Monday, April 4, 2011


Qi (see pronunciation above), is the life force that moves us all. Qi inhabits everything from bodies to boulders, lives in the air and underwater, makes leaves green and flowers bloom. Without Qi, there is no life.

The Chinese believe that Qi flows uninterrupted through the body, from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Any blockage of Qi flow results in sickness of the body, where the Qi is deterred from its natural path.

On a larger scale, Qi flow in nature and spaces is as important as through the body. The four Earthly elements – Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, govern this type of Qi. Earth, with its magnetic core, attracts; fire destroys, water purifies and wind cleanses. This concept is addressed by the use of Feng Shui – literally Wind and Water, with ‘feng’ being wind and ‘shui’ being water. Any blockage of energy flow through a space results in misfortune and poor deeds for the dwellers of that space. That is why some people sometimes get ‘good vibes’ or ‘bad vibes’ when they go places.

Of late, people have gotten rich from Feng Shui consultations. Before the economic meltdown, that is. Not sure how feng shui practitioners are faring nowadays.

George Lucas ran away with the idea and underscored the concept of Qi perfectly in Star Wars. Who doesn’t remember “Let the Force be with you”? As I understand it, that ‘force’ is Qi, or the Tao. Did he do so purposely and knowingly, or did it just come to him with no conscious connection whatsoever to the mystical?

There are many references to ‘The Force’, A.K.A. Qi throughout English literature. Lewis Carroll expounded on the principles of Qi in the Alice in Wonderland series. A. A. Milne unwittingly (or knowingly?) exposed the West to the concept of the Tao through his character Winnie the Pooh. Everyone’s favorite bear, along with his cohorts, Tigger, Piglet and Eyeore used complex philosophical ideas as a basis for their various stories and adventures. There is even a book out called The Tao of Pooh, written by Benjamin Hoff. Just in case you need Winnie the Pooh’s and the 100-Acre Wood’s philosophies spelled out for you.

References to Qi are not limited to movies and literature, although the references in those media are countless. There are also allusions to Qi in music: the group Earth, Wind and Fire; the song Silent Lucidity by Queensryche and more than one song by Dave Matthews Band… just for example.

Massage, acupressure and acupuncture are yet other manifestations of Qi. The philosophy is that, if energy flow through the body is blocked, massage will encourage it to resume along its rightful path. If you have ever had a massage, you might have noticed how the masseuse works from your torso to your extremities, and makes motions as though to pull strings out of your fingertips and toes. You may even have felt as though strings were being pulled out of your fingertips and toes. Those are allegedly trails of energy that the masseuse is encouraging to flow. And, doesn’t a good masseuse encourage you to relax and drink plenty of water after a massage? Of course! That would be to encourage freshly revived energy to keep flowing.

Acupressure encourages the suppression of blockage in your body so that Qi can overwhelm it and acupuncture will redirect Qi flow around the blockage until that blockage resolves and heals itself.

I am a firm believer in the concepts of Qi and Feng Shui. Before I actively studied such ideas I instinctively kept my dwelling’s spaces clear for proper energy flow. I meditated and have maintained good posture all of my life. I tried to keep a peaceful mindset… but that is a bit difficult when you live a troubled life.

When I did start studying these concepts in college, it was not actually Qi and Feng Shui that I studied but the Tao, in both my Philosophy and World Religion classes. The Tao is the life force that moves everything. It inhabits everything, like God but, unlike God, it is not a thinking and sentient entity, and does not care specifically about people.

I have personal reason to be a firm believer in these concepts. After suffering from unendurable back pain since an industrial accident years ago, and incapacitating bouts of plantar fasciitis in my left foot, I decided to try acupuncture. That was another one of those times where I had one of those epiphanies, like I did when my mind suddenly dredged up ‘anaphylactic shock’ while I was gasping for breath at 2AM (see Plain Stir entry). Because I’ve been having them for so long, I have come to trust those intuitive leaps so I sought out the ministrations of an acupuncturist while still living Stateside.

Lo and behold! After a mere seven sessions, both my back and my foot were cured! Actually, after the first session I could bend over and touch my toes without lower back pain and I could walk normally. The other six sessions were perhaps actually corrective in nature and only the first session redirected energy flow.

I don’t know exactly how it works, but it works. I was completely sold on acupuncture after feeling the effects of it on my foot and back. When I saw that acupuncture could also cure thyroid disease, I worked with my acupuncturist to cure that problem. I had suffered from a low thyroid condition for years, popping a pill every day and submitting to blood tests every 3 months to make sure my hormone levels stayed where they are supposed to.

Again success! Only 12 sessions and I was done taking pills! Presumably, some sort of past emotional trauma blocked energy flow at my throat, affecting my thyroid. The needles, inserted at the crown of my head, and in my belly and calves directed energy flow. The needles in my ears stimulated endocrine activity.

Believe? Don’t believe? Entirely your choice. I believe, because experience and study show me it is a concept worth believing in. Not only my personal experiences, but 5,000 years of continuous civilization – as long as Chinese society has been around… surely they know something of healing and philosophy, right?

Of course, the thought of acupuncture crossed my mind when I was so sick a few weeks back. Surely something was blocking my Qi and making me so ill! While I pondered how to find an acupuncturist and, once I did, how I would make him/her understand what was wrong with me, my students and friends were all suggesting that I drink more hot water. As you know from reading that entry (see ‘Drink More Hot Water’) I got very aggravated with that suggestion, not understanding how hot water was going to help cure me.

A few days ago, Sam finally told me why everyone from the campus doctor to the pharmacist down the road kept pouring hot water down my throat – figuratively, of course. Presumably, hot water helps clear energy pathways within the body and allows proper Qi flow. If I am sick, hot water will help clear the problem and allow my Qi to flow unimpeded again.

And now you know why I write of this topic. I did not want you to wonder why everyone and their uncle thought hot water was the cure-all for anything any longer than you had to.

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