In Chinese Medicine, there are two basic energetic imbalances: empty and full. You may also call this deficient and stagnant, or other suitable words. In very simple terms, you either have too much of something… or you have something missing (not enough of something).

The same is true in spiritual healing, as well as many other modalities if you sort of break them down to their most basic considerations.

Considering Excess

There can be an excess of something, creating stagnation, blockage, and pain. These are areas of your body that you are likely to feel pain. In fact, if you do feel pain, it means that there is stagnation there. There is energy that needs to be dispersed, basically.

The easiest way to talk about this is physically, as if your hip hurts or your stomach hurts, there is an excess condition going on. Something needs to be moved, released, cleared…

But this also happens all the time mentally. Thinking the same thoughts over and over? Have the same beliefs come up? Do you say the same thing to yourself or others again and again? Those are the clearest examples of our stagnant (and excess) thoughts. The things that we say to ourselves and others repeatedly are often actually not true. Otherwise we wouldn’t need to repeat them to ourselves (or others) so much. We would have accepted them, accepted them as an undeniable part of our constructed reality, and moved on. The fact that we are repeating them so much indicates that on some level we understand that the thoughts are problematic, or may not be as true as we wish them to be.

We also have a lot of excess/stagnant/stockpiled emotions. I always suggest to people that when they get angry, or sad, or (insert emotion here) to notice if they are reacting appropriately for the situation, or if they are getting five, ten, or eight hundred times more angry than the situation warrants. Because if you are, that signifies that you have that emotion stockpiled within you.

To put this simply, you should get upset if someone crashed into your car. Especially if they were on their cell phone, if they were tailgating you, or all of the stupid things that people tend to do while driving. Anger is an appropriate emotion to feel, as all emotions are. We are not meant to be numb, expressionless zombies (or happy or in bliss all the time, even if we are “spiritual”). But one person may get angry and cool off like a rational adult and another may start trying to fight the other driver, screaming and ranting until they get a migraine.

We also have stagnant or excess spiritual conditions. This can be anything from having spiritual attachments or something going on (something that is not “us” that is interacting with our system). People make a big deal out of things like spiritual attachments, but really we pick up so much energy from our day (such as thoughts, emotions, imprints, and so forth from others) that is much more important for us to clear. Especially if we are sensitive. Especially if we interact with a lot of people on a regular basis (even if we are not sensitive). And especially if we do any sort of spiritual exploration/work. This is why there is a section devoted to this in my book, Shamanic Workbook I, as most people do not know how to properly clear or cleanse themselves.

Other spiritual “excess” conditions include a feeling of being stuck. This can manifest in a lot of ways, but most people can relate to feeling blocked, or feeling as if they should have moved forward in some capacity in their lives, and they are not doing so.


Most people feel really comfortable with cleansing.

Cleansing is incredibly important. It really is. I consider it a sort of vital, lost skill that is not being taught properly nowadays.

But it can also feed into our puritanical notions about ourselves. Our maybe-not-so-discovered-as-of-yet religious undertones of self-flagellation that we are acting out. Our ideas that there is something wrong with us. It also tends to feed into what I call in my Spiritual Awakening Guide book The Destroyer, which is our basic atavistic/primal/violent instincts towards ourselves.

I always note that in my experience the people most in need for gentle, nourishing forms of cleansing always choose the harshest baths and cleansing methods.

Generally, people who believe that they have so much to cleanse off of themselves are often not in need of cleansing (or are in need of some cleansing, but gentle loving cleansing, not harsh cleansing that feeds into trauma and feelings of creating further suffering for the Self).


They are in need of nurturing.

In the other half of this equation (empty vs. full; deficient vs. stagnant) there is the understanding that there are parts of ourselves that are “empty”.

This is not a physical emptiness (although it can be, as a physical gallbladder that was taken out does create energetic emptiness, for example) but typically a trauma response.

This means that a part of ourselves was overwhelmed and energetically left. It may also mean that energetically we may have always had a part of ourselves “missing” (which we would then need ancestral/family, past life, and/or in utero work to heal).

A part of us that is “missing” or “empty” always happens as a result of trauma, and it really is because there is some part of us that didn’t receive the nurturing that we needed at some point in our timeline.

Whether this was at infancy, or as a teenager, or even as an adult, when we are traumatized not only do we disassociate (energetically/mentally/etc) but those parts of ourselves never mature. They are locked in whatever stage, whatever age, that they became “missing”… whatever age they needed nurturing.


If you understand this concept, you start to look at the world in a new way. 

By this I mean that you can look at people and see what age they were traumatized, what age they missed being nurtured appropriately to see that stage through to fruition.

The screaming infant, the temper tantrum two year-old, the ten year old who wants everyone to look at them, the teenager who gossips and backbites and belittles everyone around them. The twenty something who knows everything, the thirty something who is first understanding death and disease and how short life is (and so forth).

