To begin at the very beginning, then, what is qigong (pronounced "cheegong")?
I always say to my patients, "Qigong is like cooking. Just try following the recipe, and you'll find that you can cook." You can't measure taste with a machine or express it in numbers, but you can experience it for yourself and know, without any doubt, what it is. Likewise, you develop your qi ability through the "qi feeling" that is as sharp and real as any of your other senses. When your ability is sufficiently developed, you will be able to evaluate your own level, as well as other people's levels.
When you have trained for a long time in the martial arts, you become accustomed to sizing up an opponent before a match, using all your powers of observation and intuition to try to appraise his actual condition and power. Although animals are equipped with this basic survival instinct, humans don't have much of an opportunity to use it anymore, in the modern world. However, when you want to learn something quickly, experimenting is often very useful, and can sometimes lead you to a shortcut. The best way to familiarize yourself with the qi world is to experience and release qi yourself. I think of myself not as a teacher, but as something like a chef with a fair amount of experience in "cooking with qi." My role, as I see it, in this book is simply to guide you and show you how to handle qi with confidence.
Qigong arose from the martial arts, the field of medicine, esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Yoga. To establish my own qigong method, I discarded all the more doctrinaire parts of these traditions and retained only the practical techniques for development of mind and body.
The qigong contained in this book is based on the martial arts, which I have practiced for a long time; Chinese medicine, which I have spent many years studying in my work as a physician; Xian-Dao, one of the original sources of Chinese medicine; psychosomatics, which I have studied with great interest since I was in medical school; the ascetic exercises of esoteric Buddhism; and the theories of transper-sonal psychology and parapsychology. I borrowed elements from all these traditions, and used all that I have learned in my studies and practice with patients and friends, in creating my system of qi healing.
A Living Energy Field
Electric eels have electromagnetic fields around their bodies that they use to catch their prey. In 1958 Dr. Lissman of Cambridge University surprised people when he was able to catch a fish using a magnet.
While studying freshwater fish in Africa, he came upon a specimen of knife fish that measured 1.6 meters in length. The doctor placed a powerful horseshoe-shaped magnet on the surface of the water and the fish swam toward it. When the doctor moved the magnet the fish followed after (Figure 1-1).
Lissman investigated further, and found that this kind of fish produces an electromagnetic field around its body. The fish was intermittently releasing three to five volts, at frequencies of up to 300 times per second. The fish also showed a great sensitivity to electrical charge, and reacted to even minuscule changes in electric potential. Many electric fish are now known to be surrounded by an electromagnetic field that they use to catch prey, communicate with one another, or protect themselves from predators.
Animals including pigeons, bees, sharks, and dolphins seem to have biological magnets in their bodies, which they use to receive magnetic information from the environment.
What about human beings? In 1961, Robert O. Becker, M.D., a
Knife fish are known to produce an electromagnetic field around their bodies.
pioneer in the study of electrical currents in living things, discovered that the magnetic storms of the sun cause disorders in the earth's magnetic field. This in turn was found to worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia in people who suffer from the disease.
Today, magnetic disorder is known to be closely correlated with poor functioning of the autonomic nervous system and aggravation of diseases of the heart and circulatory system, stomach ulcers, and rheumatism. Experiments with mice show that when these animals are completely isolated from the magnetic field, they die within six months. It has also been reported that the brain waves of monkeys adjust quickly to any change in the rhythms of the environmental electromagnetic field, and that these brain wave changes are accompanied by behavioral changes as well.
It is possible to determine whether electromagnetic energy is being released from the body at any given time, by means of a superconducting quantum interference device. This device, which provides magnetic diagrams of the brain and heart, on the basis of electric phenomena, is sometimes used in the study of brain diseases or psychic functioning. All living creatures seem to sense and also to form electromagnetic fields around them, although they are likely not to be aware of these processes.
