Have you ever watched an acrobatic show where the acrobats stand one on top of one another, sometimes five or six people high, and juggle balls, sticks, or plates.
The person at the bottom has to be sensitive to the movements of each acrobat above him. He moves to compensate and complement the movement of those above, so the whole structure maintains integrity and doesn’t fall apart.
Or have you been in a room when someone walks in and everyone senses a shift in the air? We also speak of “vibe with” or “be on the same wavelength” to describe why we get along with other people.
In Chinese Medicine, the information sensed by the acrobats, the shift in the room, how people get along with one another, are all forms of Qi.
Different forms of Qi also exist in the body. According to Chinese medicine, the organs communicate with each other much like the balancing acrobats.
For example, Chinese medicine finds that the lungs and kidneys communicate, but when that communication is severed, symptoms such as shortness of breath can manifest. Sometimes, Western medical diagnosis will find that there is nothing physically wrong with the lungs and can’t explain the cause of the shortness of breath.
Forms of Qi
Qi is often translated as life force or energy. But this translation is a bit simplistic because Chinese medicine recognizes many different types of Qi, which serve many functions.
For example, each organ has it’s own Qi, and this Qi travels throughout the body on a network of energetic pathways known as meridians. Another type of Qi, which is much slower-moving and found deeper inside the body, is called Jing Qi (translated as source or essence) and is related to our genetics. Because it is slower and deeper inside the body, Jing is not as easily affected, and genetic changes happen more slowly, often over the course of generations.
More Than Meets the Eye
Qi is difficult to understand from within the Western medical paradigm, but this is not because the concept is missing. The difficulty in explanation exists because the Western medical system requires concrete, physical evidence in order to believe in the existence of something.
Western medicine is a young science, less than 200 years old. Chemists and biologists developed it. They looked at the body through microscopes and were able to see cells and analyze the chemicals and biological reactions in the body.
Therefore, Western medicine today looks at the body as a chain of chemical and biological reactions and activities. And because they are not able to see Qi, they do not acknowledge its existence.
Western medicine can treat bacteria or viruses, but with the absence of these, it is limited to management of signs and symptoms that are compiled into what are called syndromes.
But there is a field of science that Western medicine has left out. It is a field that is still mostly theoretical and deals completely with energy, frequencies, and waves—physics.
Physics recognizes forces we are unable to see but can observe through the object they act on. Electricity, magnetism, and gravity are all example of forces we can’t see but whose effects are real. Qi is one of these unseen forces.
So we can understand Qi as different energetic frequencies that ebb and flow within the body, as well as ripple from outside and are received by the body.
Acupuncturists can sense Qi when it is “caught” at the end of the needle. Similar to catching a fish on a hook, you can feel when needles have caught Qi because there is resistance when you try to move them.
Chinese Medicine acknowledges the chemistry and biology of the body—the blood and fluids. But it also acknowledges forces we cannot see yet can clearly see their effect on the body. After all, without Qi there is no life. It is vital energy—vital for life.
Cody Dodo, M.S., L.Ac., graduated from the classical acupuncture program at the Swedish Institute in New York City. Classical acupuncture is taught by Master Jeffery Yuen, an 88th-generation Daoist priest of the Jade Purity tradition. Cody is the founder of Internal Alchemy Acupuncture.