By Brian Kane 3/29/2011,
Throughout my time studying QiGong (and Tai chi), I have found myself relating more and more to what might be considered Billboard Wisdom, or simplified Taoist or “New Age” ideas borrowed by the West. Ideas like a strong connection between the mind and body, or the healthy benefits for men to “explore your feminine side” no longer seem like just nifty notions for progressive thinkers: Lately, I have begun to experience their effects at an increasing rate. During this week’s Tai Chi class, we discussed how the mind and the body are connected and how we should pay attention to how our bodies can actually help us decide how to react, or what decisions to make, in difficult situations.
QiGong instructor Brendan Thorson attended Dr. Sun’s seminar this past weekend at which he gained a greater insight into how our minds affect our bodies, including all of our organs such as the kidneys and heart. For instance–and again this might seem cliché to you– let’s say you really like a lady, or gentleman. I am sure many of us have heard the saying “I got weak in the knees” or “I got cold feet” due to being attracted or feeling in love with a person. Well in YiRen QiGong, when we work on building up our kidney energies, our feet get warmer. When we have a sudden fear or moment of anxiety, the feet—and the hands for that matter–being affected by a lack of kidney energy, can feel cold. Thorson has also stated that we can hold a great deal of fear and anxiety in the knee joints which can make them shake and ache.
From my own personal experience, when I am nervous, let’s say, before a performance of any kind, I sometimes get really tight in the stomach and my mouth turns dry. The stomach is associated with the emotion of anxiety. Since I am fearful or worried about my performance, my mind communicates with my stomach—and vice versa–which is negatively affected by a debilitating emotion.
Off and on during my teens, my stomach problems were so bad that I would often vomit in stressful situations and not be able to eat sometimes for days. This was especially bad for me, because my metabolism was lightning fast. As I have gotten older, my stomach problems have subsided, and my metabolism has slowed down a bit, thank goodness. When I was going through my bout of stomach issues (most certainly a result of an over abundance of anxiety and worry created by a youthful, overactive imagination) I would often think about rock musician Kurt Cobain, who had crippling stomach problems himself. I guess I thought it was cool that we had that in common. Unfortunately, Kurt used heroin partially to cure his stomach pains, but I am certain that YiRen QiGong would have helped restore balance in his body and mind, curing him of his ailment.
Brendan quoted Dr. Sun as relating the brain to being the Federal Government of the rest of the body. I then made the joke that the goal of QiGong would then be to turn your mind from being a George W. Bush-type Federal Government, into more of a Barack Obama-type Federal Government, which garnered a few laughs. Brendan responded with a smirk saying, “Well it’s different for everyone. You have to find the type of federal government that works best for your particular body.” I would have to agree. Besides, I think I would like to have the characteristics of both Condoleezza Rice (a Republican and part of Bush’s Cabinet) and Hillary Clinton (a Democrat and part of Obama’s Government) in my brain. They are both brilliant.
Another interesting way the body can communicate with us through QiGong is by letting us know what foods and what quantities of food are best for our bodies. In fact, I have heard stories of Dr. Sun eating enough food at times to feed a few people and his love for dumplings. However, as he became more developed in QiGong, he got a better sense of how much he should eat according to what was best for his body. I personally experienced this before class on Tuesday. One of my weaknesses is Dick’s Hamburgers. Before class I got my usual: two cheeseburgers, a Deluxe and a small coke. In my mind, I knew that this was way too much to eat at the time, right before class and before dinner, which I usually eat at Aladdin’s Gyro-cery on University Avenue. But my emotions got the better of me and I HAD to have my usual.
Well, during class I became more aware of how negatively the fatty burgers were affecting my body. In fact, during one of the warm up exercises I got nauseous and felt unusually uncomfortable just from my regular delightful Dick’a burger binge. I now know to trust my intuitions more when it comes to food. I think my usual afternoon snack of an apple and a bottle of Kombucha would have agreed with me much more.
(As a side note, my brother–22 months my junior–when he was 16 or so, ate 10 Dick’s cheeseburgers before a Seattle Supersonics game. Although some say he had a little “medicinal” help of the common teenage kind, I think the kid just had that big of an appetite. And he weighed about 135 pounds at the time, with the usual youthful-Kidd metabolism. As a kid Kidd, this feat was fine and fairly innocuous. But now that we are both in our early 30s, I don’t think either of us would attempt to break the 10 Dick’s cheeseburgers record. I have contemplated it though, hehe).
To me, it is clear that there is a mind/body connection. To most of us, this is fairly obvious. What might not be so obvious is how to create a harmonious relationship between the mind (The Federal Government) and the body and its organs (the more localized branches of government). It reminds me of what Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, which helped shape the U.S. Constitution. As to why government is necessary he wrote, “Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.” I believe that YiRen Qigong is kind of like a government advisor for my brain and in turn, my body. It can help me see and feel more clearly what is best for my well-being. Dr. Sun and Brendan Thorson both encourage us to treat our organs as if they are our pets and to make sure each is taken care of with love and attention. By doing so, we will not only keep our organs healthy, but also our minds and our quality of life.