Most cultures recognize an animating ‘life force energy’, such as chi, qi, ki, kundalini, n/um, ruach, prana and mana. Life force is very closely related to ‘soul’, and often indicates vitality, original nature, instinct, intuition or inner compass. Another term is ‘spirit’, and I must say, it confused me for a long time how they are related, and how they are different. In this article I explain how I understand the nuances between these terms.
Shamanic paradigms consider ‘spirit’ as the animating life force both in our bodies and in the animist world around us. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this concept is called ‘Qi’, or life force energy. This can be affected by ongoing stress or other health concerns that sap our vitality, but while we live it’s always there.
‘Soul’, in shamanic views, refers to an original essence that makes us who we are. This metaphysical part of us is in direct relationship with the sublime. The soul “continues beyond death and into eternity and into infinity. We could literally say that our soul has a body, much more than saying that our body has a soul” (Villoldo, 2018). This soul essence can be damaged: parts of it can ‘leave’ following traumatic events.
“So it all kind of depends… even in men compared to men, and women compared to women, you would have to have a counterpart to judge something as yin or yang—you are never statically just yin or just yang…”
Elisa Fon is a student of acupuncture, graduating this semester from Yo San University in Santa Monica, CA. She also studies reiki, energy healing, meditation and yoga. Elisa and I have known each other for most of our lives as friends, as one another’s support and as chosen family. Over the last few years, however, we have more consciously fostered an intentional aspect of our intimacy: a challenge to each other to live more authentically, to walk counter-abusively and to live towards physical, spiritual and emotional empowerment. One privilege of this relationship has been the opportunity to create a language together in order to speak across our differences and share our respective passions: feminist theo/alogies (mine) and Chinese medicine/ healing arts (Elisa’s).