidney deficiency. So let's say they work themselves to the bone. Let's say it's you. You work yourselves to the bone.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:04:37]:

You get to the point where you're depleting chi, and the pattern you have is kidney cheat deficiency. With that kidney cheat deficiency, you could become more anxious about things. You could be become more fearful about things. So that's basically an example of a disharmony of the internal organ causing an emotional balance in the person themselves. And that brings us back to the mind. Now the heart, we know it, houses the mind. The mind is also known as our shen or our spirit. So on the one end, we have the shen, which is the mind, and that mind we know is housed in the heart.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:05:11]:

Now on the other end, we have shen as the word for 5 shen, which is the 5 spiritual aspects. Those 5 spiritual aspects are our mind, our hun, our po, our ziqi, and our intellect. And if there's a disharmony in our internal organs, that can actually affect these 5 spiritual aspects. And these 5 spiritual aspects, each of them have specific mental characteristics. And these mental characteristics are what this episode is all about. Because for me, I've been really thinking about how Can I increase my focus? How can I increase my determination? How can I increase my willpower? And each of these are related to this mind spirit emotion, internal organ pathway. So for example, let's take the hun, which is known as the ethereal soul. Now the hun is the spirit that's responsible for our ability to plan things in our life, our ability to have goals in life.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:06:10]:

And There's a direct relationship between our internal organs and our emotions and our mind spirit. And even with our mind spirit, there's a direct relationship with our emotions. That's why this diagram goes in all directions. It goes from the mind spirit to the internal organs, and it goes back and forth. It also goes from the internal organs to the emotions, and then it goes back and forth there as well. And then between the mind, spirit, and the emotions, there's also an arrow that goes back and forth. And so what that means for us from a clinical sense is that When we treat the chi and blood of our organs, we can actually affect our mind spirit, which this mind spirit is those 5 spiritual aspects. So for example, if we treat our liver and we nourish liver blood, that means we can affect the hin in that way, in a positive way.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:07:03]:

Now this also means, though, that if there's a pathology, like a negative thing, like a disharmony in the liver, then that means that the hund can also be affected as a result. So for example, if your patient has liver blood deficiency, it's chronic liver blood deficiency, then that patient might lack those hun characteristics, which are things like having a sense of direction in life, having goals in life, having aspirations in life. But on the other hand, if the liver is strong and the has a strong foundation in that liver blood, then that person's gonna be a strong planner. That person's gonna have a sense of what they wanna do, what they're going to do, how they're gonna do it. So, basically, this is that person that you go on vacation with that texts everyone the entire itinerary. Hey, everyone. We're gonna wake up at 5 in the morning. We're gonna have breakfast, and then we're gonna meet at the shuttles at 5:45.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:07:57]:

I have the whole day planned out for us. We're on vacation. We gotta do all these things. We cannot be late. And we all know someone like that. And if you don't know who that someone is, And that person is probably you. And we have to remember that it's a vacation, so we need to slow down on vacations. So that's the ethereal soul.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:08:15]:

That's the Now something to keep in mind about that as well is that if there's a disharmony in the liver, so for example, that liver blood deficiency that we were just talking about. That could also present as depression too because it's liver blood deficiency. Blood deficiency overall can result in depression. Now we can think about what are the symptoms of depression. Generally, with symptoms of depression, it's things like losing interest in the things that you once had interest in, feeling hopeless, feeling empty. Like, you don't know what you're doing. You don't know what tomorrow is gonna bring. Now this sounds sort of familiar with not having a direction in life, and all the other hun manifestations.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:08:57]:

So that's just as a side note because with blood deficiency in general, that can also cause depression. So just that one word, depression, it can have so many different roots. It can have a heart blood deficiency root. It can have a liver blood deficiency route. It can also have a spleen chi deficiency route. And this is actually the wonderful thing about being an acupuncturist because We have so many ways that we can evaluate our patient. And if we really devote ourselves to our patients and really try to figure out what's going on behind their symptoms. What's the root that's causing that patient's depression? Then we can treat that root and hopefully directly affect that symptom.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:09:40]:

Alright. So next, let's talk about the corporeal soul. Now this corporeal soul is also known as our poe. Now this poe, what is it responsible for? This POE is responsible for our physical sensations, our physical feelings, our somatic expressions, which what's a somatic expression? A somatic expression is basically the ability of our body to express itself. So it's our feelings. It's our emotions. And this po is housed in our lung. And this po is the physical part of a person's soul.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:10:11]:

It's the manifestation of our essence in terms of our feelings. And something really interesting that I came across while I was revisiting all these topics is that The poe is formed in your body at conception, and the poe actually dies with your body when you die. That's why it's called the corporeal soul. Corporeal. That word just means relating to the body. So at conception, it's formed. When you die, it dies too. And when you're born as a baby, The corporeal soul, or the po, of your mother nourishes your corporeal soul, your po.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:10:47]:

