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How is your Vitality?

It’s the time of the year when, for many of us, our vitality is lacking. We run low on energy and can find ourselves wondering how we will get through the Winter. To know what choices to make to sustain our energy and even increase it, we need to look at what is vitality and how it is express in our body.

Simply defined, vitality is the character of that which is full of life, of that which presents vital energy, remarkable health or intense enthusiasm. According to Chinese medicine, the level of our vitality is directly linked to the quantity and quality of our Qi.

Our body is made up of vibrational frequencies that interact to create energetic matter and energetic fields. The form and structure of these vibrations varies and create what we can refer to as layers of energetic fields existing between our body and soul. Qi is the vital force that connects and fills all things, and sustains the human body. And as energy, the Qi can manifest within the body through different levels of vibration. In Chinese philosophy, the three levels of Qi manifestation are Jing, Qi, and Shen and they are considered to be the Three Treasures of Man.

The Three Treasures

Our general vitality depends on an adequate tone at the level of each of these energy layers – Jing, Qi, Shen – and their harmonious relationship with each other. Let’s have a look at their specific nature.

Shen – Usually translated as Spirit, Shen corresponds to the highest vibrational frequency of the human energy matrix. It is our soul that experiences and guides the body’s Qi. In this sense, the Shen is said to govern the body. It manifests energetically through subtle vibrations without physical form such as thoughts, consciousness, emotions, mind and spirit. The quality of light or dullness of our eyes is generally a good indicator of the vitality of our Shen.

Qi – Qi acts as a bridge allowing Jing and Shen to communicate. Qi is the vital energy that maintains the body's Jing. It emerges from the Jing, flows through the body's energy channel system, nourishing all tissues, promoting metabolism and distributing vitality throughout the body. The vitality of our Qi is characterized by the quality of our Wei Qi fields which can be understood as the external field of defensive and protective energy (aura) of the body.

Jing – Jing, translated as Essence, is the lowest vibrational frequency of the human energy matrix. Jing is understood to be an original energy that creates and maintains the physical form of our body. It is the tangible Essence of our body, our very vitality. Jing manifests energetically as fundamental matter through the cells, tissues and substances of the body. In Chinese medicine, the quality of our pulse is generally a good indicator of the vitality of our Jing.

In Chinese Medicine, these layers of energy are understood to be integral part of the internal alchemical processes that allow energy to be transmuted and transformed: Jing can be used to create or increase Qi; likewise, Qi can be used to create or expand the Shen. This creative cycle also works in reverse order by transforming Shen into Qi, and Qi into Jing. This model of Qi manifestation follows the same understanding of the scientific explanation of the transformation of matter in the natural world. Matter (Jing) progresses towards energy (Qi) and energy towards spirit (Shen), and vice versa. To understand the concept, we can use the analogy of an ice cube changing from a solid state of matter, melting into water, a formless form, and then transforming again into almost invisible vapor. And then, the reverse cycle is also true, transforming steam into water and then ice.

Each of the energy of the body – Jing (Essence), Qi (Energy), and Shen (Spirit) – has prenatal and postnatal forms. By definition, prenatal is what we receive before birth, at our conception and postnatal is what we develop and acquire through life experience.

As noted above, all of these energetic layers are important to our vitality and work together to keep us in balance. However, in this Winter season, I am more interested in exploring the notion of Jing, because this Essence, both original and acquired, is stored in the Kidneys, the organs of the season.

Energy Waves

Prenatal Jing is created by the union of sperm and egg during our conception and holds our full genetic potential. Prenatal Jing determines each person's basic constitution, strength and vitality. In terms of Western physiology, prenatal Jing is of the same nature as our DNA. But for all this potential to manifest, it needs a vital force, an inner energy, in other words, it needs Qi. Without the activation of Qi, the best initial potential will remain forever unexpressed. It is therefore the role of our Original Energy (prenatal Qi) to bring into existence, at our birth, the genetic potential contained in our original matrix.

After we are born, postnatal Jing, the material basis of our body's functional metabolic activities, is responsible for controlling our growth, maturation, and development at all stages of our lives. More specifically, our postnatal Jing, through the Kidney’s functions sustains the health of our bones, marrow and brain. But again, postnatal Jing must work in conjunction with Qi to establish the body's state of physical, mental and emotional health, which together make up our vitality.

