Qi Cultivation for Healing Chronic Health Conditions
Guan-Cheng Sun, Ph.D. and Jill Gonet, M.F.A.
Today, the nation’s greatest contemporary health challenge is chronic illness. While modern medicine and public health have dramatically improved our ability to survive acute threats like heart attacks and infectious diseases, chronic conditions demand new and fundamentally different approaches than those currently offered1. An important aspect of Qi cultivation is to promote the healthy energy flow and to prevent and avoid unhealthy energy flow. Illness weakens the body and can create the conditions for the body to continue losing energy to disease. The key to healing illness is to change the direction of energy flow–from the body losing energy to disease—to a situation where the body gains strength while the disease loses energy support. Illness does not occur without cause. Symptoms are signals and expressions of the body’s communications, but they are not the causes of disease. Causes may occur on many levels including physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual. To accurately identify and treat the cause and root of disease with Qi cultivation specific practice can help individuals to recover from illness completely. Qi cultivation practice increases both the therapist’s/practitioner’s awareness levels and assists individuals to evaluate and identify fundamental underlying causes on all levels, and encourages practitioners to work on the root causes rather than on symptoms only.
Treat the Root Causes of the Chronic Illness Rather than Symptoms
Modern western medicine excels at emergency treatments such as traumatic physical injuries, crisis care/hospitalization care and life-or-death situations, all of which relate to biochemical and physiological conditions. Modern western medicine is founded upon the underlying operative philosophy of science that was embodied in Aristotelian empirical materialism. This philosophy systematically organized certain aspects of the knowledge of antiquity into a structured scheme and has led western medical science to focus primarily on the physical body2 (e.g., systems, organs, tissues, cells, genes, and molecules). To borrow from the language of computer science, modern western medicine has focused on the body’s “hardware” care and management. On the other hand, Qi cultivation and Qi healing arts excel at treatment of non-crisis illness such as chronic pain, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and so forth by improving internal Qi balance and circulation. The Qi pathway system is, in fact, an interface between the physical body’s hardware and the body’s “software” (e. g., mind, consciousness, memories, emotions, and intelligence of the body). The Qi pathway system, or network, is responsible for the management and coordination of the activities of the internal organs, tissues, cells, genes, and also for the sharing of the body’s resources. To continue with the language of computer science, we could say that the Qi network functions as an Energetic Operation System (EOS) in the body for physiological, emotional, and psychological applications running in the body in its daily life. With Qi cultivation, a well-developed EOS system and its management could bring new light and hope for greater healing and improvement of chronic illness. For example, Chronic functional abdominal pain (CFAP) is the ongoing presence of abdominal pain for which there is no known medical explanation. The pain is chronic with no physical findings (no structural, infectious, or mechanical causes can be found)3 from Western biomedicine. However, in the view of Qi cultivation, the CFAP is the reflection or signal of internal and/or external communications. The pain could be associated with personal or family relationship, or a self-conflict with previous emotional memories, or disharmony between internal organs, or internal energy imbalance, or deep compassion for helping other people’s discomforts and pain etc. It depends on each individuals’ situation. This is a “software” problem, not a “hardware” problem. With an understanding of the software, the cause or root of CFAP can be easily identified. Once the cause is verified, and the patient has realized the root of the problem, the CFAP can be released quickly and completely.
According to the principle of Qigong practice and the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, good health results from a well-balanced and harmonized condition of the internal body with its Qi flowing freely. Qi cultivation is a mind-body integrative practice which works with a growing awareness and enhancement of the “Qi” within the body as well as surrounding the body. Qi cultivation involves a complex of internal communications and interactions between the mind and the body at the spiritual, mental, energetic and emotional levels, as well as between the individual and their living environment. There are intrinsic levels of practice, and there are extrinsic levels of practice; the latter include such areas as interactions between one’s genetic makeup and its environment including nutritional choices, lifestyle, living and working conditions, personal and social relationships, and so forth.