So my mind is still wrapping around that, But, basically, what I'm getting is that ho being the spirit that's responsible for our feelings, Our physical sensations, our body's ability to express itself, there's something there with that disconnect from our feelings if we don't receive that nourishment from the corporeal soul to corporeal soul as a baby, you know, from the po of our mother to the po of us as a baby, which I think this is something to explore with our patients when we do our evaluations because someone's constitution and upbringing is really a big part of the prognosis for their treatment. And with our patients, there could be traumas that are blocking their healing. And one root of that trauma could be the lack of nourishment of the po to po from the mother po to the baby po, and that might be what's stopping that person or patient from healing fully. So just something to think about, and I've been really thinking about this a lot. And if you have with this. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Alright. Next, let's talk about intellect.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:11:54]:

So intellect, the intellect is our yi. Our yi is housed in our spleen, and this intellect is responsible for our ability to think, our ability to focus, our ability to concentrate. It's responsible for our ability to attend at the task at hand. It's responsible for our ability to memorize things. That's what the intellect is, and it's housed in our spleen. So that means that the health and status of our spleen can affect our intellect. Now there's a negative side to that because it also means that the usage of our intellect that usage can also affect our spleen. So for example, if we're overworking and we're studying hard for an exam or the board exam and we're pulling all nighters, so that overusage of our intellect, that can actually injure our spleen, which, for example, can cause spleen chi deficiency.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:12:46]:

And spleen chi deficiency comes with tiredness, comes with loose stools, comes with all of those other lean chi deficiency symptoms. So that's why it's really important for us to care for our spleen because having a strong spleen would mean that we have a good working memory. We have the ability to concentrate. We can study. We can contribute when we're asked a question in class or when we're answering questions on the board exam. But here's where it's sort of a double whammy because, yes, we need to study a lot. That studying takes up a lot of time. But if we study too much, we are gonna lose sleep, and we don't have enough time to rest and relax and eat, so we're gonna eat poorly.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:13:23]:

What happens then? Our spleen is gonna be weak. That means our ability to focus our intellect. Our yi is gonna be weak. So then our studying is gonna be weak. So which is it? Right? We see on On social media, all the Internet gurus and the billionaires, we see them doing what? They wake up at 4 AM. They wake up at 5 AM. They have this morning routine where they're They're stretching. They're meditating.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:13:43]:

They're reading a book. They're exercising. And honestly, I call baloney because that morning routine is not What got them the success that they have? Because for me, I'm, like, trying to do a morning routine, and I'm also working full time. I'm caring for my family. I'm caring for my study acupuncture with me family, all of you. It's not always rainbows and butterflies like how those Internet gurus portray. It's ugly. And it's honestly gotta be ugly for a bit for us to get to where we want to be.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:14:13]:

And I think it's something that I'm coming to terms with accepting because I can control my controllables. I can replenish my postnatal chi with as much nutritional foods as possible because we know spleen takes the food that we eat, transforms it into usable essence for our body. So if I Eat like crap, then my body is going to feel like crap. And as an internal organ, there is a direct relationship with our mind spirit, which for our spleen, that's the intellect. So that means eating crap will make my intellect crap or my yi crap. But what I can't control is how much work goes into everything that I need to do. And honestly, for you and your board exam or for you and opening up your Cupuncture clinic or opening up a 2nd acupuncture clinic, it's gotta be ugly for a little bit so that you can get to where you wanna be. And that's something I think I just need to come to terms with because I'm trying to keep my why for doing all of this as strong as possible.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:15:14]:

And my why is that Study acupuncture with me helps students like you in school with both their mindset and their actual education so that they retain the material so that they can help patients in the future, not just to pass the board exam, but to help as many people as possible for good patient care. My other why is that it helps people. So I want to show my daughter that helping people is cool. It's what it's all about. So those are some of my whys. And we know having a strong enough of why you can get through anyhow. Alright. Now lastly, let's talk about our willpower or our zi qi.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:15:52]:

Now this willpower is housed in our kidneys. And this willpower, it includes mental characteristics like our determination, our resolve, which Recently, I received a really wonderful comment on social media about that word resolve, and I really haven't been able to let that word go because they were talking about having an unwavering resolve, which when I was revisiting the 5 spiritual aspects, it made me really happy to see that word again with the kidneys. Because the kidneys, they house the willpower. Willpower is inclusive of things like determination, grit, resolve, enthusiasm. So you can see why I wanna harness this relationship between the organs, the mind spirit, and the emotions, not only for myself, helpful for my patients because these things can affect these mental, spiritual characteristics. So the question is How? And for that, I'm still experimenting, but I will definitely report back to you what I find to be really useful. And that actually brings us to the end of this episode. So I hope you enjoyed this episode.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:16:55]:

If you did and you wanna hear more from me, I hope that you sign up for my email list. With my email list, you can get the latest study guides, and you can get news from me from study acupuncture with me. So sign up at www .studyaccu with And until next time, god bless, and happy studying.


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