Qi: The Energy of Life

“People travel to wonder
at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the seas,
at the long course of the rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars,
and yet they pass by themselves
without wondering. ”
— St Augustine

as above, so below

Around 400 years ago, the French philosopher Rene Descartes uttered the famous Latin words;

"Cogito Ergo Sum" ... "I think, therefore I am".

His ideas shaped the way our Western philosophy evolved. However, as important as thought is to humanity, it does not represent the whole of a human being. Our relationship with thoughts can become quite lopsided and unhelpful; often dissociating us from deeper aspects of ourselves. 

Approaching the Chinese philosophy of Qi, it is helpful to bring a shift in our perception. Rather than limit our understanding of Qi to a concept to think about, we could also adopt the aphorism:

        "I feel, therefore I am"

Consider the question:

"How do you know that you are alive?"

You probably don't need to think about it at all, you just know, because you feel alive. When you feel the life within you, this is the same as experiencing the general Qi of the body.

Life presents many stresses and traumas, some of which are too strong for us to experience. The survival mechanism of dissociating from these feelings and energies may help to keep us going in the short term, but without returning to release and integrate this stuck energy, we cannot continue to grow properly. 

Shiatsu reconnects us with these aspects of ourselves, allowing a deeper integration of the body and mind for fuller health and vitality.

movement, rhythm & patterns of qi

In all cultures people observe that everything around them moves and grows, changes and declines, looking within themselves the same was found to be true.

Through modern science we also know that this is true. The mountains and continents are moving, our planet is hurtling through space, and at the atomic level everything is in a state of motion.

From a broader perspective, life moves according to certain patterns and rhythms. The daylight of the sun follows the night of the moon, the birds migrate along familiar journeys, summer follows winter, the river flows into the ocean, and life adapts and evolves to its environment.

Ancient Chinese culture described this nature of interconnectedness as Qi; a vital energy or life force, animating the world around us.

The Chinese character for Qi is made up of two parts. Together they represent cooked rice with steam rising from it, symbolising two important principles. Food and air are our vital sources of energy to live, and the unity of the material and immaterial aspects of life. Physical matter a condensed form of Qi, non-physical phenomena an expansive and rarefied form of Qi.

This concept of Qi resembles our modern Western science, in which matter and energy, or particles and waves, have become unified in our intellectual understanding. Advances in areas such as Quantum Physics have gone further, delving in to the realm of the nature of consciousness. This parallels with Qi philosophy, which holds that our thoughts, intentions, awareness and dreams are also a manifestation of Qi.

Within the human body, Chinese Medicine describes many different forms of Qi that all interact together to form an integrated whole. These different forms of Qi are divided into the various energies that are used and produced by our internal organs, known as Organ Qi. The functions of the physical organ, also governs emotional and psychological processes. These organ functions are all grouped together, and described as an Organ-Meridian.

“The sages lived peacefully under Heaven and Earth,
following the rhythms of the planet and the universe.
The sages appeared busy but were never depleted.
Internally they did not overburden themselves.
They abided in calmness, recognizing the empty nature of existence”
— Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine

roots and branches

the five phases

human heartedness