Over the last few years, there have been certain aspects of Chinese medicine that have begun to hit the mainstream, with professional athletes popularizing the practice of cupping, and acupuncture being covered by more and more health insurance policies. But what is less well known is what’s behind both of those – and that is HOW they are trying to heal you. It isn’t with medicine, or traditional physical therapy. The general notion in Eastern medicine of what is ailing you is that there is most often a ‘deeper’ issue at play and what you see/feel is but a symptom. With Western medicine, you can treat the symptom, but with Eastern practices, the goal is to get to the cause. And quite often, the cause has everything to do with how your energy, your Qi (pronounced “Chee”), is flowing through your body. If it is getting ‘stuck’ somehow, that’s going to cause issues. Both of these treatments mentioned above, and many more Asian therapies (including foot massages!) at some level are ancient treatments, tested over literally thousands of years.
You may remember that I briefly wrote about “Qi” in a recent Dose on facemasks and hinted that there was a story there. In this Dose, I am going to share a personal Qi story where I experienced this power first hand. Not intended to sway or convince – but encourage understanding as we continue to bridge these cultures.
A little over a year ago, my family traveled back to Taiwan during winter break. While there we spent a lot of time with my wife’s extended family visiting night markets, traveling via bullet train to a city on the coast to enjoy some seafood (yes, almost everything revolves around food)… and visited a Chinese Qi-Gong doctor.
What is a Qi-Gong doctor you ask? I was wondering the same thing when my wife encouraged me to join her on her scheduled visit – they could fit me in too. No better way to learn than to give it a go! The office was small and only a few people were waiting. They all had facemasks on, which again, wasn’t a big deal. Then there were people in an adjoining room doing some physical therapy exercises that looked similar to what you might find here in the US, and the doctor’s examination room looked pretty similar to a small practice office here as well. But that’s pretty much where the similarities ended.
So here was my challenge for this doctor. You see, I have a-fib (or atrial fibrillation), which is a heart condition that’s usually found in older people than myself. It’s where the heart may start beating irregularly and very rapidly, with no ability to slow down. It’s different than a murmur or irregular heart beat in that when it gets going, it won’t stop. I’ve only had two episodes of it (once literally right before my wife and I were going to enter the Rose Bowl stadium to watch our Wisconsin Badgers take on Stanford), and am not taking treatment for it other than cutting out all caffeine and alcohol. So now if I’m drinking a ginger-ale the next time we’re able to have a real live happy hour again (it’ll happen!), you know why!
My general practitioner told me that there’s nothing I can really do other than cut out those stimulants, so I wasn’t expecting much.
But what happened literally blew my mind (and if you know me, you know I don’t say that lightly).
I sat on a stool, and he sat on his chair directly across from me. After questioning me a bit on my issue, he used one hand and seemingly just waved it around a bit but I swear I felt a tingling through my body. What he was doing was ‘feeling’ my Qi. He could sense its status and flow within me. And I assure you that this wasn’t because I was expecting something or was imagining it. So by now he had gotten my attention.
He then proceeded to tell me my problem is electrical. I have too much waste energy running through my body and that is what can cause my heart to set off if it’s triggered (by say coffee or alcohol). I think back to what the doc told me when he was explaining a-fib to me and realized that there was a connection. My doc did explain that a-fib is really an electrical short circuit of the heart where instead of the rhythmic cycle of electrical impulses causing the chambers to contract and expand, it goes haywire and in his words, “the heart looks like a bag of worms”. But he didn’t know why it might happen. So in Eastern terms, this excess energy in my body was messing with the flow of my Qi, and getting ‘stuck’ in my heart where a trigger could set it off.
He then asked me to take off my shoes and socks and place my foot on a simple wire that he had set on the ground near my chair. I place my foot on it and my lungs fill up with air like I hadn’t felt since I was enjoying our family time in Lake Tahoe earlier that year. I had not even realized that I’d been constricted in my breathing until it opened up. The Qi-Gong doctor explained that nothing special was going on here other than the wire was grounded, allowing it to drain the excess energy from my body. The same thing had happened when I had my feet in the water in Lake Tahoe. So this excess waste energy was having other negative effects on me as well – limiting the amount of oxygen my lungs received and messing with my heart may only be the beginning.
He then went on to say that most people today have this issue as we’re surrounded by electrical energy all day. Your cell phone in your pocket, your laptop on your lap (like mine is now), your WiFi that’s constantly all around you just to name a few. Some people’s bodies may be able to handle it better than others – but Eastern medicine teaches that in fact this excess negative energy may be contributing to your other issues as well. That is why Asians often seek out balance through other activities like Tai Chi or meditative breathing, and look for ways to maintain the proper flow through treatments like foot massage and acupuncture.
My Western doctor told me about the electrical issue with my heart, but did not offer up any way to treat it. I trust my doctor, and respect Western medicine. But I also think there’s something important for broader America to learn from Eastern medicine that has been around for thousands of years. I’d be willing to bet that they’ve learned a thing or two in that time!
By combining what I’ve learned from BOTH East and Western medicine, I feel more confident about not having future a-fib issues. That is a lesson I hope we can all appreciate and would encourage you to actively look for and explore different views from what you’re used to or even initially comfortable with. Be open to what you can experience and learn. And although we are all still staying inside during this quarantine, do try and get out safely when you can. Touch the grass (be grounded)… breathe the air… and who knows. Maybe that will help to pull away some excess waste energy that you have been storing up.
Until next time. #StayHome, #AloneTogether, #HateisaVirus