There are many “best” lists of healthy foods, superfoods, and live foods in the media. What is missing, however, is a context for choosing what best serves you and your life’s purpose. In my set of twenty-two recommendations, I will provide a framework to help you understand which appropriate herbs and superfoods to select for your specific constitution, condition, and your immediate and long-term life’s purpose.
In 1987, I activated a shift in the live-food movement consciousness toward using diet and lifestyle to enhance spiritual life by becoming a superconductor for the Divine. This took us beyond focusing solely on general good health, and longevity, which was the predominant paradigm. In 1990 and again in 2000 (with my second edition of Conscious Eating), I refined the use and integration of Ayurvedic understanding into a live-food nutrition perspective, and I also introduced the constitutional and metabolic types (“fast and slow oxidizer” types, and “parasympathetic and sympathetic” types) to help each person discover his or her optimal live-food diet according to one’s specific overall constitution.
I am delighted that these considerations have become relatively mainstream. Now I am adding a new dimension to this understanding, which is how to select herbs and superfoods according to the energies of the Taoist Three Treasure system. For this, I am calling upon my two-year study of Chinese herbalism and my acupuncture diploma from UCLA, as well as my work with different Taoist herbalists, as a basis for expanding our nutritional awareness.
The interface of these three treasures (Jing (constitutional vitality), Chi (immediate daily energy), Shen(spirit) help one to select energy intake in the form of foods, supplements, herbs, and superfoods, not merely according to one’s constitution, but also the three basic energies necessary for creating the highest quality of life from a Taoist point of view.
An elegant analogy of the Three Treasures paradigm is to view them as the composite parts of a burning candle. Jing, as essence and physical substance, is symbolized as the wax and wick of the candle. The density and quality of the candle determines how long it will burn (i.e. how long one will live in wellness). Chi, as energy and metabolism, is symbolized as the candle’s flame. It creates light, but also heat that melts the wax and burns the wick of the candle. Balancing Chi is essential for regulating how fast the Jing is burned up. Finally, Shen, as spirit, including presence, wisdom and spiritual understanding, is symbolized by the candle’s light. This is the light of consciousness that we are ever seeking, in the context of expanding the energy of Shen. This is the guiding light and context for individualizing your dietary choices and lifestyle. If your goal is simply more energy, and improving athletic or sexual performance, this approach can also be used to optimize your approach.
You can see by this analogy that the Three Treasures must be regulated and guided in an intelligent way for optimal support of your life purpose. If the wax and wick (Jing) are weak, only a small flame (Chi) with mediocre light (Shen) will be produced. If the flame (Chi) is too strong it will shine much light (Shen), but only briefly, as it quickly consumes the wax and wick (Jing). The light (Shen) is obviously dependent upon the quality of the flame (Chi), while the quality of the flame (Chi) determines the quality and longevity of the wax and wick (Jing). Considering that my primary motivation and life purpose is spiritual development and enlightenment, I recognize that we must cultivate Shen by conserving Jing and balancing Chi. This may or may not be your agenda, so this system can be focused to serve your personal ends. My list of twenty-two top herbs, supplements, and superfoods can help you find your balance as a unique individual.
Jing (Primordial Lifeforce and Constitutional Energy)
Jing energy is similar to the Vedic ojas. It is the energy of our reproductive force, our basic seed energy, and the genetic strength we pass to future generations. Jing is housed in the kidneys, adrenals, testes, and ovaries. It is theorized that it comes out in the lower dantian, in the area slightly lower than the solar plexus. Jing has two levels: We are born with ‘prenatal’ or ‘primordial’ jing. It is our natural, constitutional, primordial strength. Our ‘postnatal’ jing is superficial and is conditional upon the quality of our environment, lifestyle, and food choices. We have the most effect on our post-natal jing through diet.
Jing is the essence of our deep health, youthfulness, and our ability to function and reproduce in the world. It allows us to handle life’s stresses and challenges. Prenatal jing, when depleted from toxic lifestyle, is difficult to rebuild. It takes years of a live-food lifestyle to begin to build it up, after depleting it through abuse. Post-natal or superficial jing, on the other hand, can be built up through the use of herbs, live-food, structured water, and living the Six Foundations and Sevenfold Peace. The primary yin jingherb is goji berry.
Chi (Immediate Vital Lifeforce)
Chi is the vital lifeforce we use for our daily energetic needs. Chi is the force behind talking, eating, digestion, and all metabolic functions. Chi is located in the realm of the middle jiao region of the stomach, spleen, and liver. Chi comes from food and oxygen metabolization. It is one step above jingand protects it. Chi is also depleted by toxic lifestyle and poor diet. When this occurs we feel fatigued and worn out. If that chi is not reestablished by chi-building foods and exercises, we begin to use up our jing. This results in the degeneration of our health.
When these jing and chi energies are added together, combined with a strong constitution and a Culture of Life and Liberation lifestyle, we can continue to cultivate our chi and live a long, healthy, and spiritually expansive life. Strong chi helps us to assimilate nutrients from our food, such as minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. The bioavailability of nutrients is determined by the amount of chi we have. In other words a strong chi empowers our digestion. The most powerful chi-building herb is ginseng and second to that is the goji berry.
From my perspective on Spiritual Nutrition, we are each put here to reach our highest spiritual potential. Because of this, for me Shen is the most important of the Three Treasures. Shen is the essence of spiritual nutrition. It is the foundation that allows our spirit to ascend and the kundalini to awaken and unfold. Shen is often considered the ability to access spiritual awareness. Strong jing and chi are necessary to help our body become a superconductor for the Divine. Shen helps us detoxify and strengthen our body and expand the mind and consciousness to become a superconductor for the Divine.
As I pointed out in 1987, becoming a superconductor for the Divine is the goal of our spiritual nutrition and lifestyle. Shen is this state of expanded awareness. Enhancing Shen is the essence of Spiritual Nutrition. As Taoist masters taught, without spiritual purpose, there is a lack of depth, quality, meaning, and value in life. This is why I teach that the purpose of life is not longevity, but that, properly used, longevity can create an opportunity to expand our consciousness and our knowledge of God as our primary life purpose or dharma. These herbs, nutrients, and superfoods can help us to more easily ascend to the Throne of God. While we cannot eat our way to God, a healthy and conscious dietary lifestyle can enhance our way. The most powerful herb for building and expanding shen is reishi mushroom.
For a lucid discussion of Taoist Three Treasure theory, I recommend the book Healing Thresholds by Dean “Rehmannia” Thomas. I also recommend Ron Teeguarden’s books on Chinese tonic herbalism.