What Is Qi?
Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 03:32PM
Heather Spangler, L.Ac. in Chinese medicine, Jeffrey Yuen, calligraphy, life, qi, rice

"One who eats Qi will attain enlightenment and prolong life."
-- Tao Hong Jing (456-536 C.E.)

The Chinese character above represents "qi." But what is qi?

The quote below the character may not seem to do much by way of clarification. On its own, as it's written, it might even strike the reader as slightly odd. What does that statement mean?

Elements of understanding are sometimes lost in translation, and yet, what I think this quote can illustrate is how basic, pervasive, and all-encompassing the concept of qi is to every aspect of life.

I didn't know much about the concept of qi before starting Chinese medical school. I have a much greater understanding and appreciation of what it encompasses now.

With that, I offer you a few elaborations:

Qi is the quality differentiating a fresh leaf of lettuce just picked from the garden and the wilted leaves forgotten at the back of your refrigerator.

Qi is a steaming pot of rice, fully cooked and awaiting to be eaten, in turn renewing your body's energy with its sustenance.

Qi is breath. Qi is the spark at the start of a life or a twinkle in someone's eye. 

Qi is even sold in China as the air with which to pump bicycle tires.

We can cultivate qi with our bodies and minds, through exercise and meditation. Qi gong and tai qi (alternately spelled, chi gung, tai chi or tai ji) are physical exercises that are often described as "moving meditations," designed to consolidate, or move, or expand one's internal and external qi.

When qi is out of alignment or blocked, illness or pain or dis-ease can arise.

In an acupuncture treatment, qi is what we seek to balance and realign and encourage to flow when it becomes stagnated.

This list is but a sampling of all that qi infuses with its life-giving force. Are you beginning to get a feel for it?

If you're interested in reading more about qi, I recommend the book, A Brief History of Qi. And certainly, use your own experience to give you insights. May you enjoy exploring the qi within and around you!

The above calligraphy has special significance to me, as it's the very image that Jeffrey Yuen, the much respected Chinese medical teacher and 88th generation Daoist priest, brushed and presented to me at my graduation from Chinese medical school. It was a humbling honor that brings me pleasure to share with you here on this website, and with its spirit into my practice.

Article originally appeared on hs-acupuncture (http://www.hs-acupuncture.com/).
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