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What is health, and how do we know when we’ve arrived?

Often when a new client comes into my clinic, they ask me ‘how long will it take for me to get better?’ The honest answer is, it depends. There are many variables that come into play when we are looking at treatment length: How long have you had symptoms? How often does your budget and schedule allow you to seek treatment? Will you remember to take your herbs? Are you continuing with the same lifestyle (activities\diet) that caused the symptoms to develop? How strong is your constitution?


I like to describe healing as an “upward spiral”, as in my experience healing is not often linear. Every day we wake up and make choices that ultimately lead us into sickness or into health. Some days we make better choices than others, and some circumstances are out of our control. Perhaps you have to work nightshifts, or you’re a student working multiple jobs, maybe you work in a very high stress fast-paced environment. It isn’t just proper nutrition and exercise that lead a person through the upward spiral to health, mental health along with internal/external stressors can also have a huge impact.


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at health through an interesting and all-encompassing lens. The journey to health can best be described as learning to obtain harmony with all 5 spirits: Shen, Hun, Po, Yi, Zhi. To further understand, we will look at each of these 5 spirits in detail.


Shen This can also be translated as mind or spirit. It is our ability to extend outward and communicate with others. This is what makes us truly human. To harmonize the Shen one must have connection with people around them. Hun This is one-half of the aspect of the soul. It is considered more yang and nonphysical. It is our intuition, vision and purpose. When we are not in alignment with our true purpose we can become depressed. The Hun will often speak to us in our dreams.


Po This is the other yin half of our soul, which is more physical. It is our emotions, our perception and physical body (senses). The Po is affected by nutrition, exercise, stress (internal and external) and pain.


Yi Our intellect and judgment. Throughout our life we must continue to nourish our Yi by forever staying a student and continuing to learn and grow. Too much mental stimulation however (overthinking), can often affect the qi and lead to digestion issues.


Zhi Our wisdom, will-power, and commitment. This is ones will to act and accomplish tasks at hand.


As you can see, in regards to TCM, health is so much more than just what you put into your body and how you treat it, in fact that is only 1/5th of the process. Acupuncture and herbs can help a person to heal and begin to listen into their own wisdom. But in the end, the onus of healing lies within each and every one of us. If you sit down and reflect honestly with yourself, are you living in a way that aligns all your 5 spirits?

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