"Qi flows where attention goes." ~Tai Chi Principle
Qi (pronounced "Chee"). The very word is illusive. We have no English equivalent for it. The Japanese call it "Ki," in India it is referred to as "Prana." The Greeks termed it "Soma." No matter the label, it is a concept that seems vague to the western mind. One that reminds us of deep space, or the undiscovered mysteries of our oceans. We somehow know its there, but we can't quite put our finger on it.
100 years ago, if you told people there were creatures who thrived in the hottest of vents under our ocean, independent of sunlight, no one would believe you. Furthermore, if you described these creatures as SCI-FI looking, almost alien in nature, you would shake your head in disbelief. No need for sunlight to live? "Impossible!" they would say. This is precisely what research vessels for not only the "Cousteau Society," but NOAA have found: creatures who thrive off of temperatures that mimic the hottest of ovens, without need for sunlight, who look like something off of the "Star Trek" movie series.
Now, what if I told you, you were like an onion? "An onion?" you ask. "What?" How can that be? The metaphor of an onion is a good one. An onion is comprised of layers. So, according to ancient philosophy, are all creatures.
We have a physical anatomy, a mental psyche, and an "energy anatomy." In ancient systems of medicine (Tibetan, Ayurvedic, Chinese, Unani, Greek) it is said that "if you take care of the driver of the cart, the horse will be obedient." Likewise, if the "energy anatomy" is treated the physical anatomy can heal at a much faster level.
Let us look more closely at examples of "energy anatomy," from a western perspective. For many centuries, this concept has been hidden in esoteric texts, and amongst elite scholars and sages. I believe a time has come in our world, where this concept is not to be only understood, but utilized for the good of mankind. We can all participate in this process by first defining what "Qi" is, and second, utilizing it to its maximum healing capacity for not only ourselves, but our communities, our families, and our world.
"Energy Anatomy" painting by Alex Grey, grandson of Henry Grey ("Grey's Anatomy"), who composed some of the first anatomical drawings of the human cadaver
Ever heard of the term "Phantom Pain?" When a person has undergone an amputation operation of some kind, he/she may experience pain in the "limb" that was removed. The mind tells the patient that he/she is still whole, with all parts intact, until the mind is shifted to a different reality. This is termed in western bio-medicine as "Psycho-neuro-immunology." An English three letter hyphenated word to describe "Qi." Your mind-body complex is working together at all times, like a driver and horse. Your body is convinced the amputated limb is still there, until it is informed (with repetition) to be convinced otherwise. The feeling of that amputated limb, the fact that the brain is still working in conjunction with the Autonomic Nervous System is the perfect harmonious balance of how "Qi" is expressed in matter.
Ever heard of "Kirlian Photography?" Let us look at what occurs in the following picture when a piece of a leaf is cut.
The upper portion of the leaf was cut (it is black in the photo), yet the plant, when photographed, is still exhibiting a field of "Qi" around itself as if it is still perfectly intact.
You are not unlike this leaf. You have a perfect form of "energy anatomy" that is super-imposed over your physical anatomy like layers of an onion. There is a constant "dialogue" interaction between these two anatomical systems occurring at all times. The conversation is this: You are whole. You were born whole. You will leave this world whole. You mind knows nothing, but to see yourself in a state of perfection. The trick? To convince the conscious mind of what the subconscious already knows.
The problem? We have forgotten our inherent nature. We probe all things outside of us, with expensive technology. As we should. Our world is a glorious and fascinating place, filled with treasures all around us. Yet, we know very little of how to direct our own body ("horse") with our minds ("driver").
It has been said that 9/10ths of our mind is like a submerged iceberg, hidden under the layer of our conscious mind. It is this submerged place that we access "Qi." "Qi" is our greatest healing power, latent within all things. No exceptions. Ancient medical wisdom teaches us that we are our own best doctors. But how to access this illusive "Qi?" By quieting our sympathetic nervous systems, and gaining states of parasympathetic nervous system relaxation. Term this meditation, if you like, but the truth is, you do this when you sleep. In western bio-medicine we know our bodies repair themselves during deep R.E.M. states of sleep. You can do this while awake. And no, you don't need to sit on a meditation cushion for hours on end to access this power within you. In fact, movement can be a powerful catalyst to access "Qi."
In ancient China systems of "moving meditation" formed to access "Qi" while awake. Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and various martial arts were seen to "unify body and mind." In India, this practice has taken place through hatha yoga. Do you need to do yoga or Qi Gong to access "Qi" while awake? Not at all. I've had some of my deepest moments of healing while surfing waves, climbing rocks, swimming, trail-running, hiking, and the like. In fact, a sage in India once said to me "In this age of the world, movement will be the most powerful form of meditation. Stillness on a cushion is becoming a thing of the past." Is this to say that stillness, while sitting on a meditation cushion isn't valuable? Quite the contrary, its a perfect "balance" to what form of movement meditation you choose throughout your day.
A Shaolin Monk, Practicing His Form
The question to ask yourself during your movement hobbies? Do they move my mind into a state of complete focus and present moment awareness? Example: while I'm surfing, all I can think about is spatially what's around me. The waves, my balance (great metaphor, right?), my fellow surfers, the conditions, etc. It puts me into a state of "hyper focus," where I don't have time to think about bills, the past, what I'm having for dinner, etc. Present moment. Just me, my body, and nature. That IS a form of moving meditation. In fact, I've been able to access deeper parts of myself in moving meditation forms than I ever thought possible.
Ever heard of "Runner's High?" It may feel different to every runner, but its a place I experience when the only thing I hear is the synchronous movement of my feet, in tandem with my breath. There are no thoughts in my head when this occurs. Only stillness. Only movement meditation.
Me trail-running through wetlands and old-growth forest in Newport, OR.
I've mentioned the book "Chi Running" in previous blog posts. I'll mention it again. I highly recommend it, if you want to turn your exercise into something other than just to burn calories. Danny Dreyer is an excellent author, and ultra-runner, who puts the concept of moving meditation, together with the practice of running, beautifully.
When we look at the role the "Placebo Effect" has had on studies its quite astonishing. For the mind to be able to convince itself its in a state of healing, when really no substance has been administered, points to something deeper. If we could learn to, each individually, harness the power of our minds to heal our bodies, imagine what effects could come of it? Not only is the power for infinite healing within you, but think of the ripple effects it would have on our world, if we each utilized this ability? To start at a fundamental level, the effect it would have on society and health care costs alone would be incredible.
When you begin to understand what a treasure chest of healing you are, you may begin to tap into your "Qi," or potential. I would invite you to contemplate ways in your life you seek quietness of the mind. Is it a walk on the beach? Climbing a beautiful rock? Running through the forest? Paddling a river? Playing with your child or pets? Listening to a piece of music that makes your heart sing? Whatever gives you a sense of tranquility inside, do that. Do it often. The more you dip into this sense of delight within, the more the waters spring from the well. This well is your power-source. It is your true nature.
Trail-Running Along One Of My Favorite Trails, Stopping At A 7,000 yr. old Native American Hunting Cave
"You Are All Buddhas With Amnesia. You have forgotten your true nature. Wake up to the divinity that lives inside, and you will heal your world." ~Ammachi
Ammachi, with a leper in Bombay, India