Three ways to strengthen your coping mechanism : use your three Shen

Life is tough. Some people may have a cruisy life (I don’t meet many of these) but most of us struggle with daily challenges and hardships whether financial, emotional, physical or spiritual, and sometimes all at once. In Chinese medicine our ability to cope with all of this and still be successful is regulated by a substance called Shen, which translates in this context as ‘Heavenly Intelligence’. Knowing how to tap into this mysterious substance makes life so much easier. Tapping into Shen, or this Heavenly Intelligence, is the key factor in my work as a therapist, and I have seen stunning results in thousands of clients, but also in my own life.

Superfoods help you to adapt to change : plants and one Shen

A specific quality of Shen is given to each life form or ‘kingdom’. The plant kingdom has one Shen, this is affiliated with adaptive intelligence (a term coined by biologists), it is a one-dimensional intelligence. Plants can’t run away, they can’t seek shelter when it rains, they can’t shield themselves from the sun. So, to survive, plants need to adapt and some develop an incredibly powerful adaptive intelligence. These are the ‘superfoods’ such as the Acai berry from Brazil which grow high up in extremely hot temperatures and are fully exposed to the burning sun, but when they are picked they still taste cool and refreshing (though not sweet). When we eat superfoods we receive this Shen and we give our bodies the power to adapt to the stressors of life.

How yoga and tai-chi help you cope: animals and two Shen

Animals have two Shen, or a responsive intelligence. They can either attack or run away, this is a two-dimensional intelligence. Some animals have been gifted with a very powerful Shen such as Tiger, Cobras, or Praying Mantis. Chinese martial arts are based on the study this Shen and by copying the movements they transmigrate the Shen into the human bio mechanism – a kind of ethereal osmosis – which means we know how to defend ourselves against harmful influences and we know how to retreat. Cultivating this Shen provides the foundation for knowing when to ‘do’ (attack) and when not to do (retreat).

Adapt, respond and reason, our inner coping skills: humans and three Shen

We humans have three Shen. We have a reasoning intelligence which gives us the ability to reflect and to contemplate our responses, actions and decisions. This is a precious gift exclusively for us for the purpose of our enlightenment. The three Shen enable our mind to look at the past and imagine the future, and to direct our future in response to our past. Three Shen allows free choice, our actions either consider the bigger picture (our cosmic destiny) or ignore it. In Chinese medicine it is understood that three Shen requires training as without skill and discipline it can make our life a big mess. Whereas plants and animals know instinctively what to do (their ‘simpler’ Shen keeps options limited) humans have the ability to create, therefore we need training in cultivating and utilising Shen. Otherwise three Shen can cause overthinking, worry, fear of failure, fear of the future, and getting trapped in the past (‘good old days’ syndrome).

This doesn’t happen to animals or plants and the idea is to utilise the Shen of plants and animals for our benefit and to enhance our ability to cope, to succeed, to be healthier and happier. In my line of work I’ve seen complex emotional or psychological issues resolved just by utilising the Shen of animals and plants, by letting ‘Heavenly Intelligence’ do the healing.

Three ways to improve and enhance your coping mechanisms:

Use the adaptive intelligence of plants. Learn about superfoods and therapeutic herbs and take them regularly.

Study the Shen of powerful animals by doing Yoga, Tai-chi Kung-fu or other chi practices. These techniques carry the secrets to making choices that improve our own life and the lives of others.

Consider your past actions and formulate a deliberate intent to direct your future towards a better outcome. Strengthen your intent by daily practice of Yoga or Tai-chi and by regular use of herbs and supplements.