Developing Healthy Behavior Is the Key for Healing Chronic Illness
Unlike the ancients, we now know that DNA is the blueprint for all the processes and structures of life. The genes are the basic functional units of heredity. They are composed of DNA and contain information that determines specific traits. One’s health and illnesses all are related to the blueprint-DNA. In the genetics view, physical appearance is not only based upon the genetic codes, but is also affected and modified by many internal and external conditions. One’s health or illness are the result or outcome from the interactions between one’s genes and one’s living conditions. The body can be viewed as one’s internal garden, and the genes in the DNA can be viewed as different seeds of flowers, trees, vegetables, weeds, etc. Different seeds need different types of soil and specific conditions in order to grow and develop. Similarly, in the body, different genes need different internal environments in order to express themselves. The body’s internal environment is directly associated with one’s diet, lifestyle, daily activities, sleep quality, working condition, emotional and mental stress levels, etc. Thus, one’s eating behavior (e.g. what kind of food, how much one eats and how often one eats) and lifestyle changes (e.g. exercise, relaxation, meditation) can immediately change the body’s internal conditions thereby greatly affecting and influencing the expression of one’s genes in the body. However the dilemma is that many individuals are unaware of the extent to which their eating habits and lifestyle are causing their chronic disease, and harming their health and their financial status.
Qi cultivation is the heart of Qigong practice which functions as a behavioral modifier to increase self-awareness levels of internal energy conditions, to cope with stress or energy imbalances that occur during daily life, and for achieving an optimal state of one’s internal environment—one with greater balance and harmony, that will allow the healing of chronic health conditions.
Qi cultivation facilitates and supports health and quality of life; it supports and fosters the expression of healthy genetic information. In order to heal chronic illness and to improve the quality of life, great emphasis must be placed on building health by developing healthy habits, such as eating a healthy diet and doing appropriate exercise, as well as on stopping unhealthy habits such as quitting smoking, quitting alcohol addiction and reducing excess stress and so forth.
Empower the Body to Produce Medicine Within
On the other hand, a unique aspect of Qi cultivation for healing and health is to train the body for producing effective corresponding medicine within the body. In ancient times, many masters observed the causes of illness and developed methods and techniques for healing illnesses, improving the quality of life and for promoting longevity. For an example, master Zhongli Quan said: “There are three kinds of illnesses. 1) If you get sick from sleeping in wet clothes in a draughty room or from exposing yourself to extreme heat or cold or unfriendly wind, or from working too hard and tiring yourself, or from not eating properly, you will suffer from what is called the illnesses of seasons. 2) If you do not practice Qi cultivation and if you follow the unhealthy desires of your body, indulge in emotional and sensual pleasures too much, you will lose the primordial Yang, dissipate the true vital energy, and age swiftly. This is called the illness of aging. And 3) if your body is emptied of vital energy, and if the spirit is gone, your body will have no power and no ruler, after you have breathed your last, the body will lie rigid in the ground in the wilderness. This is called death. Death is illness of the body4. Master Lü Dongbin asked Master Zhongli: “ Illnesses of the seasons can be taken care of by good doctors and high-quality medicine. Are there medicines that can cure the illnesses of aging and death?” Master Zhongli replied: “Of the three kinds of illnesses, the illnesses of the seasons can be cured by herbs and plant extracts. The illnesses of aging and death, however, can be cured only by two special types of medicines. The first type is called the internal elixir and the second type is called the external elixir.” 5 Master Zhongli explained that it is important to integrate the external elixir–the essence of herbs and the plant extracts with the internal elixir together appropriately, particularly for elderly individuals. He further emphasized that the great medicine is the internal elixir–the medicine is produced from the inside of the body with refined vital energy, which is purified from the appropriate interactions between the energy of the liver and the energy of the lungs, as well as from the appropriate interactions between the energy of the heart and the energy of the kidneys. According to Master Zhongli’s teaching, the best medicine can be produced by internal Qi cultivation, with greater balance and harmony of the internal organs. As Master Zhongli said: “The internal elixir originates from the appropriate interactions of the dragon and the tiger. When the dragon and the tiger interact with each other appropriately, they give birth to the great medicine—the internal elixir which appears like yellow sprouts.”