Harold Saxton Burr, professor of anatomy at Yale University, has conducted brilliant studies on the electromagnetic fields of living creatures. In his experiments, using a simple instrument consisting of vacuum tubes, he discovered that the skin of various animals—including the helminth, the hydra, and the giant salamander—produces a slight electric potential. In addition, he hung a voltameter from a tree which registered changes in the energy field occurring in response to conditions of light, humidity, storms, sunspots, and the waxing and waning of the moon.
Burr notes, "Animals and plants are essentially electric. They show different voltage when they engage in different forms of ordinary biological behavior." He studied the energy in various life forms and reported on the bioelectric character of such basic processes as menstruation, ovulation, sleep, growth, illness, and healing. He emphasized that an energy field surrounds—like a larger and intangible skin—every living creature, helping to maintain its biological structure.
Isn't it time that we began to research and expand on his studies, using today's more refined measuring instruments? We human beings have never been surrounded by so much electromagnetic energy as we are at this point in history. Today we also face unprecedented electromagnetic pollution. Pregnant women working with video or computer monitors run an increased risk of miscarriage or of having a stillborn baby or one suffering from birth defects.
The practice of qigong increases our sensitivity to the electromagnetic field. When you have been practicing for some time, you may find, for instance, that if you sit in front of a large television screen or transformer for many hours, you can feel the negative effect it is having on your qi flow. Master Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, is said to have disliked taking trains. His sensitivity and susceptibility must have been so great that he could feel electromagnetic disturbances that are imperceptible to ordinary people.
The Pineal Gland as a Sensor of Qi
How, and with which parts of their bodies, do living creatures sense changes in the electromagnetic field? Here I would like to introduce an interesting experiment: A tiny electrode was inserted into the pineal gland of the exposed brain of a guinea pig, and a helmholtz coil was set around the animal's head. We then created an artificial magnetic field, and checked the reaction of the nerve cells in the pineal gland. The amount of electric discharge was seen to change with changes to the magnetic field (Figure 1-2). This reaction was visible only in the pineal gland, leading us to deduce that the pineal gland reacts to the magnetic field.
Magnetic stimulation causes a change in the electric discharge from the pineal gland.
Change in electric discharge is measured.
Change in electric discharge is measured.
The pineal gland is a small structure projecting from the midbrain (diencephalon) to the back in vertebrates (Figure 1-3). In fish, amphibians, and reptiles, it is thought to play a role in response to light. It secretes a hormone called melatonin and controls the function of reproduction. In birds, the pineal gland controls circadian rhythms and is probably involved in their flight navigation by providing information on the direction of the sunlight and the magnetism of the earth.
on the forehead) is thought to interact with the pineal gland. This acupuncture point is known as Ajina-Chakra in Yoga, and Hui-Yan, meaning "discerning eyes," in the philosophy known as Xian Dao (a form of Taoism). This so-called "third eye" is a very important element in qigong training. Practicing these qigong exercises will make it possible to let qi in or out with a qi ball through the Ajina-Chakra by stimulating this point.
Discover the small universe within you. All living creatures have their own energy fields, and not only receive electromagnetic energy from various sources but are also unconsciously influenced by this kind of energy. There is in fact a way to prove the existence of this energy, which should easily convince even people who are not familiar with qigong.
Sudden changes in muscle strength occur can be caused not only by physical or chemical stimuli applied to the body but also by more subtle stimuli or information that is not normally perceived by the ordinary senses. The test that I call the "Reflection of Qi Muscle Power" is based on this phenomenon (for a more detailed discussion of this test, see Chapter VII, "Kinesiology"). In Western countries, it is known that an immediate decrease in muscle strength follows the application of light pressure to an unwell part of the body, and kinesology is adapted as supplemental diagnosis.
What exactly is meant by the phrase "reflection of qi muscle power" ? When the subtle energy of the body, or qi energy, is activated and promoted, an accompanying increase in muscle power is also seen. By contrast, when qi energy declines or stagnates, muscle power decreases. Anything can serve as a stimulus and influence qi. The mechanism of "muscle reflection" is not yet totally understood, but it is a recurring phenomenon, and we can vividly sense the existence of qi and can also do research to facilitate our further understanding.
