Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, October/November 2001.
Copyright 2001-presnet. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
When you think about protection, what do you think? Car insurance, health insurance, home insurance? Being physically strong and well-trained? Regular check-ups, vitamins, herbal preparations?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and qigong meditation, the focus is on the balance of qi (chi) or vital energy -- not just our own personal energy, but also the energies of the people and forces we contact. What we are "protecting" is ourselves from situations and/or forces which might cause us to move into a state of imbalance. In TCM and qigong, it is believed that human beings are connected inseparably to nature; to protect ourselves we must align with nature in order to stay balanced, with our qi open and flowing smoothly.
Modern technology has done much to help us artificially adjust to the situations in which we live and work, thus requiring us to use less energy adjusting to our environments. Housing and places of work are climate-controlled environments where substantial efforts are made to eliminate pollutants (non-smoking facilities, asbestos removal and so forth).
Geographical areas and creatures of nature are being preserved and safeguarded to promote ecological balance. Various forms of transport make short or long journeys less strenuous. Technology has introduced numerous protections: improved housing and clothing, safer food, artificial heating and cooling, and more.
Improvements to everyday life such as these have eased our need to make constant, sometimes severe, bodily adjustments to changes in our external and internal environments. We live more safely and therefore longer. The increasing average life expectancy clearly shows this trend. In 1900, life expectancy was 47.3 years; by 1994, life expectancy had increased to 75.9 years.
Technology, however, has also frequently impacted our balance less favorably. Pollution of air and water sources, overuse and indiscriminate use of natural resources, and other excesses, are areas in which a great deal of work is still required. Early Native Americans believed: We did not inherit the Earth from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children.
In addition to environmental concerns, the modern era has created other causes for concern. Electricity, while responsible for amazing new inventions, also allows us to stay up and work late into the night, thus inducing stress, too much time way from family, etc. The noise of airplanes and other media may damage hearing. Many people do far less physical exercise than in other eras. And, of course, there's personal stress: stress regarding the basic necessities of life (food, shelter and clothing) and stress related to work and lifestyle issues. All these factors lead to imbalance in the body, which over time results in physical damage and illness.
By conserving and wisely using energy, a person helps to keep their body and its energy balanced. Since in TCM and qigong, prevention is as important as cure, if the body can be kept well and strong, then the possibility of minor (cold, headache, etc.) or major (pneumonia, arthritis, cancer, etc.) imbalances will be lessened.
There are, of course, many approaches to ensuring balance, including regular health check-ups, prescription and herbal preparations, eating properly, and so forth. In TCM, the arsenal of balancing mechanisms includes acupuncture, acupressure, massage, food and herbs, and qigong meditation. Here are some other ways to protect yourself from imbalance and negative influences: - Practice qigong meditation or other wellness techniques
to release problems and establish and maintain balance. - Learn to listen to your body and adjust as needed;
take corrective action in situations of imbalance as quickly as possible. - Keep a positive mental attitude
in all circumstances. - Use a "mental wash" when you feel something is negative or uncomfortable.
The wash involves thinking of bringing clean, fresh water, adjusted to the temperature most comfortable for you, down through the top of the head and then through the whole body. In the end, the water has washed down through the whole body. The water is left in the bottom of the feet from where it automatically releases out of the body. As the process is completed, a person should think of cleansing each section of the body as the water passes through it; individual organs can be considered or whole areas of the body. - Always maintain mild attention on your Dantien
(central energy center located inside the body, below the navel area) to ensure some thought is being given to your energy and energy center. When stressed, upset, etc., one hand can be placed on the Dantien to assist in maintaining a light focus. - As needed, use special protection techniques.- Maintain the body and its organs in a strong and healthy condition
to ensure your immune system is in a strong and healthy condition. This can be done through wellness activities such as qigong and herbal supplements. Remember, when a cup is filled with good water, nothing bad can enter.- Release particular concerns as needed.
As noted above, this can be done in qigong through the mental wash. Other meditative and wellness practices (Eastern and Western) have similar techniques.- A mental shield of strong, positive energy can be visualized around the body and held there
. Since qigong practice emphasizes the need to link the mind and the qi, creating mental images of specific elements of nature can serve as both mental and physical protections. Examples of common images used in placing protective shields around the body include light, sun and golden light or energy. - Avoid possible situations of internal or external stress,
or those that have the potential to become negative. In addition, make decisions which help you conserve energy, including not engaging in excessive behavior or exhaustive activities or work. Give the body time to rest and recover.- Eat in a balanced manner and avoid excesses.
Use herbs and other alternative balancing methods in situations where you are unable to fully balance personal energy yourself. Make time for exercise.
As additional techniques are learned, many wish to begin working with and helping others. This is often not just a question of becoming a healer and working with clients. Often the desire springs from a natural interest in helping others around us, such as a family member or friend. In this situation, it is important to first have a good understanding of your own energetic balance. Prior to treating others, a therapist should be comfortable with himself and his energy should be full and strong. As noted earlier, this can be accomplished through practices like qigong.
In addition, it is important he protect himself when working with others by creating a positive mental shield around himself. In the Sun Protection Technique, detailed on page 63, a series of suns is brought into the body and then expanded out around the body. Several suns should be brought in until the therapist feels he has a secure boundary. This boundary should be maintained during healing. It is as though the "protection" is stuck to the therapist and always remains between himself and the individual being treated, even when touching.
During Xuan Ming Dao Qigong, attention is directed toward connecting the mind and qi and controlling and directing energy. This ability, in our current context of discussion, is directed at maintaining a protective shield while performing an interactive session with another person. As a rule, 70 percent of a person's concentration should always be focused on his own energy (usually by focusing on the Dantien, the energy center below the navel) and 30 percent on the technique being performed. The protection technique should be used during the entire time the healing technique is being performed. If the therapist feels a "drop" in his protection, he should pause, reinforce the protection and then continue.
It is also beneficial if, prior to treating, a therapist first uses the mental wash described earlier 1-3 times to prepare and protect his own body. The wash should also be done after the session is completed.
Therapists are also advised to complete the qigong meditative practice (or some other rebalancing practice) after treatment sessions to ensure their own energy is returned to a full and balanced condition. Often healers cannot do this after every client, but I recommend at the end of the treatment day attention be addressed to returning personal energy to a full and balanced condition. Healers may also find it helpful when working in a modality in which they are physically touching clients to wash the hands in warm water after each treatment session. While doing so, the mental imagery and concentration should be very positive and focused on releasing any energy picked up during the treatment session. Another technique is to form a loose fist with the hand and then open the hand somewhat quickly while thinking of flicking any unwanted energy off the hand or skin. The best protection a person can have is to maintain the body in a strong and healthy condition with the energy open and flowing. By learning to listen to the body, a person can perceive and balance minor problems before they become active illnesses and/or seek outside assistance as early in an imbalance situation as possible. Yu-Cheng Huang, L.Ac., passed away last year shortly after submitting this article. His student and lead writer, Laurie Manning, continues to oversee his works and writings. Yu-Cheng Huang's background was extensive and combined aspects of both traditional Chinese healing and Chinese martial arts. He was a 31st generation disciple from the Shaolin Temple in China, a Qigong Advisor at the South China Teaching University, NCCA certified in the United States, an author and lecturer in his field, and Master of the Ching Ying Tai Chi Kung Fu Association in Skokie, Ill. He authored several texts, including
Change The Picture -- A Xuan Ming Dao Qigong Workbook, Think The Good Thing, Master Yourself, Openings, and other works and articles on qigong and TCM.