I also always ask people to notice what happens when they get “triggered”– what age they are acting from. It is good insight as to what age an aspect of themselves has not been nurtured appropriately. It points to an obvious need for healing at that age, which would allow for that part of them to be “filled”… the emptiness to be “filled” from that age… and for that part to complete that cycle and be integrated into “adult” you.

Basically, we should all be our current age. But we are not. We are filled with screaming toddlers and nihilistic youths and teenagers who seek to create entropy again and again out of their misguided needs for attention, healing, and proper nurturing.

Those parts of us do not need to be “cleared”, or “removed”, or excised from us in any way. We should, in fact, not be harsh with these parts of ourselves at all. Because those parts of ourselves need nurturing, not more harsh words and inconsiderate glances and being misunderstood yet again.

Being harsh with these aspects of ourselves only fuels them: it fuels their belief that they are separate, misunderstood, and not getting what they actually need. So they continue to act out, or might act out in more and more detrimental ways. 


Simultaneous Fullness and Emptiness

So the difficulty of talking about two simple and contrary basic patterns (empty and full) is always that things are not that simple. One engenders the other. One mixes with the other. Both are present at the same time.

For example, if you look at something as seemingly simple as somewhere in your body that you chronically have pain (a hip, let’s say), you would clearly define it as “excess” and something that needs to be cleared.

But our pain, especially our chronic pain, is likely to come from deficiency, from something missing, from a part of our bodies and/or our selves not being present there. The stagnation comes (and the pain then comes) because it is gathering in that emptiness. It is naturally drawn to that emptiness, in fact.

This can get a lot more complicated, by the way. For example, spiritual “excess” conditions (such as spirit attachments) tend to happen more to people who are more fractured– they have more “missing” out of their energy bodies. This is not to blame (as many new-agers tend to do), but to state that not only does something need to be “removed” (if it is in fact there, and not a creation of a too-fractured mind projecting) but then healing needs to be done to fill that emptiness. Healing emptiness may be required to get someone over the delusions that they have created that something is constantly chasing or attacking them.

Whether that be something like the ever-popular “soul retrieval” or “body part retrieval” or something like bringing awareness of lost power, past life healing, ancestral healing, family lineage healing, and matrix/blueprint repair, it is up to a professional spiritual worker to (hopefully) carefully discern the entire imbalance, and not just remove the “excess”.

I will also say that for a lot of people who are feeling blocked in their lives it is not due to a pure “excess” pattern. We tend to try to break through what we perceive blocking our path, blowing it up with spiritual dynamite. We struggle against what we perceive to be blocking us, we power through, we yell and shout and tell it that we are going to force our way through such things.

Most often blocks from a spiritual level are a protective mechanism. 

They are there for a reason. A reason that you may not be consciously be aware of, but a reason all the same. These blocks do not need to be told how horrible they are, or to be powered through. They need to be understood, and compassionately.

Because they likely are coming from a place of protecting an “emptiness” within us that is looking for nurturing. They are likely from a specific age and time that didn’t receive nurturing. And if we can respond with kindness, with listening, instead of an adversarial approach, we will get further.

The difficulty with the “nurturing” part of the equation is that many of us have never experienced the type of safe nurturing during the infancy stage that will set us up to receive nurturing readily.

This means that when we are in utero and in our infancy stage, we are learning what nurturing is. We are entirely reliant on others to care for us and attend to our needs. This is talked a lot about psychologically (I am partial to Erickson’s stages here, where he talks about this stage of life being trust vs. mistrust); during this stage we basically learn through our parents if the world is a safe place or not. If we are not nurtured appropriately, we cannot believe that the world will nurture us appropriately.


Spiritually, a matrix forms from our relationships in early childhood and infancy, specifically with our mothers. This blueprint, based on the nurturing that we received (or did not receive) and we generally are able and willing to receive exactly the amount of nurturing from the world and the people in it as we energetically received from our parents in early childhood.

Which, for many of us, means that we hugely mistrust the world and everyone in it. We do not believe that anyone will nurture us, not even ourselves.

This leads to a lot of selfish, “me-first” type behaviors that we so readily see in the world these days.

Many of us truly believe that it is us against the world, and we have this set up matrix from early childhood that allow for us to perpetuate and create this belief (and its effects) again and again that not only can we not be nurtured, but that it may in fact be dangerous to be nurtured by others (or even ourselves).

The first step in working with nurturing is always self-nurturing. Learning to nurture yourself, and those places within you that missed out on such nurturing, is hard to do when you are used to being harsh with yourself. But it will start to fill up those places within, and change that matrix ever-so-slightly so that the possibility of receiving nurturing from others, including healers who can assist with early childhood mentally as well as spiritually (including ancestrally and blueprint work, which is missing from a lot of healing work), to shift that matrix so that those who are ready can receive nurturing from the self and the world… as well as change beliefs about others and the world to begin to allow the Self, the Earth, and others to bring in much needed nurturing and love that is sustaining and ultimately fills the individual who has healed their matrix/blueprint and “inner children” enough to experience it.

Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author. Find out more about body-based healing in her book, The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body