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What about Qi?

February 26th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to the idea that Qi (ch’i) or Qigong (ch’i kung) is magic. I think that something as old as Qigong, or as natural as Qi, is no more magical than life itself. Now it’s nice to be in awe of life and nature, but I find it more useful to be grateful and respectful.  To me, something real can be magical only as long as it’s a novelty. Yes, childbirth is a miracle, magical, but you might get two different opinions from a first-time pregnant mom-to-be and a mother giving birth to her seventh child.

Also, being in awe of something distances us from it. Along those lines, a friend of mine once referred to specific artists and writers as “gods”. Given that my friend is extremely intelligent, dynamic and creative, I felt that he was selling himself short, and if I recall, I told him so. As long as he thinks of these men as gods, he’ll never be as good as them. However, if he sees that they are just men, possessing talent and perseverance in some measure, he’ll see that their accomplishments are possible, given an adequate mix of talent, perseverance and luck.

If you’ve ever gained new abilities such as those that derive from an increased level of fitness, you’ve found that tasks that might have seemed beyond your reach are now possible, or even trivial. You probably don’t feel like a super-being — things are just easier, as if that ability were always there. Those stairs don’t seem so high. The walk seems shorter.

And Qi is like that. If we think it’s magic, we might never embrace it, and if we do encounter Qi, we might not believe it. If we think it’s a natural part of life, we’re more likely to embrace it and learn to use it. And it will seem quite natural, as if it were always there.

So what do I think Qi is?

I think it’s the thing that drives natural processes, such as blood circulation or muscular movement. We see it by studying those processes, not unlike the way we study wind forces by measuring the movement of air.

(In fact, I’d venture to say that we never measure the forces of the universe, we only measure their effects. Then we calculate the forces.  Physicists, please feel free to comment.)

The Chinese say that the Yi leads the Qi. This means that by concentrating the mind (Yi), we can increase the amount of energy (Qi) in a part of the body. It is the mind that moves the limbs, but also the mind that makes us sick or dizzy. Imagine your greatest fear, and check in with your physical response. Me, I imagine standing on the edge of a great precipice, and my body often reacts the same way whether I’m there or not.

Now … can we send Qi across a room? Does it flow down streets and stagnate in a bathroom with bad Feng Shui? I don’t know. One thing at a time. If, under favorable conditions, I can turn my hands pink by concentrating my mind, I’m happy for now.

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  1. March 6th, 2009 at 22:35 | #1

    Chi is a very interesting topic and I commend you for tackling it.

    My own understanding is not at all mystical and is somewhat in line with your opinions.

    I believe Chi is another name for the bioelectric energy that is always present in our body. I believe that our Tai Chi and LHBF practices allow our bodies to be more healthy and allow the free flow of this life energy. I am personally convinced that with practice we can help improve the flow of this life force and may indeed be able to harness and control it. You can call it what you like, but I personally don’t think there is anything magical about it.

    Does it flow, certainly, without a doubt. I can control my muscles and my movement. I breath without thinking how, my heart beats without me thinking about it, bodily fluids flow where they should, when they should. Would not this Life Force work the same way? It think it had better work that way or I’d be dead.

    When my blood is sick I can treat it. When my muscles are sore I can help them mend. When I break a bone, my body can mend it. I may be able to assist my body, but I don’t tell it how to fix itself.

    Those who could not understand electricity would likely think it magical that we could even harness that power. The early practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine may not be able to measure the force, just as we can not easily do so today, but they at least had an idea that it flowed through our body and had something to do with feeling healthy.

    So, call it Chi, call it the force, call it anything you like, but never dismiss it. It is there, working in all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not. By working to make ourselves healthier we make it easier for this life force to flow through us. I think it would be silly not to foster an attitude that allows us to be healthy.

    Of course that is only my opinion and my opinion is open to modification. But, whatever we each individually believe, I think there is enough evidence to prove that we can improve our health with Tai Chi and LHBF practices and other such healthful habits.

    May the force be with you!


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