In the philosophy of Tai Chi and Chi Kung we talk about the three treasures, the Jing, the Shen and the Chi. Jing is the essence, the physical nature of your existence, the essential elements that make up your body. Shen is the Spirit, the heavenly part of your existence, similar to the Western understanding of your soul. Chi is your energy, the vital life force that connects and brings these aspects of you to life.
The philosophy of the three treasures is important in Tai Chi practice for two reasons. Firstly, it reminds us that this is an holistic practice, working on your complete existence, not just a physical exercise. Secondly, the connection to earth and heaven and the merging of those energies forms an essential part of the experience and practice of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is an holistic exercise working on mind body and spirit. We can relate the three treasures directly to the concept of mind, body and spirit. The body is your Jing, your physical essence. The spirit is your Shen. The mind is therefore related to your chi. It is valuable to recognise this because it helps us to understand that wherever the mind is that is where we are directing our energy. If we then pause and examine our thought patterns for a short time we see how chaotic they often are and we can see how easily we waste our energy. It is also interesting to note how much energy we expand on things that we can have little or no influence over. One aspect of Tai Chi is to train the mind so that we can better direct our energy to what is important for us.
The three treasures have an important role within our Tai Chi and Chi Kung exercise. We constantly seek the connection to the Earth, the source of our Jing, and to Heaven, the source of our Shen. We merge these energies through our Chi, our own energy, usually at the heart. The body’s energy centres relate to the three treasures. The three lower centres, relating to Jing, the three higher centres to spirit and merged at the heart which balances the Jing and the Shen. It is important to balance these energies so that we recognise our spiritual nature but remain grounded in our physical existence. If we are too much in our spirit, we become too light headed, spacey and too much of a dreamer. If we are too much in our physical, we become ground down by our daily life.
As we develop our energy practice, and learn to increase our energy, we can also develop stronger physical power or stronger spiritual connection. However, as we do, it remains important to retain the balance, if you are to remain balanced in life. This also helps us to understand that if you seek greater spiritual growth, it is also important to maintain the well being of the physical body.
The philosophy of the three treasures extends to the recognition of prenatal and post-natal qualities of Jing, Shen and Chi. For example prenatal Jing would include the genes that you are born with and dictate aspects of your physical being, but there are also aspects of your physical being as a result of the food you eat and the exercise you do. We all are born with a vital life force but we also recognise that we draw more vital force into our body, mainly through our breath. The prenatal Shen represents our soul quality, yet through life we can enhance and develop our spiritual qualities, perhaps this is the true purpose of physical existence.