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The Nature of Qi

Figure 4- Prenatal Qi with fram.In Chinese metaphysics, Qi is the subtle energy that creates, sustains, activates and animates the universe. It is said to be present in inanimate objects, like rocks, as well as in living things like plants and animals, as well as in the subtle states of immaterial things like the air, light, sound and thought. It is said to have different qualities or to be of different types; some of these are positive and nurturing for living beings, others are negative.

In our bodies, our overall Qi can be subdivided in different ways. At conception there are four influences: Heavenly Qi, which is the basis of human consciousness; the natural vitality of the sperm and egg of the parents; and the energy of the time, place and environment. This is somewhat comparable to the Western concept of genetics.

Prenatal Qi is the general name for the energy you were born with and is expressed in the Kidney Qi. In other words, in Chinese medicine your constitution is expressed in the energy of your Kidney, which we will discuss later. If your parents and ancestors were healthy, then you are likely to be healthy. After birth, you are nourished by what the Chinese call Postnatal Qi, which is derived from the Qi of the food you eat and the Qi of the air you breathe. All of these energies are part of our overall Qi. The quality of each individual component contributes to the overall state of your health.

Essentially, if the Qi is strong, flowing and coherent, life flourishes. In the Chinese understanding, a person basically lives on two sources of energy: Prenatal Qi, the amount and quality of which was fixed at conception, and Postnatal Qi, which is under your control. The more you can conserve your Prenatal Qi, the longer you live and the better the quality of your life. The better your Postnatal Qi is, the less you use up of your Prenatal Qi. In other words, if you eat well, breathe clean air, live in a good place, you will thrive on Postnatal Qi. But if you eat fast food, live erratically, indulge in anger and anxiety, without enough Postnatal Qi, your body will use Prenatal Qi instead, ultimately degrading and shortening your life. Whenever your Qi becomes stagnant, deficient or scatters, this opens the door for disease and, ultimately, for death.

The purpose of Qigong practice is to harmonize and nurture our Qi. The first step is learning to feel Qi. First, we become aware of what is happening in our bodies—especially in individual organ systems. This awareness does not come overnight; developing it is a lifelong practice. But even at the beginning, you should get a flash of it, a sense of the possibilities. Then, through meditations and exercises, with steady determination and regular practice, you can nurture that flash of light into a beacon. Once you are aware, you can take the second step, which is to act appropriately. This course will give you exercises to develop your sensitivity to Qi, and also methods to balance the disharmonies that you encounter.

Interestingly, as you become more aware of what is happening in your own body, you will become more sensitive to the Qi around you, in the environment, for example, and in other beings—people, animals, plants. As your sensitive self grows, your intuitive and psychic selves grow as well. You then have the chance to improve your health on all levels. All Qi is connected.

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