Oriental medicine focuses on nourishing a functional and well-designed system. Here in the west, we are much more familiar with chasing the symptoms that are the result of a failure of the system. To work in the Chinese way requires an understanding of "chi." This is an elusive term that is impossible to translate and difficult to define. Whether it can be pinned down or not, the presence or absence of chi is easily identified.
The next time you are in a public place attempt to assess people's level of chi. Who are the ones that are robust, vital, and healthy? It's not necessarily the biggest or the strongest. Vital healthy chi might even be most present in the children you see. Notice the light in the eyes and the spring in the step. Look for inner strength and outward glow. A smile is a good giveaway because that person is projecting a feeling of well-being and an attitude of confidence. When your righteous chi is strong, you radiate good health. You feel protected, nourished, and able to flow with the alternations of daily life. Righteous chi is an extremely valuable commodity.
Without strong, freely-flowing chi you are left vulnerable, weak, and unable to cope with the multitude of invasions virtually lurking everywhere. Recirculated air, unfamiliar foods, traumatic injuries, anything that challenges our health is called "vicious chi." If the invading force is strong and the chi is weak, the Chinese say that an "unwanted guest" may enter the house. Why is it that the unwanted guest constantly disrupts the lives of some and goes unnoticed by others? Building righteous chi prevents the unwanted guest from draining energy and causing chaos in the body, mind, or spirit.
Fluctuations in weather are a good example of an assault on our bodies. In Colorado, we might awaken to a temperature of 32 degrees and, by afternoon, we are peeling off the layers as the thermostat climbs to 65. If it's a day in January, we could be looking at a sudden cold snap where the temperature drops twenty below by nightfall.
The natural cycle of things would dictate that fall is a time of harvest and consolidation, yet for many, especially women, this time becomes one of extreme activity. Children start school and there is an onslaught of holidays. Though often enjoyable, the harvest/consolidation time becomes filled with cooking, shopping, driving, doing, and on and on. The righteous chi is further weakened as the vicious chi becomes stronger. There is increased stress and an increased number of viral and bacterial invasions.
Chinese medical philosophy is highly tuned to seasonal shifts and it would benefit us to pay attention and anticipate their effect. During the fall, we begin to move indoors and here we encounter another demand on our systems. We are literally stepping into an incubation chamber. It can be found in classrooms and shopping malls - anywhere people gather. Using heaters and fireplaces to stay warm causes alternate cold and dry heat that results in dehydration - another invasion.
Experience the distinction between chasing symptoms and strengthening righteous chi. While battling symptoms, an inordinate amount of energy is spent attacking the invasive factors that are seen as the cause of the illness. The resultant symptoms are branches of the disease and only they are addressed while the root is ignored. We are offered antihistamines to open nasal passages, suppressants to quiet a cough, pain relievers to handle body aches. Side effects are often part of the process like feeling buzzed, drained, or dried up.
Building righteous chi supports the idea that you can be in charge of your life and not live in a prison of expectations and stress. Obligations give way to creativity and then become endeavors that are more fulfilling. With health and strong chi there is movement and the unwanted guest cannot penetrate. When strengthening the system, you do not stimulate, stifle, or eliminate, but rather bring about balance at the deepest levels.
There has been much talk in women's circles about boundaries and their importance. As we are pressed by the demands of our jobs, relationships, and responsibilities, we tend to contract away from life. We close doors and put up walls for protection. In so doing, we close the doors to nourishment and hinder the ability to assimilate experiences. The result is a relative disharmony between the energy we are utilizing to protect ourselves and that which is meant to keep us strong and nourished. We literally rob our righteous chi to support the perceived need for protection. The digestive function is particularly vulnerable to invasion by the stresses of modern life and these boundaries. It is fine to increase protection if we also allow nourishment to occur.
The body is a good design. When functioning at its optimum level the unwanted guest has no chance to move in and invade. With righteous chi the symptoms are taken care of by the appropriate system be it digestive, immunological, or simply raw constitutional strength.
Now is a good time to take advantage of the fabulous benefits of the Chinese system of acupuncture and herbology. It's the way to learn about yourself and what influences your well-being. Think back to that group of people you were studying. Can you pick out who will be sick tomorrow? You will certainly be able to identify those who won't be by assessing who has strong chi.