Here is a simple Qi Gong exercise that you can do to wake up your cells, invigorate your body, and strengthen your immunity. It’s called “patting” or “slapping”. You’ll really enjoy this exercise and feel the effects quite quickly. Use it any time you feel a bit tired and sluggish and need an energetic “wake-up”. It’s like a mini acupressure treatment you can do on yourself anywhere. You simply use your hands to slap the outside and inside channels of the arms and legs, hands and feet, the buttocks, ribs, face and top of the head. If you have a cold, and especially if you feel like you are just starting to get a cold, apply this technique vigorously to push the cold out completely. I personally know of one guy who had been biking in the cold weather for an hour and started to come down with a bad cold. He did this technique forcefully for one hour and the cold symptoms disappeared that day.
In TCM terms this exercise strengthens the “Wei Qi”, also known as the “Defensive Qi Layer” which is the energetic layer that resides between the skin and the muscles, what’s known as the “Cou Li” in TCM. The Wei Qi is formed by the Lung system, so people who have a Lung weakness will tend to get colds and flus more easily. The Lung system is strengthened by the Spleen system because in the Five Element acupuncture, the Spleen is the “Mother” of the Lungs, meaning the Spleen sends it’s energy to the next phase, or “child” in the 5-phase system, which is the Lungs. The tips in my post Strengthening the Spleen Qi will further build up your Defensive Qi.
According to TCM, all things in the universe are a mixture of Yin and Yang. Yin is moist, dark, cool, quiet, female, still and substantial. Yang is hot, energetic, male, bright, fast, exuberant, and non-substantial. Yin refers more to our solid and substantial aspects such as our form, our bones, muscles and body fluids while Yang refers more to our body heat, energy, and movement. Yin energy allows us to relax, rejuvenate, rest and recuperate. Yang energy gives us energy, speed and drive.
The aging process is a gradual decline of both Yin and Yang. Yin deficiency is very common in our modern society where we have seen an over-emphasis on all things Yang. There is a celebration and fascination for all things loud, fast, flashy, being very fast or being very busy all the time. Since we are not always abounding with Yang, we rely on unnatural ways (caffeine) to be more Yang (energetic) as our modern media dictates. When we push ourselves over our limit our body cannot easily replenish our Yang Qi so it dips in to our savings account, our Yin energy. Over time we burn out of both Yang and Yin. When the Yin (cool, stillness, substance, moisture) is missing we see dryness, heat, restlessness and loss of body mass. In Western medical terms Yin deficiency can appear as attention deficit disorder, diabetes, hot flashes, insomnia, osteoporosis and anxiety to name a few.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the five most important organ of the body are the Yin organs, the Lungs, Kidneys, Liver, Heart, and Spleen. Each organ is said to contain an essential Qi which promotes the smooth harmony and functioning of the corresponding aspects of the body and mind relating to that organ system. Each of the five Yin organs has both a positive energy when it is strong and clear and a negative energy if it is congested, weak or toxic.
Qi Gong is an excellent way to keep the organs healthy and strong . An ancient qi gong set called the “5 Yin Organ Exercises” will do just that. This is a set I’ve done regularly, often daily. The benefits I experienced included a sense of groundedness, better digestion, less tension and positive mind.
The following videos demonstrate how to do the warm-up, the exercise for each organ and the closing exercise to gather the Qi inwards.
The virtues of the Lungs are honesty and integrity. When the Lungs are weak or have negative qi, a person can develop sorrow or an overly rigid personality.
The virtues of the Kidneys are will power, wisdom and fearlessness. A person with weak Kidneys may become unmotivated because energy or drive is lacking. There may be fear, confusion or paranoia.
The virtues of the Liver are compassion, creativity and generosity. If the Liver is weak or stagnant the person may develop anger, hostility, impatience, blocked creativity or timidity.
The virtues of the Heart are joy and a sense of order. If the Heart Qi is weak or stagnant, the person may experience chaotic thoughts, mania, or be easily startled or anxious.
The virtues of the Spleen are trust, intellectual thought and empathy. If the Spleen Qi is weak the person may experience mental fatigue, worry, obsessions, or feel disconnected from others.
Like all Qi Gong exercises, it is done at a slow gentle pace with mindfulness of the breath and the dan tien (inner space four finger widths beneath the navel towards the centre of the body) This Qi Gong set can be done each day, 12 or 20 times for each organ exercise.
Here we are in autumn 2012. Already a year of great change as predicted by the Mayans, astrologers, numerologers and others. Will the world end? I believe the Mayans were actually predicting a change in the world-as-we-know-it. So the “end” just means change, big change, a re-birth. Ancient mythology has the phoenix who rises from the ashes, first there is the fire, destruction, things are ending then from the ash rises new life. This is the sense I get from the time period we’re in. We also have the Uranus-Pluto square transit which started this June and continues until 2015, we are looking at a lot of deep change, similar to how things were in the late ’60′s.
For many this has brought a lot of unsettlement, a feeling of not knowing the ground beneath you. If we study history, there’s never been a time of so much change happening so quickly. Over the last 100 years, massive changes to the way we live, from religious institutions which formed the backbone of most people’s existence at one time, to the structure, or should I say, de-structuring of the family unit and the core of our home life, and a loss of many of the reliable people in our daily lives who form the larger social unit, the community.
What this boils down to is that we have lost an important element of our daily, monthly,yearly life in all this, this being our experience of ritual. Rituals are activities performed for a specific purpose that have a sense of connection with a higher purpose. They provide a sense of meaning to our lives, giving our lives a richness of a connection with the divine. Some people think of rituals in terms of religious observances, sacred forms learned from spiritual teachers. Rituals can also be seen as daily routines such as the “morning ritual”: brush teeth, floss, take shower, style hair, get dressed, drink tea, read the newspaper, walk the dog.
The autumn season in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is governed by the Metal element
which is connected with ritual. It is a season when things become more calm and routine, there is more structure. This is a time of year when it’s especially important to have structure in our lives and some sense of ritual to connect us to the sacredness of daily life and the bigger sense of why we are here. Ritual allows things to become more refined and powerful. Buddha taught that the more times we perform an action the more powerful it becomes.
I remember when I first started a meditation practice. My teacher told me it was best to commit to something I could do every day, however small, that the daily-ness of the practice was what would bring about deepest changes over time. So I started small, a little shrine with Buddha and eventually some water bowl offerings and 10 minutes of meditation. Some days I really didn’t feel like meditating. My mind would feel so wound up from a stressful day working with severely autistic children running, screaming, scratching and biting. I made myself sit on my meditation cushion anyway. I learned to stop judging myself on the days that weren’t so great. I learned from my teacher to rejoice in myself, be happy for small accomplishments, for the small effort I could put in. It started out small but then the energy builds. Buddha said “Many drops of water fill a bucket. First there is one, then two, three, four, soon the bucket is over-flowing”.
Metal is sharp and solid, well-defined, as opposed to Water which flows all over. So when things feel chaotic, look for definition. When we define things we bring structure to them, things have boundaries and this allows what is meaningless to fall away. We cut the “dead wood” so we can focus on our true purpose. This is the opposite of wishy-washy. Define your values and create ways to express them in your daily life through ritual and you will feel stronger in Metal. Other benefits of strong Metal element include: better immunity (Wei Qi), improved skin, more oxygenated tissues from better lung function, improved bowel function (Metal element governs the Lungs and Large Intestine) and heightened intuition (Metal is about our gut instinct).
What do you really value? Are you living according to our values? Are your values finding expression in your daily life?