Reading has always helped me learn new things, detail subjects I'm already familiar with and expand my imagination. When I read about the medical research on tai chi and qigong, I understand why I NEED these things as daily practices in my life. When I read the ancient classics, I learn some of the rich history of tai chi and some of it's multi-layered depth of meaning. And when I read contemporary masters, I am inspired by how these arts have evolved along with the people and societies they serve.
I recently finished reading a contemporary qigong classic, The Healer Within by Roger Jahnke, founder of Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi. Published in 1997, the book was written for those with little to no knowledge of qigong and medicine. It barely even mentions "qigong" as such and focuses more on it's tools: movement, massage, meditation and breathing. The simple language of the text and lack of complicated Chinese or medical terms makes it easy to comprehend the many benefits found in practicing the chi arts. The use of anecdotal evidence from Dr. Jahnke's 30+ years as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine gives real and personal meaning to the research behind how chi arts work. Reading the personal stories of how real people with serious health issues changed their lives using simple qigong techniques is inspiring and makes the practices and their benefits more personal as we relate these stories to those with similar health issues in their lives.
Having been an avid chi arts reader for well over 15 years now, much of this book's appeal is its very un-technical information about how qigong helps humans heal on various levels. Dr. Jahnke managed to keep my interest throughout the entire 245 pages right into the valuable Appendix. Most fascinating was the continued reiteration that qigong and tai chi do not, of themselves, heal us but unleash the powerful healer hidden within us all. It is this healer within that generates health and cures dis-ease by stimulating good immune and overall cellular function. Within each of us is the world's most powerful pharmacy just waiting to be activated by these four simple but profound techniques blended together through eons of development within the world's oldest and longest living culture.
It's well known in the medical community that few pharmaceutical drugs are as powerful or heal as well as the so-called Placebo Effect. In fact, to test a new drug, it's benefits are weighed against the benefits received through Placebo Effect. Basically healing by Placebo Effect takes place when someone believes that a therapy, drug or specific intervention will help what ails them. The person's belief is what actually heals them by activating the healing mechanisms we are all born with. Modern medical research has shown that it does not matter if the belief is in a drug, therapy, prayer, diet, angels, surgery, religion or lifestyle. The fact of the matter is, it is our belief that often cures us more effectively than a pharmaceutical intervention. This has also been the case in my personal healing. The self-administered morphine drip did not take away the pain of my shattered right leg. My belief that I could breathe the pain away worked far better than the nauseating and disorienting morphine ever did. As Dr. Jahnke states in his book, about 1/5 of all cases of remission are spontaneous and what the Western medical community labels as "miraculous." Despite the consistency in these "miracle recoveries" Western medicine typically discounts them-even when the patients themselves tell their doctor "It was the prayer group," or whatever intervention of belief was the stimulant. This means that 1/5th of all healing occurs without any of the numerous costly and inconvenient interventions of Western medicine.
When I neared the end of the aptly named The Healer Within, I became even more inspired by it's pages devoted to the healing group energy field or chi chang gong in Chinese. When I ask people why they come to their first tai chi class, many respond the same: "It's so beautiful when I see a group practicing together. I want to be part of that." Without even knowing it, these novices have felt the healing energy field that gets created when a group practices chi arts together. There is a significant and measurable shift in the electromagnetic field when a group of people move and breathe together as one in a tai chi practice. This group energy field accelerates our own internal healer creating even more health and well being than when we practice alone.
A handful of our beachside chi activists have dedicated themselves to learning the forms to this degree. But now that they have, they have noticed and commented on how amazing it feels when the whole group goes through the forms together in harmony. When I watch this group practice together as one, I too feel the tangible shift in the energy around us, even though I may not be participating in the exercise. This level of practice takes personal persistence, dedication and hours of at home practice to attain. It also requires a committed, consistent group to practice with. This is why I continue to practice with others the forms that I know like the back of my hand. I do not need the practice to get the form. I need the group to help perfect and heal myself.
One of the most valuable tools in the book is in the Appendix under the label PHASES. It is a simple but very powerful self-inquiry technique into different aspects of one's life. The technique offers a straight forward method to improve quality of life in many areas by simply asking ourselves two questions regarding each part of our life: career, health, nutrition, relationships, family, finances, etc. I will continue to use this simple but helpful tool for years to come which is just one of the reasons The Healer Within will now have a permanent place in my chi arts book collection.