Fun With Cultivating Shen
By Chun Man Sit
Before we start to cultivate the shen, or spirit, we ought to find out what shen means.
Shen is an abstractive word in Chinese language. It has many meanings but no clear definition. In one qigong book it describes shen simply as all mental activities. Now this definition makes its meaning almost the same as yi. (Yi focuses more on attention.) Other books use terms such as: spirit, sacred force, god mind and omnipotence. Here we are talking about shen in relation with qigong and taiji, not our daily usage of the word.
Shen in simple English. Jing, qi and shen are considered the three treasures within us. In Daoism qigong theory, there are two kinds of shen: yuan shen and shi shen.
Yuan shen (original mind), is also called the shen of wu-wei. This is the shen of stillness. It is the mind of no mind. We can also call it the intuition mind. It uses very little energy.
Shi shen (knowledge mind) is also called the shen of you wei. This is the shen of action. We can call it the logical mind. It uses much more energy than yuan shen.
The key is to start our training with shi shen and eventually reach the stage of yuan shen. This is true for all taiji and qigong practices; you always start with you-wei (doing) and work towards wu-wei (non-doing).
How to cultivate shen
Let’s use taiji practice as the example. At the beginning, we learn the basic moves, the stances and the routines. We need to employ our logical mind diligently so that we can learn and perform all these. There are lots of work to do and it takes time for us to be familiar with our taiji and qigong methods. We have to practice hard until we are good at our practice. All these work cause lots of energy.
How long will this take until we are good at our taiji and qigong? Well, it depends on the individual and also how much practice time that person has. The goal is to practice until we can perform without much thinking and without making mistakes.
Once we are good at our practice, we are ready to cultivate the shen. The method is surprising simple: we are going to cut down our logical thinking, little by little.
Each day when we practice, we try to decrease the logical thinking a little. The Dao de Jing said, “In cultivating the Dao, we try to decrease every day. Decrease and decrease, until we reach the stage of wu-wei (non-doing).”
This practice can go on forever because the stage of wu-wei could be an endless process. As we travel towards the destination of wu-wei, we are cultivating our shen. When we decrease our logical thinking, our intuitive thinking will increase automatically. At this point we begin to imagine our practice will bring us peace and tranquility, also imagine we live in a wonderful world.
And the strange thing is: it will happen if believe we can make it happen. Ultimately shen means to be in harmony with the universe. Cultivating shen can be easy or difficult. The choice is ours. What should we do?[Master Chun Man Sit was born in 1951 in southern China. His family moved to Hong Kong when he was six. He lived in Hong Kong for twenty years. In 1976 he moved to the United State. He lives in Overland Park, Ks. with his wife Mary Ann. Master Sit began his martial art training in 1969. He has learned and practiced continually for forty years, learning many styles, such as: Karate, Tai Chi, Qigong and Kungfu. He is the expert on Wu style Taiji, Tai Hui Six Elbows Kungfu, and many Qigong methods, including 6 Healing Sounds, Drifting Cloud Moving Qigong, Nei Gong, Silk-reeling Gong, etc. Master Sit has been a chief judge in many national Tai Chi and Kungfu tournaments in the USA for the last 18 years. He has taught workshops on Tai Chi, Qingong and Kungfu. His articles appear regularly in Tai Chi and Kungfu magazines. He is currently writing a book on Tai Chi.]
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