The 3 Factors Necessary to Gain New Awareness and Their Traditional Chinese Medicine Complements: Shen, Yi and Zhi

Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. We must learn to see the world anew.” Einstein  


Healing an addiction requires the continuous exploration of new ideas and perspectives. Simply, “We must learn to see the world anew,” again and again. 

How do you do this? 

Specifically, how do you go about gaining new insights on old problems?  


For some people, this can look like:

  • walking in nature

  • sitting meditation

  • running

  • reading/taking in new information

  • any well defined workout in which you do not have to think about the exercise but rather can perform it on “automatic pilot”

  • yoga

  • Tai Chi or Qi Gong

  • writing morning pages / journaling

  • praying in a house of worship

  • reading a “daily mediation” book and sitting with the information


While all of these activities can be used to gain insight, they also can be just what they appear to be: a regular exercise. 

So, what makes the difference between “just an exercise” and allowing you to “See the world anew?”


The 3 Factors

There are three factors that separate these activities from normal to insightful.  They also provide the ingredients necessary to achieve dependable and reproducible results.

They are:

  • Intention

  • Focus

  • Surrender


Intention: When you set a clear intention at the onset of the activity, you are asking “the Universe” (or whatever you want to call this concept) to provide you with an answer.  You are making a bold request and expect to “hear something back”. It may not be what you think it will be, and it rarely ever is, but this surprise is what infuses a fresh outlook upon this old issue.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this relates to the Shen, which loosely translates as the aspect of spirit that shines out and is expressed through the eyes. When you make this kind of a clear intention, your Shen is illuminating into the Tao, the Universe, and will be reflected back to you in a language that you can understand and relate to your situation.


Focus: Maintaining focus during this exercise develops particular mental muscles of discipline. Usually when one employs focus, it is upon one specific task.  Not here. This requires being able to apply your focus to several tasks at the same time.

For example, if you’re performing Tai Chi for insight, you focus upon performing the physical movements correctly, you focus upon coordinating the breath with the movement, you focus upon any thoughts and/or emotions that arise, if you are spiritual you can simultaneously focus upon connecting to your spiritual help, all of this is done while you are also focusing upon your intention and at the same time, focusing upon being receptive to any and all information coming in.

In TCM, focus is called Yi. When it goes wrong, the pathological condition of Rumination takes over. In this state, the Yi is turned inward, which does not allow for any new information to enter.  It's using the same thinking that created the problem to try and solve the problem. No good. It's like a record stuck in a groove of thinking and action but at the same time attempting to find new results. It just doesn't work.

By focusing on the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual all at the same time, you are breaking the Rumination loop. You are increasing your skills to focus in a new way, which improves your ability to perform, which allows you to expand your capacity to receive. 

And in order to receive something new, you need to employ the third factor: 


Surrender: For new information to come in, there first needs to be a letting go. Regardless of whether you view this Surrender from a spiritual or psychological perspective, (we examine the differences in these points of view in AR’s Lesson of the Week: Link) a conscious decision must be made.

With regard to this specific topic, it has become obvious that whatever you’ve been doing is just not working. In TCM, there is the Zhi, or will, which can adhere to Fear and is concerned with being hurt. When you Surrender, you allow the adherence to this Fear to take a break.  It is not labeled wrong or judged as bad, you are just making a conscious decision to Surrender this Zhi, for at least the duration of the exercise. From this choice, a new, better and ultimately healing perspective is invited in and allowed to take its place.



Try applying these three factors to whichever methods appeal to you.  By entering with Intention, maintaining Focus and releasing into Surrender, the powerful Medicine of Awareness becomes fully available.




In Alchemist Recovery, one method we use to gain new insights is the guided Journey. I offer a sample here for you to experience LINK

Feel free to undertake it yourself and/or pass it on to anyone you feel may want to check it out. 

And if inclined, please share your thoughts, feelings and experiences in the comments here or on the Alchemist Recovery's Facebook page.


In Spirit,

Randy Lyons