Jing is the material form of qi, it is the seed of life. It exists in sexual fluids, blood, hormones and other forms of biochemical fluids. It is inherited from our parents from childbirth(pre-heaven jing), it determines our genetic composition, our growth and development as well as reproduction. We also absorb jing from nature through the food we eat(post-heaven jing). It is the most concentrated in our kidneys.
Jing forms the basis for qi and shen, if jing is poor in our body, negative effects such as thinning and graying hair, weakening of the bones and teeth, weakening of sexual functions, loss of mental sharpness, reduction of moisture throughout the body, etc… It affects immunity, vitality, mental health, personal willpower and most of all, your lifespan.
It can be explained why some young adults are able to sustain an unvirtuous lifestyle such as late nights and drinking, long hours stationary in front of a computer and poor dietary habits, and yet not be affected much. They have inherited more good jing from their parents compared to their counterparts, but it will most likely not last to their late 30s and having spent their jing, the health of their offspring will be affected.
On the other hand, health conscious individuals will keep a good diet and take some herbal tonics to replenish and accumulate jing, and practice qigong to prevent the loss of jing. The practice of Qigong is to cultivate jing to qi, qi to shen and allow our eternal spirit to govern our jing and qi. Jing is a form of yin energy, it relates to the lower dan tian where it’s stored, it’s a kind of stored energy.
Qi is flowing energy, the force which animates life in living things. It flows through our body, through our yin and yang meridians and internal organs and serves to move blood. If jing is stored energy, qi is active energy, just like an electric current.
As qi is closely tied with our internal organs and many bodily functions, when the flow of qi is disrupted, the functions of our organs and body gets affected and we get all kinds of illnesses from there. Illnesses form when the toxins and blockages accumulate from the incomplete bodily processes such as digestion, homeostasis and detoxification. Just like TCM(traditional Chinese medicine), Qigong helps to clear up blockages, eliminate toxins and promote the flow of qi which in turn promotes health.
Qi can be converted into shen, or jing and healing energy. There is qi in our natural environment which can cause illness, that is called xie qi(evil qi). Our body also has a natural shield to protect us from xie qi, which is wei qi(protective qi). A qigong practitioner will develop stronger wei qi to keep illnesses at bay. In martial arts, qi is used to boost movement capability, increase strength and protect body from harm. Students of Qigong will learn to absorb Heaven and Earth qi to supplement their own post-heaven qi. If they move into the study of Kung Fu, they will learn even more ways to use qi, such as manipulating another person’s qi, intensifying qi to attack an opponent or transforming qi into its other states such as jing or shen, depending on the style.
Shen can be roughly referred to as spirit, or rather mental energy. Shen sprouts from the soft spot between the eyebrows, often referred to as the third eye. It creates our consciousness and contributes to mental sharpness and presence. Shen is generated through internal cultivation, with an abundance of Jing and Qi. Shen often express itself in the brilliance of the eyes of people with strong shen and mental alertness. It is the form of energy which shines on the individual’s skin and his very presence.
When Shen is disturbed or lacking, mental focus is diminished and if it’s serious mental illnesses like depression may form. If Shen is out of control and does not return into the body at night, one may suffer from sleeping disorders. Shen is Yang energy, energy of Heaven, creative energy, expanding and brilliant, like a flame radiating light. Creative arts such as visual art, music and dance nurture the Shen in us. In martial arts, it has to do with the ability to sense things, sense the intention of others and deliver the intention of oneself. However unlike Jing and Qi, Shen is not given to us by birth, it has to be developed and integrated through a disciplined lifestyle, qigong practices and meditation.
By Leroy Kwok