Slowing the depletion of our Prenatal Jing

Kidneys Jing is formed from the combination of prenatal Jing and postnatal Jing. We are born with a limited amount of prenatal Jing. Throughout our lives, with the support of Qi, we spend this Jing and once it is completely exhausted, we come to our natural end. We don’t have any power on our prenatal Jing but acting on our prenatal Qi, the energy that brings into life our original Essence, will have an impact on the use of our primordial Essence and can influence the length of our life. Just few practices are known to influence our Original Qi and slow the depletion of our Original Essence. They are all meant to cultivate a quiescent and calm mind state. This is necessary for the body to protect and rejuvenate our prenatal energy.

Rest, this lost art of doing nothing, allows us to regain our energy. Especially at this time of year when the predominant Yin energy invites us to take refuge and explore inward. To maintain a healthy balance, our bodies and minds need a break so they can continue to support us in our daily activities. In these modern times where we are constantly bombarded by noise and images it can sometimes be difficult to rest. But for our well-being, it is necessary to discipline ourselves and, if necessary, isolate ourselves in order to give ourselves real periods of break in our daily lives.

The quality of our sleep is much more important than the quantity we receive. We aim for restful and restorative sleep. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and the concept of the meridian clock, different organs in our body function or replenish themselves at different times of the day. During the day, each organ has its own 2-hour slot, where it is at its peak. During sleep, our Qi works inward and is responsible for completely restoring and replenishing the body. This is why Chinese practitioners will recommend going to bed no later than 11 p.m., mainly because 11 p.m.-1 a.m. is the time when our bile is released from the gallbladder and cellular repair is engaged. The next time slot, the Liver time from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., is one of the most important time slots. The main function of the liver is to nourish and clean the blood. For our liver to function properly, we should be in a deep sleep phase at this time. If not, fresh blood and Qi won’t be available to our organs the next day to accomplish their functions.

Mindful movements practices like Qigong are wonderful tools to learn to be in our bodies and self-regulate. Qigong, in particular, uses many elements (breath, posture, movements) that allow the different metabolic systems of our body to release and restore. When we practice Qigong, the Jing is nourished, energized and cleansed through alternating Yin and Yang movements.

Prayer and Meditation are perfect practices for the Jing to be refined. Cultivate calm, presence, aliveness, curiosity, and connection through these modalities give the Jing guidance, direction and purpose.

Cultivating postnatal Jing

On the other hand, postnatal Jing can be cultivated and stored in the Kidneys to influence our health, general well-being and vitality. Postnatal Jing is mainly extracted from food and drink (water) via the transformational digestion functions of the Spleen and Stomach. The healthier the food we eat, the better the quantity and quality of postnatal Jing we add to our Kidneys. The Five Phases Theory includes for each season specific food designed to support the energy of the moment. To support our Kidneys during the cold season, we should prioritize food that is salty. Salt has the effect of moving fluids in the body via the kidneys and is said to bring heat from the exterior of the body deep into the interior and promote the Kidneys' functions. As we know, eating salt is not without risk. Too much salt can cause dysfunction in our Kidneys and Bladder and cause our body to be unable to expel water efficiently. However, the proper amount of salt supports detoxification, and softens stiffness of the body.

Postnatal Jing is also replenished through the quality and quantity of air we breathe in. This is where proper breathing becomes essential and crucial for our physical, emotional, and mental health. In Qigong practice, the emphasis is on Natural Breathing. Instead of only filling our Lungs, Natural Breathing allows the breath to fill the entire body. By doing so, not only are we strengthening our internal organs, but we are also rooting the energy of the breath into our Kidneys to nourish our Jing. If you wish understand better Natural Breathing and learn how to practice it, I invite you to watch this video.

Because the Kidneys store our original Essence, in Chinese Medicine they are often called the “Root of Life”. And because the preservation of our Jing is closely linked to our vitality and our longevity, nourishing our Kidneys is of paramount importance. In this Winter season, keeping our Kidneys warm and practicing specific Kidney-supporting Qigong movements will help us maintain our energy at a sufficient level to engage in our regular activities and enjoy life despite the cold and darkness of the season.


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