Qi Cultivation for Future Health Care and Life Science
More recently, scientific studies have suggested that biological factors change in individuals who practice Qigong. For example, recent studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of Qigong therapy on stress management. One study reported that the level of beta-endorphin was significantly increased during Qigong training while the level of Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) declined6. Qigong training enhances immune function and modulates neuro-hormone concentrations7. Current clinical studies have demonstrated that Qigong practice can benefit not only psychological factors such as stress, depression, and health related quality of life scores but also directly affect the levels of biological factors in the body such as plasma growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and testosterone (T) 8, glucose, glycohemoglobin/HbA1c, insulin, triglycerides9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and so forth. These findings suggest the great potential of Qi cultivation in restoring the functions of the body and for producing medicine within for healing chronic illness and for improving the quality of life in people with chronic health conditions. Combining with Western medicine, modern science and new technology, Qi cultivation based scientific studies may provide great opportunities to elucidate the healing mechanisms of Qigong practice and ancient wisdom and to bring new perspectives and insights to the current health care system and to life science.
1. DLC. Fighting Chronic Illness. http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=252624&kaid=139&subid=275
2. Ai AL. Seminars in Integrative Medicine, Vol 1, No 2 (June), 2003: pp 112-121.
3. Wikipedia. Chronic functional abdominal pain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_functional_abdominal_pain
4. Eva Wong. Dao of Health, Longevity, and Immortality: The Teachings of Immortals Chung and Lu. Shambhla 2000. Page 75.
5. Eva Wong. Dao of Health, Longevity, and Immortality: The Teachings of Immortals Chung and Lu. Shambhla 2000. Page 76.
6. Ryu H, Lee HS, Shin YS, Chung SM, Lee MS, Kim HM, Chung HT. Acute effect of qigong training on stress hormonal levels in man. Am J Chin Med. 1996. 24(2):193-8.
7. Lee MS, Kim MK, Ryu H. Int J Neurosci. Qi-training (qigong) enhanced immune functions: what is the underlying mechanism? Int J Neurosci. 2005 Aug;115(8):1099-104.
8. Lee MS, Kang CW, Ryu H, Kim JD, Chung HT. Effects of ChunDoSunBup Qi-training on growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I, and testosterone in young and elderly subjects. Am J Chin Med. 1999;27(2):167-75.
9. Chen KW, Liu TJ. Zhang HB, Ling ZP. An analytical review of the Chinese literature on Qigong therapy for diabetes mellitus. AJCM. 2009 37(3): 439-457.
10. Xin L, Miller YD, Brown WJ. A qualitative review of the role of qigong in the management of diabetes. J Altern Complement Med. 2007. 13(4): 427-33.
11. Sun GC, Lovejoy JC, Gillham S, Putiri A, Sasagawa M, Bradley R. Effects of Qigong on glucose control in type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled pilot study. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jan;33(1):e8.
12. Tsujiuchi T, Kumano H, Yoshiuchi K, He D, Tsujiuchi Y, Kuboki T, Suematsu H, Hirao K. The effect of Qi-Gong relaxation exercise on the control of Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2002. 25: 241-242.
13. Lee MS, Chen KW, Choi TY, Ernst E. Qigong for type 2 diabetes care: A systematic review. Complement Ther Med. 2009 Aug;17(4):236-42. Epub 2009 Jun 12.
—————————Guan-Cheng Sun, PhD is the founder of the Institute of Qigong & Internal Alternative Medicine. Dr. Sun earned his Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan in 1993, and was awarded a fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. From 1994-1997 Dr. Sun conducted postdoctoral research in molecular endocrinology at the University of Washington. This research enriched his theory and practice of Qigong. His understanding of modern molecular genetics and scientific principles, as well as his experience with internal cultivation, allowed him to create a unique bridge between cultures. Dr. Sun has spent over 30 years refining his skills and has developed a new system of Qigong called “Yi Ren® Qigong.” He is currently engaged in mind-body medicine and energy medicine research at Bastyr University, Seattle, Washington.
Jill Gonet, MFA earned her B.A. at the University of Massachusetts, and her M.F.A. from the University of Washington. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals over the years, including Poetry, Ploughshares, The New England Review, The Gettysburg Review, and The Best American Poetry, among others. She is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Society of America, as well as grants from the Seattle Arts Commission. She was interested in ancient Daoist classics since high school years, and has studied Dao De Jing-the Way of Virtues, Yi Jing-the Book of Change, Ling Shu-the Spiritual Pivot, Zhuang-Zi, Lie-Zi, diligently. She meditated and practiced Qigong daily for over 20 years. She has combined her interests in writing, Chinese culture, and the art of internal cultivation by collaborating on many writings with Dr. Sun.