What Is Qi?

During the JIn Dynasty (265-420 AD), the Daoist text entitled “Records of the Clear Mirror of Religion” first mentioned the term Qigong. “Qi” means energy or breath of life, and “gong” refers to the cultivation of skill or work. From that point in history, Qigong has developed into an extensive healing practice used by millions around the world. But to understand Qigong, we first must understand what is Qi?

What is Qi and How does it Work?

All matter in existence is made up of particle waves of energy vibrating at certain frequencies. Eastern scientific traditions called this energy "Qi", or "Prana" in Ayurvedic traditions. Western science has dubbed this phenomenon "electromagnetic energy".

It is the manner in which these energetic particles vibrate that gives the matter its distinctive qualities. Its particular shape, colour, density, texture, and function are all dictated by the particular and unique manner in which it vibrates.

Speed of vibration is one particular aspect that has a profound effect on the physical makeup of the matter in question.

The slower the vibrational energy, the closer the particles exist, resulting in a denser, more solid appearance and structure. Conversely, the faster the particles move the farther apart they travel resulting in a softer, looser structure that eventually loses its cohesion altogether once enough energy is added.

Hot and cold are simply terms used to define the polar opposites of the same energy vibrating at faster or slower speeds respectively, similar to the way in which the terms “Yin “and “Yang” are used in understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine.

With the understanding that all matter is composed of energy vibrating at specific frequencies, we can now understand, that at a certain level of inspection, there is no difference between the energy of the air you breathe, the chair you are sitting on, the table you are reading at, or even you yourself reading this right now.

A woman sitting in lotus. Pin

That being said, not only is there no difference, there is also no separation. There is only a seamless stream of vibrating particles all moving at different speeds, all exerting an effect on each other. From the point at which the energy of the table ends and the energy of the air begins, there is no separation. From the point at which the air ends and your body begins, there is NO separation. Each one exerting an effect on the others as well as being affected itself. TCM refers to this sea of energy as “WuJi”.

What is Qi in the body?

From your skin, hair, blood, bone to your internal organs, all are composed of energy vibrating at certain frequencies. Each exerting an effect on the others, and all trying to maintain their specific vibrational frequency to remain in harmony with themselves and the structures (energy) around them. Illness and health are simply convenient terms used to symbolize the relative state of vibration of the different structures in the body.

For example, when the matter (energy or “Qi”) of your Liver vibrates within its normal specific parameters, it functions normally and healthfully to metabolize and produce specific nutrients necessary to the function of the body. However, when there is an alteration to its normal vibration by some sort of stimulus, either from an internal or external source, its function is affected accordingly.

We in turn call this alteration in vibrational frequency, Sickness. It is the relative harmony or disharmony of the different energetic structures of the body that can explain the pathogenesis of disease.

Due to the seamless connection of energy we discussed earlier, any organ structure in disharmony with itself will eventually create disharmony in the tissues around it. The body’s ability to fight and cure the illness or not depends on the relative harmony of the rest of its internal structures.

Imagine a choir of 100 singers. If each individual singer sings in tune with the rest, beautiful harmonies are created which in turn create beautiful music that is pleasing to the ear. If by chance one singer begins to sing out of tune, the vibrational harmony is disturbed slightly. But as long as the rest of the choir is strong enough to maintain their parts in the piece, the one who has fallen out of harmony can be tuned back in.

A choir singing. Pin

However, if that one singer sings forcefully and dramatically enough out of tune, it can cause more and more singers to lose their harmony. The disturbance can very quickly lead to widespread disharmony and the death(How to cope with our greatest fear, death) of beautiful music.

How does our Qi affect our health?

The relative harmony (health) or disharmony (sickness) in the human body functions in the exact same fashion. When a body that is strong and healthy becomes affected by a certain stimulus that leads to disharmony of certain organ structures, it has a much better chance of returning itself and regaining its harmony versus one that is filled with disharmony already.

The notion of “Stimulus” is where person-to-person contact comes into play. Just as heat, cold, dampness and dryness in the external environment have a direct impact on the internal workings of the body, it is unavoidable for contact with a person not to have a direct effect on another.

That effect is generated through the movement of energy within their physical matter. It is that vibrational movement that creates what is known as an EM (electromagnetic) FIELD, which not only PERMEATES but also SURROUNDS them.

This distinctive organization of energy has the ability to create local disturbances in the surrounding energetic fields they come in contact with, in much the same way that a boat leaves a wake trail in the water it floats through. For a person who is in good physical health, their effect is even more powerful.

We can use the example of a bar magnetic to understand this concept. As we know, a simple bar magnet has a north and south pole. These ends identify the direction of magnetic energy travelling through and around the magnet. Energy travels from the south pole to the north pole where it exits the physical magnet.

What is qi? Pin

It then quickly diverts its direction to travel along the outside of the magnet back down to the south end where it enters once again to complete the circuit creating an invisible bubble of energy. The bigger and stronger the magnet, the bigger and stronger the bubble.

