Energy- It’s always in demand isn’t it? There are the energy sources we need for outside-our-body functions like lighting our light bulbs and running our washing machines but what about the energy we need for our inside functions like thinking, loving, moving? Much like a car needs an ongoing supply of gas (aka energy source) to work, humans also have energy sources crucially needed in order for us to “work”. According to the traditional Chinese medicine view point we have three energy sources we rely on after we’re born: something called jing, the food and drink we take in and breathing.
Jing is like a savings account opened in each individual’s name at the time of their birth. It holds the genetic potential we receive from our blood-family members, i.e. moms, dads, granddads, grandmoms and so on up the line. Some of us are born with big savings accounts. That group would include those of us who can routinely abuse our bodies and minds with “bad habits” and show very little wear and tear. Then there are those of us who are born with a small savings account and can be faced with physical and mental challenges sometimes from the very start of life. It’s in each individual’s best interest to be “fiscally” conservative with the energy dollars we have in these savings accounts because we have to make those energy dollars, or jing, last our entire lifetime. Or, you can spend this energy like a drunken sailor and severely deplete this resource and pay the physical and/or mental consequences. For example, have you ever known anyone to be just a little too reckless with how they play in life? Maybe they burn the candle at both ends too often and end up looking old before their time? This is a sign that they are living outside of their energetic means. Their body has had to dip into their jing savings account to pay their energetic bills, so to speak. I always get the question, “Can you build up the savings account if it gets depleted?” The answer is a qualified yes. Your jing account can be filled again by living within your energetic means by having good living habits. Examples of good living habits would include: healthy routines with eating and sleeping and healthy sexual practices. However, the original bills in your jing start off crisp and brand new. When you go to refill your jing account through good, healthy practices the bills are no longer the crisp, clean new ones. So, protect your jing! As often as you can: eat healthfully, have a regular sleep routine that leaves you feeling rested when you get up, and practice other healthy habits.
If jing equals an energy savings account, what makes up your everyday energy checking account? This would be the account to which you need to have immediate access in order to take care of your daily energy demands, such as making decisions, getting the kids off to school or processing a strong emotion. What you eat and drink and how well you breathe are two of the main sources that keep this checking account full.
As well as your jing, the things you eat and drink and your breathing practices are the gas for you. You can choose to fill your “car’s” gas tank with sludgy gas or you can fill your car with clean gas. Once or twice choosing sludgy gas and you may not notice any change in your car’s performance ability. Eventually though, it will show. You’ve probably heard the expression a million times, “You are what you eat”? It’s the same idea. Not having regular eating habits (such as not eating breakfast or having erratic eating times), or eating poor foods (such as highly processed, nutrient poor foods), equals sludgy gas. Taking the time to have great eating practices ensures that your car stays on the road for as long as possible in the best shape possible.
Breathing takes even less concentration to do than eating. It’s so important to the body that it is a semi-voluntary act. Just like you don’t have to remember to make your heart beat, it’s also not necessary, under normal circumstances, to remember to breathe. Your body will go on breathing whether you are thinking of doing it or not but you can also take over manually from automatic pilot. That’s where the fun begins. By experimenting with different breathing techniques you can therapeutically affect the body. You can calm yourself or energize yourself just to name two benefits. It surprises me sometimes that whoever is responsible for all the exercise fads hasn’t come up with a slick exercise routine using simply breathing. Yoga and Tai Qi and Qi Gong have long made use of deliberate breathing techniques to bring about balance in the body. If you decide to play with this yourself, use common sense and be careful, start slowly because breathing can be heady stuff. Better yet, get yourself to a yoga or tai qi class and reap more than just the breathing benefits!
So the next time you find yourself contemplating how to boost your energy, remember your jing, review your eating and drinking habits to see if you need to change anything and think of what my illustrious teacher Dr. Cao once asked my class, “Energy sources are important. How long can you live without food? [About 45 days give or take] How long can you live without water? [About a week depending on conditions] But most importantly, how long can you live without breathing?”