from UpRiver/DownRiver, Sept/Oct 1991
Qi Gong: Dancing With the Universe
by Cassia Berman
- “The Earth has energy. The whole universe has energy. Your body’s energy is
- the same as the universe’s energy. Everything is in close relationship. The
- universe is a very big place. You can’t leave this universe, so it’s better to follow
- the rules of the universe. The circle is the rule of the whole universe. You must
- live according to this rule.”
In this last decade of the century in which people have done more to unbalance and damage the environment of their home planet than ever before, the recognition that everything is connected is becoming inescapable.
The Chinese have a profound and unique understanding of the energy common to all life in its minutest movements and manifestations, and call this energy “qi” (pronounced “chee”). Traditional Chinese medicine, more than 5,000 years old, doesn’t see itself as struggling against nature and disease, as in the Western model, but as harmonizing and balancing this life energy to return to the health inherent in all creation. The very language of TCM symbolizes the human body as microcosm of the natural world, with rivers and fields of qi, and the energies of heaven and earth, fire, water, wood and metal in dynamic balance with each other, the weather, the seasons, and the time of day. Mind, spirit and emotion are an intrinsic part of the whole and must be healed along with the body.
The most ancient form of Chinese medicine, and the most powerful, according to Master T.K. Shih, Director of the Chinese Healing Arts Center in Kingston, NY and Danbury, CT, is Qi Gong, the exercise or self-practice of vital energy. It is in part from the practice of Qi Gong that the theories of traditional Chinese medicine originate.
Qi Gong is the art of allowing energy to move through the body along various vital pathways with the aid of deep, relaxed breathing. Qi Gong movements are usually simple, circular and enjoyable to do. By learning to relax the body and breath, and using the mind and imagination to properly focus on and circulate the life energy within, the mind is guided away from problems and excessive thought, and peace of mind and real happiness, as well as abiding health, can be attained. There are virtually thousands of forms of Qi Gong—forms to strengthen the organs and systems of the body, forms that can heal various diseases, including cancer, and even forms that aid in weight loss, improvement of memory and intelligence, and the development of creative and spiritual capacities. The popular exercise T’ai Chi Chu’an, when practiced for healing rather than as a martial art, is a form of Qi Gong.
Master Shih, known as “TK” to his students, is now in his sixties, a fifth-generation doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and one of the Directors of the International Qi Gong Science Research Association in China. He cites his own family’s medical history as evidence of Qi Gong’s power. He himself was healed of malaria as a boy and the final stage of tuberculosis as a young man by practicing Qi Gong and meditation taught to him by his family at a time, in war-torn China, when no medicine was available. His wife, Dr. De Ying Huang, was healed of a serious heart problem when she was a young woman through the practice of Qi Gong. Their younger daughter, Wen Jing, was born with a rare bone marrow condition, but by practicing Qi Gong the condition was reversed and she went on to excel in the martial arts.
Qi Gong is the most powerful medicine, Master Shih says, because people can do it themslves and thus maintain their own health without the need and cost of doctors. Acupuncture works by stimulating neuro-endocrine reflexes and opening blocked meridians, or pathways which carry energy to the organs in the body. By opening oneself daily to healing energy and circulating it yourself, all the meridians are opened and regularly cleansed. In detoxifying the body and harmonizing it in circular movements with the natural flow of life’s energy, mental clarity and emotional balance are also promoted. And through good practice, some people develop a “special something.” In the case of the Shih family, they have all developed an abundance of energy which they can use to heal others, as well as a joyful, loving presence which is contagious.
As an American practitioner who has been doing T’ai Chi Chu’an since 1977 and other forms of Qi Gong since 1985, I can only say it’s been an adventure of the most wonderful kind. Every morning I go outside, weather permitting, stand with my feet on the earth, my headtop touching heaven—for the Chinese say the human being is the meeting place between heaven and earth—and relax and open my body to the energy of the universe, combining heaven and earth within myself. As I practice different forms of Qi Gong, I open to the energy of all the flowers in the world and circulate it down the front of my body, up the back, letting out the old energy and taking in the new; I take in the energy of the trees to nourish my liver and sunlight to nourish my heart; I hold the ball of the universe between my arms and, as I shift my weight in the movements of T’ai Chi, I internalize the constant shifting of the polarities of everything that is. When you dance with the universe every morning before breakfast, the events and challenges of the day go more smoothly. In the years that I’ve practiced, I rarely get sick, and I’m told I look much younger than I am. Every year, I feel more happiness and freedom. If getting older is like this—and the ancient Taoist texts say it is—I can only look forward to it.
At a time when we’re so concerned with healing the planet and creating peace on a world scale, we might first need to understand how to do this within each of our own bodies and minds, a task which is monumental enough.
Cassia Berman is a poet and writer who lives in Woodstock, NY. For information about her classes and private sessions in T’ai Chi Chu’an and Qi Gong, see her schedule on this Website. She can be reached directly at (845) 679-9457, or firstname.lastname@example.org.