Does the Earth have Qi?

Our planet’s gravitational field works in the exact same way. Interestingly, although the geographic north pole lies at the top of the planet, this point is actually the location of the electromagnetic south pole. Accordingly, our geographic south pole is the location of the electromagnetic north pole.

As energy moves from the south to the north pole and around the outside back to its origin, it creates a wave of energy more powerful than any other on earth. A compass needle aligns itself with the direction of the flow of electromagnetic energy and points in the direction of the geographic north pole (electromagnetic south pole). Every living thing on earth is affected by the movement of energy or “Qi” created by the planet.

The bones of our bodies create these exact same phenomena. Each section of bone, in effect, acts as a bar magnet creating multiple smaller EM fields that contribute to the strength of our total body’s own electromagnetic field. Traditional Chinese medicine calls this energetic field, Wei Qi. Wei Qi is known as the protective energy that defends the body against external invasion from pathogens attacking it.

A body that vibrates “in harmony” with itself (is healthy) and the surrounding energy, exerts a well-organized, and therefore stronger defensive Wei Qi into the surrounding area. A person possessing a stronger Wei Qi field can exert quite a powerful effect on others they come in contact with.

As you move farther away from the object in question, its vibrational energy and the energetic field it creates, becomes less organized and more and more diffuse, exerting a continually weaker effect on the energy that it comes in contact with.


What are the different levels of Qi?

Within one inch of the body is considered the "Physical Wei Qi Field". At this proximity, we have the strongest effect on those we come in contact with. It is precisely this reason why touch is so healing or can do so much damage.

As previously stated, energy will always seek harmony with the energy it comes in contact with. That being the case, when someone with an abundance of energy physically touches a person deficient in energy, that deficiency will naturally drain energy into it, in an attempt to create balance to the local energetic area.

It is for this reason that a baby who is touched and held regularly grows faster, healthier and stronger. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Unwanted or inappropriate physical contact can produce an incredibly powerful disharmonizing and damaging effect on those receiving it.

Extending outward from one inch to roughly three feet is a field of lesser density known as the "Emotional Wei Qi Field". Although at this distance, our effect on each other is significantly less than the physical field, it is at this distance that we have the most contact with others.

On any given day we enter literally hundreds of people's emotional fields without ever being aware of it. Imagine stepping into an elevator that has only one person in it, standing in the back corner. Now, social etiquette would dictate that you would assume a position as far away as possible, seeing that you are already confined to a small space with a stranger.

However, depending on the size of the elevator, you may still be standing within the three-foot circumference of their emotional field. But imagine for a moment, the emotional response you would generate if you got in an otherwise empty elevator and stood within arm's length of the only other person in there.

There are only two likely reactions. One, they are a person whose energy vibrates similar to yours on that day, and being so, are happy to be standing so close to a total stranger. Two, they feel incredibly uncomfortable, attacked or assaulted by your proximity.

In this instance, they are definitely vibrating on a different wavelength than you, and your effect is creating considerable disharmony within their energetic field.

Finally, before the organization of our Wei Qi disperses to the point of negating its direct effect on others, it reaches a density known as the "Spiritual Wei Qi Field". This field of lesser density and organization extends to roughly ten feet around us. It is at this distance that we become aware of someone, even without paying much attention to them.

Imagine standing on a subway platform by yourself. If another person walked onto the platform one hundred feet away, it is likely you would take no notice of them. But if that same person now walked to within ten feet of you, suddenly what they looked like and what they were doing, would take on a much higher priority.

Under normal circumstances at this distance, their proximity would not elicit much of an emotional response. However, if that same person now moved to stand within three feet of you, I think you could imagine the emotional response it would generate as you contemplate their intentions.

How do our thoughts affect our Qi?

It is in our contact with the spiritual, emotional, and of course, physical Wei Qi fields of others that the notion of "intention" becomes not only important but quite powerful. There is a saying in Chinese that states, "Yi dao, Qi dao!", "Where the mind goes, the Qi follows!" This concept exemplifies the notion that actions that are undertaken with a specific intention, have a stronger vibrational energy and therefore a more powerful effect on the world around them.

But even more importantly, by focusing our attention on a specific thought, action or object, we organize the movement of our energy, which in turn, enables us to create a stronger influence on the energy of the target of our focus.

When the focus of intention of a person is to "care for", "listen to", or simply "try to help" someone else, the "positive" or more precisely "focused harmonious vibrational energy" directed towards them, instantly begins to affect the energy of the other person. Just like the choir of singers, the person helps to tune the other back into a healthy vibrational frequency.

In effect, a healthy, caring, focused person begins to heal those they come in contact with the moment they greet them with "hello!" Unfortunately, this also means that a burnt-out, unhealthy, unhappy or uninterested person can have a damaging effect on themselves and the world around them without ever saying or doing anything.

So to answer the question of what is Qi? The simple answer is, it is everything we can see, feel, hear, touch ……. or even think.

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