By Ron Teeguarden, Master Herbalist, Master of Kook Sun Do Taoism
Shen is really the biggest subject of them all. Our time on earth is both infinitely huge and infinitely short. We have time to achieve enlightenment, supreme judgement, spiritual bliss, nirvana – or we can blow this stunningly magical opportunity and be sad, confused and miserable. It’s your choice. To grow spiritually, you have to think about it, meditate on it, contemplate it, practice it every day – not necessarily all day, but every day. If you do, you will grow every day, and in leaps and bounds. Bewonderment will come first, then wisdom will bloom along with quite a bit of joy, then satori and then maybe enlightenment if you’ve been serious and persistent. We all can achieve the supreme happiness.
This section is just a teeny tip sheet, but it could be important to your spiritual growth. For thousands of years women and men have sought to know God or to become godly. Many, many have succeeded. And many have failed because their paths were errant. One thread of consistency is that all of the enlightened ones have stayed close to Nature. The Earth and the Universe are their homes. Every tradition has taught some kind of breathing (sometimes via chanting or singing). And every tradition has discovered and availed themselves of herbs provided by the Earth that can support breathing, help still the mind, strengthen the mind and body, open the spirit, stabilize the emotions and moods, and allow contact with the eternal. Tonic herbalism provides those herbs as “Shen tonics.”
“Shen” is the Chinese term for eternal spiritual power. It is called “Shin” in Japanese and Korean. Shen is the pure divinity that resides within every human’s heart (and undoubtedly, many animals and plants). It can be dormant or manifest. Shen is the spiritual power that presides over our mind and our emotions. Under stressful and non-conducive conditions, Shen recedes and hides, it becomes dormant and non-manifest. If it has not manifested, our Shen is only the “spark of divinity,” yet it still resides in our heart – we cannot completely exterminate Shen. We do not need to “create” Shen – we only need to become peaceful, centered and conscious enough that we can experience it for a moment, and in that moment, it opens back up like the “Big Bang.” Once opened, it is like the universe in that it simply inflates and expands virtually infinitely. Taoists say that we are a microcosm of the macrocosmic universe – so this is how we ultimately reflect the universe. There are herbs called “Shen tonics.” They are incredibly important herbs because they are the substances of the Earth that foster our spiritual growth, opening and manifestation – which is potentially infinite and universal.
Shen Lifting Support
Some herbs support the growth of our Shen, even though this is just a precursor to the Eternal Shen that manifests at enlightenment. What we feel from these herbs is not actually Shen itself, but the radiance of Shen, its glow. The great Shen tonics promote an uplifting attitude of peace, a sense of harmony and oneness, love and compassion. When the Shen glow becomes “chronic,” we have a chance to experience Eternal Shen. Wild Reishi, Wild Ginseng and the Sacred Rhodiola of Tibet are the three most important Shen Tonic herbs. There are some others that are almost as heavenly – Pearl, real Goji, wild Schizandra, Polygonatum, Schizandra fruit (especially fresh), Albizia flower, Spirit Poria(Fu Shen),Himalayan Black Goji, Rose petals, and sibericum root are right there. Formulations that contain these major Shen tonic herbs are by definition Shen tonic formulations, no matter what else they are doing.
Tea culture goes back at least two thousand years in the Far East. It has from the beginning been associated with spiritually uplifting practices. Taoists, Zen masters and sages of all sorts have been using tea since the time of Shennong. Only very high-grade tea is considered a Shen tonic (lower grades do not reach the sublime mood level of calm clarity). Dragon Herbs only carries teas that are Shen quality teas (no cheap, commercial teas). And a few stand out as the most beloved by great gurus and wise women and men.
Strong Shen Stabilizing (Emotion Balancing) Support
Shen stabilizing herbs settle the emotions so that they do not become renegade. Renegade emotions harm us. The major Shen tonics have stabilizing capacity, that is how they promote peacefulness, a Zen state of mind, balanced emotions, and even genuine passion and compassion. But the Shen “stabilizing” herbs are considered “heavier.” They really can keep the emotions in check without causing drowsiness. They have been used since pre-historic times. Some of the big ones include Pearl powder, Dragon Bone (fossilized mastodon or wooly rhinoceros), processed Oyster shell, Longan fruit, Albizia bark, Poria mushroom (Fu Ling), Zizyphus seed, Amber powder, Cacao, Lily flower, and some others.
Meditation is a method of opening Shen. It may be the ONLY method. Shen may be witnessed with some types of drugs, but the Shen quickly recedes when the drug wears off. Meditation can result in permanent opening of Shen. There are a multitude of profound methods of meditation. All involve controlling the mind, the breath. Body position, posture or movement also comes into play. Almost every meditator throughout history has consumed some herbs from the earth to support meditation. This is not cheating – the earth is where we sit in the universe. Here are some herbs that support meditation, whatever your style.
Zen and other spiritual practices often consume tea before meditation. Tea promotes relaxed focus and attention without excessive stimulation and without causing drowsiness. It must be superior grade, mountain grown tea to be effective. Great tea is especially useful for those who tend to get drowsy and also for those who get fidgety. Of course, tea promotes concentration, a key to successful meditation.
Qigong is meditation in movement. Taiji would be included as a form of Qigong. Qigong is a profound method of achieving health, spiritual power and great longevity. Like yoga, Qigong is based on routines that were developed by masters, some many centuries ago. Most Qigong is slow moving and requires (and develops) great concentration. Over time, Qigong builds great, sustainable strength in all parts of the body, excellent flexibility, free and excellent blood circulation, and smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. Many of the same formulations used for fitness or for yoga would be useful for the Qigong practitioner. Of course, Qigong and tonic herbalism are both based on Yin and Yang principles and upon the Three Treasures inherent in life. They were developed by the same masters in tandem over the past three thousand years. So the products we will suggest here are ones inherent in the system.
There are as many kinds of yoga as there are kinds of meditation. If you practice yoga, you need a combination of physical, mental and spiritual herbal support. Here are some awesome options that will support your spiritual and psychic growth, flexibility, strength, blood circulation, mental focus and breathing.
If you are a breatharian immortaland you come to visit me, I will offer you a deep smell of some especially wonderful aromatic raw herbs (from our Desk Top Botanical Garden (DBG) herbs series) such as wild Himalayan Rhodiola root, wild Snow Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum flowers, Hard Albizia flowers, Rose buds, Osmanthus flower buds, Big Red Robe Tea, Reishi spores, Dendrobium Tonic Bliss Tea, Ginseng Tonic Bliss Tea, Goji Leaf Tonic Bliss Tea, Schizandra Tonic Bliss Tea, Snow Lotus Bliss Tea, and/o Shilajit Tonic Bliss Tea. All of these are quite compelling Shen tonics aromatically. I am certain you would love it.