The integration of these three energies constitutes our very existence and they are considered to be treasures that should be protected, nourished and balanced. When they are sufficiently preserved and cultivated then health and longevity of the body, mind, and spirit are achieved. Keeping them abundant should be the goal of every person. To neglect them is to neglect life itself.
The three treasures are compared to a candle. The substance of the body or essence can be compared to the wax and wick of the candle. The heat is like the energy of the body and the light of the candle, the spirit or consciousness. With poor dietary and lifestyle practices the candle of the three treasures can be burned at both ends.
Essence (Jing), “the giver of life,” is the first treasure. It is the concentrated, refined, and regenerative energy that we receive at our conception that is meant to last us our entire lives. It is the foundation of our existence. It is the root energy of the body that is responsible for procreation, physical energy, sexual energy, creativity, longevity, and youthfulness. It is easily dissipated through excessive eating, drinking, sexual activity, work, stress, lack of sleep and addictive behaviors. Becoming tired is natural, but becoming exhausted is dangerous. To preserve Essence (Jing), the Taoists avoided extremes and sought to maintain balance in their lives and activities.
Energy (Qi), “the breath of life,” is the second treasure. While Essence (Jing) is our deep reserve, Energy (Qi) is our day to day vitality. It is the energy we derive from the air we breathe and foods we eat. It is also our actual breathing. The deeper and more regulated our breathing, the healthier we become as blood and energy are more efficiently and deeply circulated to every cell of the body leaving them more nourished and vitalized.
Spirit (Shen), “the light of life,” is the third treasure. It is our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing as well as our connection to our higher self and the Divine. Spirit (Shen) is housed in the Heart and provides us with feelings of peace, calm, and serenity. It gives us proper perspective on our life and our place in the universe. When the Spirit (Shen) is strong, attachment to the mundane dissipates and we become more childlike, awakened, and at ease in the world around us. We become compassionate for and caring of others.
An understanding of the balancing effects of diet and lifestyle preserves the three treasures. Both Qigong and tonic herbs harmonize and develop the 3 treasures.