1. The patient forms a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand.
2. The tester grips the patient's hand firmly.
3. The tester then grips the patient's index finger. At that point the patient must increase his or her finger power to maintain the circle; the tester pulls on the circle in an effort to gauge the amount of force required to pull the circle apart.
Try performing the test under each of the following conditions:
1. With the patient's other hand held close to a computer screen that has been switched on;
2. With a magnet attached to the patient's hand or body;
3. With some medicine placed on the patient's body. For example, try the test first with one aspirin tablet placed on the pit of the patient's stomach, and then try it again with two or three tablets; and
4. With a cellular phone that has been switched on held in the patient's other hand. The test should be done first with the patient's arm stretched straight out, and then several more times, each time with the arm pulled in about ten centimeters closer to the ear.
Most patients show a reduction in finger strength after performing this test.
If you are a practitioner of qigong or the martial arts, try the Reflection of Qi Muscle Power test again immediately after practice. Most
people find that training does not significantly reduce finger power. In fact I believe that training in qigong or the martial arts actually stimulates the circulation of qi and of the blood, helping to prevent the qi stagnation that can result from exposure to negative or unhealthy stimuli.
The results of the Reflection of Qi Muscle Power test differ from one individual to another. Results are also clearer for some people than for others. The tests that I have conducted on many people suggest that people who lead a healthy life and have a positive attitude toward the future seem to show more obvious reactions. Some people tend not to show any clear results from this testing; this group often includes people suffering from stress or exhaustion, as well as those who insist on following only the old and established scientific models.
The results of the Reflection of Qi Muscle Power test are reproducible as an input system of qi information, and this test is also very effective as a way of achieving greater qi power. This test is crucial for those who want to increase their powers of perception through qigong.
Even among physicians practicing Western medicine, there is increasing recognition of the effectiveness of stimulating the acupuncture points with a needle, particularly since a method for administering anesthesia by acupuncture was devised. Medical science is gradually coming to accept the idea that the human body has functional points, or acupuncture points. A meridian is a functional line that connects these acupuncture points. The easiest way to feel these meridians for yourself would be to visit an experienced acupuncturist for a session. When the needles penetrate any of the acupuncture points, you will feel a tingling sensation along the meridian. In Chinese, this sense is called "De-Qi," or "obtaining qi." This sensation is a sign that the flow of qi is being promoted by the needle stimulus. When you practice qigong, you will notice this same feeling of De-Qi, but this time throughout a much larger area of your body.
First of all, let's experience qi flow with the Reflection of Qi Muscle Power test instead of with acupuncture.
Promoting or obstructing the flow of qi.
Promoting or obstructing the flow of qi.
Rub your hand gently about ten times from the elbow to the wrist, on the outer side of the forearm, with your palm facing down, and then try the Qi Muscle Power test. Next, rub in the opposite direction (from the wrist to the elbow) and try the test again. Do the same on the other, inner side of the forearm, with your palm facing up. If this is done correctly, you should get the results seen in Figure 1-5.
This reaction is probably caused by the directional quality of the flow of qi in the arm. Stimuli that follow the direction of qi flow facilitate the flow of qi. This in turn strengthens the qi muscle power. Stimuli that oppose the flow of qi block it. As a result, the ring formed by the thumb and forefinger becomes weaker and opens more easily. You can try this test with your legs, too. Your fingers will open easily or not, depending on the direction in which you rub. Likewise, rubbing your legs in the proper direction can help you recover more quickly when your muscles are sore. If you should get sore leg muscles from, for instance, Standing Zen (see Chapter XIV), try this exercise.
It is important to bear in mind that the flow of qi energy is directional.
Continue reading here: Invitation to an Unknown World
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