WATCH AND READ
Most of us are now familiar with the idea that our minds and our emotional states largely affect our health. But have you ever thought of how this happens? How does the soul affect the body? Traditional Chinese medicine offers an explanation: “Qi” (pronounced chee, and usually translated as “energy”) circulates in our bodies and acts as a transmitter, an interface, between our body and our soul. Though this mysterious fluid is yet unknown to modern biologists, Qi has been described and theorized by the Chinese for some three thousand years. It is the basis of traditional Chinese medicine: regulating the flow of Qi harmonizes the mind and soothes the body. On the other hand, wild thoughts and unruly emotions disturb the flow of energy, causing physical illness. In the same way, poor hygiene and living habits (poor diet, lack of sports, or over-exertion, etc.) cause disease in the body, disrupting the flow of Qi and affecting the psyche: it works both ways!
In our bodies, Qi, or energy, manifests as vitality, warmth, movement (of the body, the organs, the muscles, the blood, etc.) and consciousness: when a person’s Qi is not flowing properly, they will be too cold or too hot, they will lack vitality, movement will be too slow (for example poor blood circulation, constipation, slow digestion) or too fast (muscle spasms and cramps, nervousness, etc.), or just blocked (pains and aches, cysts, swelling, etc.), and consciousness will be affected: poor memory, sleepiness or insomnia, unpleasant or inadequate emotions such as anxiety, sadness, depression, anger, etc.
However, Qi is not just proper to the human body: the Chinese postulate that everything in the manifested universe is Qi, in one form or another. They talk about the Qi of the Earth, of Heaven, of trees, of animals and of herbs, the Qi of water, of wind, of fire, etc. These energies of the outside world interact with our own energy, modulating our metabolism with the seasons, the weather, the places we visit or inhabit. Knowing how Qi affects our bodies and our minds can thus help us to adjust our metabolisms to the seasons and climates, but also to cure diseases, both physical and psychological, by using plants, herbs, and animals parts or products to make medicine. In fact, the Qi in our bodies can be regulated through several means:
- Pharmacopeia: Chinese medicine uses thousands of herbs (mainly), but also minerals and animal products for their energetic properties.
- Acupuncture: in our bodies, energy is metabolized by our organs, it circulates along specific channels and can be worked on at the surface of the skin at specific “points”, where it is easily accessible. These points can be regulated using tiny needles, massage, cupping, or by heating them (moxibustion).
- Massage and manual techniques, such as Reiki and Shiatsu.
- Yoga, Dao-Yin, Tai Ji Quan, Qi Gong: specific self-healing exercises combining stretching, breathing techniques and visualization to harmonize Qi, body, and mind.
- Meditation works at the root of the problem: the psyche. This slow and gentle practice aims to quiet the mind so it is not so strongly affected by unruly thoughts and emotions. By and by, as we become more familiar with our own mind, we begin to understand it’s functioning, learn to remain focused, and become aware of our mental processes. With time, we are not so easily tricked by our minds: we are do not get so quickly carried away by our thoughts and our emotions, or at least, we learn to regain a quick grip on our minds! As we progress in our meditation, emotional stability manifests in a more harmonious flow of Qi, and thus in better health.