So many people have asked me to explain the basics of Chinese Medicine and other energy based healing systems in a way that’s understandable to the Western mind, that I’d like to share with you what I’ve been privileged to learn about it.
Qi is the name the Chinese use to express universal energy – but because this lifeforce is ineffable, unseeable, and unmeasurable, it isn’t an easy story to tell. Qi (also called Ki, Prana, etc.) is the cornerstone of all the medical miracles I’ve witnessed in Chinese, Tibetan, Hindu, African, Native American and Shamanic medicine, and it’s the gateway to a larger understanding of many other mysteries of the Universe, so I’d like to try as best I can, to make the concept palatable for the Western mind. The poetic Chinese, knowing the ephemeral nature of the Qi concept, call this Grasping the Wind.
The Dance of Life
In ancient cultures – Chinese, Tibetan, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, African, Native American, etc. – energy has been meticulously studied for millennia. Each country has its own name for this invisible life force, but the basic truth is always the same: there’s a force in the Universe that animates us and the earth… an electromagnetic force-field that can be understood, studied, enhanced or depleted – and, amazingly, can be manipulated for our wellbeing.
Unfortunately for us in the western world, the seemingly unquantifiable nature of this invisible energy has made our scientists skeptical of its very existence. Other cultures, more ancient than our own, have no such reticence, so they’re way ahead of us in knowledge. They know that Qi is the force that animates all – thus it’s impossible in traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Native American or Hindu medicine, to separate the body, mind, and spirit from each other, because their individual Qi fields intersect and receive their energetic power from the Universe through the same entry ports in the physical body.
Chakras and Meridians
The Hindus and Tibetans work with a system of energy entry portals called Chakras (or Wheels of Light), while the Chinese chart the course of the Qi’s internal movement, via pathways called Meridians. But both these powerful systems deal with the identical electromagnetic energy currents that power us and the planet. They’re the same energy fields that Quantum Physicists are now trying to fathom and to quantify.
Chinese doctors, martial artists and yogis tap into this force field in order to accomplish physical and mental feats Western Medicine and Western humans consider miraculous. When a Martial Artist breaks a concrete block with his bare hands, or a karate master bests ten opponents simultaneously, or a Yogi is buried alive and emerges days later unscathed, they’re using the power of their Qi, channeled in very specific ways, not merely their physical abilities.
I hold Black Belt rank in Goju Ryu Karate, and practice Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese energy enhancement system, and I’ve studied Chinese Medicine as well as many other energy-based healing systems, so over the years I’ve been privileged to see the truth of Qi’s mysterious powers in action, and to learn to use it in my own life and in the healing modalities I practice.
The Body Electric
It’s easier to grasp the concept of Qi/Energy if you realize that the material essence of our bodies is actually made up of molecules in constant motion. On that one point, Eastern and Western science agree completely. However, in Western Cultures, we’re trained to see ourselves as being solid mass… in other ancient American cultures, the human body is defined as energy in motion, which is in fact, closer to the way in which a physicist sees matter – all structure made up of active atomic particles in a constant molecular dance. In truth, our entire being is made up of tiny electrically charged particles that are powered by a constant energy exchange with the molecular energy of the planet and the universe around us.
Imagine, if you can, that you’re not merely a physical being, replete with flesh, bone, blood, and assorted organs. Picture yourself, instead, as a three dimensional network of electrical circuitry. A glowing, pulsing, complex system of electrical impulses that hums with life-sustaining energy, which is constantly being transported to every centimeter of your being. Like a TV or light bulb, you are plugged in to a powerful energy source. This energy is the Qi, and it’s so accepted a reality in two thirds of the world, that it would be hard for a Hindu, a Native American, a Chinese or a Tibetan to conceive that anyone wouldn’t know of it’s existence.
Imagine that, like your computer, TV or microwave, there are large conductors and infinitesimal ones within your body, each geared to perform a specific function. Like your appliances, you must be plugged into a source of power in order to function – your source is the electro-magnetic energy of the Universe itself. Invisible waves of energy flow into you, through you, out of you, back to the source. The energy cannot be seen, anymore than a radio wave, a microwave or the worldwide web can be seen by the naked eye. But the results are readily visible… you’re alive. And this quality of aliveness can be enhanced by understanding and manipulating the Qi that powers us.
We’re More than Meets the Eye
From a bio-physicist’s point of view, this energy grid isn’t at all implausible. Your brain uses electrical energy… impulses leap over synapses to form thought and provoke movement. Your nervous system uses electrical energy… neuron for neuron, your nervous system is the most complex circuitry on the planet. Chinese, Tibetan, and Hindu medicine merely expand on these accepted bioelectrical phenomena to suggest that there exists within each of us a glowing grid of electrical circuitry which is the “energy matrix” for body, mind and spirit. The energy pulsing through these millions upon millions of circuits is life force or Qi. If an area of the grid goes down, losing its electrical charge, illness will ensue in that area of the body.
Mystics can see the glow this energy produces… they call it an aura. Kirlian photography can actually take a picture of it. Respected Western scientists who are ahead of the curve, like Dr. Valerie Hunt at UCLA, are measuring it quantifiably enough to argue over its componentry with their less enlightened brethren.
The great Asian master Martial Artists have used the power of Qi from time immemorial to perform astounding feats. The Ancient cultures have been working with this bioelectrical energy as the basis for their entire medical systems for thousands of years. Now, august medical establishments like Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and Duke University Medical Center are creating schools of alternative medicine in which energy-based systems like Acupuncture, Qi Gong and Cranio Sacral Therapy will be taught and studied. And they’re doing this, not because they love the notion of embracing a new system, but because so many men and women have discovered the value of Qi on their own, and sought its practitioners, that they’ve created a demand for service that the conventional medical world simply can’t ignore.
The energy related alternatives I’ve studied extensively are Chinese Medicine, Qi Gong, Homeopathy, Cranio Sacral Therapy, Polarity, Martial Arts (internal and external), and Feng Shui. In the next few months I’ll try to explain a bit about each, as the response to my writing about health and healing has been quite amazing.