Normalizing the Flow of Qi with Qigong

In this chapter I would like to consider the cause of disease and the role of qigong in medical treatment. Through my study of Huang-Di Nei-Jing Su-Wen ("The Yellow Emperor's classic of internal medicine"; referred to as Su-Wen from this point), I learned that classical Chinese medicine explains the cause of disease in this way: disease is generated when external conditions (a trigger) and internal conditions (a promoting state) coincide. According to Su-Wen, there are six external negative factors—wind, cold, dryness, humidity, heat, and fire—that act as triggers. Today, modern medicine would include in this list viruses and all manner of stress. Of course, these external conditions do not necessarily have the effect of making everyone ill. For instance, not everyone catches a cold when it is cold outside, and not everyone gets a stomachache from eating something rotten. But the homeostasis of an entire body is more likely to be compromised when adverse external conditions are present. This increased susceptibility, or vulnerability, provides an environment for disease to develop. In Su-Wen, this condition is expressed as the emptiness of Zheng-Qi, which refers to the operation of all the functions necessary for the body to maintain its normal condition. From the point of view of modern medicine, the functions involved in maintaining homeostasis would include the immune system, the hormonal system, and the autonomic nervous system; it is energy which maintains all these systems. You may wonder though, how the emptiness of Zheng-Qi occurs. According to Su-Wen, the basic causes are improper diet, exhaustion, curvature of the spine, and psychological stress. These factors are the most important to take into account. In addition, Su-Wen stresses the importance of the physical surroundings and climate.

It may be difficult to do anything immediately to change one's physical surroundings. Moving to a new climate is not usually a practical option. But there are things that you can consider. The three basic factors in the rise of disease—diet, exhaustion, and the seven emotions—can be changed without great difficulty. (The "seven emotions" is a concept from both Buddhism and Chinese medicine; these emotions are pleasure, anger, sorrow, fear, love, hatred, and desire.) Chinese medicine includes a vast dietary system for treatment and prevention of disease. For exhaustion or curvature of the spine, the moving qigong method (physical qigong exercise such as the Micro-cosmic Orbit method) should be helpful. The inactive qigong method (meditation), will be useful for psychological or emotional stress. Understanding the etiology of disease is essential to finding out what is wrong with a patient. You should be able automatically to ascertain the pathological cause—whether it be a curved spine, improper diet, or psychological stress.

On the other hand, you may think that a patient has been affected by a combination of causes. In that case you could suggest that he or she try taking a drug from either the Western or the Chinese medical traditions. You could supply dietary guidelines, or recommend that the patient join a qigong class. Recent research shows that Chinese herbs can be effective in improving the functioning of various systems within the body, including the immune system, the hormonal system, and the autonomic nervous system. While Western drugs or surgical treatment are very effective against external causes or current symptoms, Chinese medicine also plays a role in restoring balance within the organism. Qigong or a dietary cure can help to normalize the human body and prevent illness. Recognition of the benefits to be gained from different traditions is one example of what I call "mandala thinking," which holds that different elements can be positioned in terms of their relative importance within the whole.

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