Monday, June 30, 2008

Qigong and The Three Treasures: Jing, Qi, and Shen

The following is an excerpt from pages 74 – 78 of Qi Gong Therapy: The Chinese Art of Healing With Energy by Shih, Tzu Kuo ISBN 0882681389

Jing (essence), Qi (vital energy), and Shen (spirit) exist in every living thing. They are the substantial basis for vital activity and are the foundation for the formation and maintenance of life in the human body. Together with Yin/Yang, the five elements, the Zang Fu and meridians, they form part of the core of TCM and serve as a guide to clinical Qi Gong. But Qi Gong, in particular, stresses the direct exercise of Jing, Qi, and Shen in order to eliminate disease, strengthen the body, promote intelligence, and prolong life.

[The five elements are the energies of earth, metal, water, wood, and fire; transforming, contracting, sinking, expanding, and rising respectively. The Zang Fu are the organ pairs that have correspondence to the five elements: stomach/spleen, lung/large intestine, kidney/urinary bladder, liver/gall bladder, heart/small intestine, and additionally the "organ" pair of the pericardium/triple-heater which is not an organ as recognized in Western medicine. The meridians are the energy pathways throughout the body, usually accessed through acupuncture. TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine, the broadest term for the practice that includes Qi Gong, Herbal Medicine, and Acupuncture.]

What are Jing, Qi, and Shen?

Jing (essence): Jing is an essential component of the human body and serves as a basis for vital activity. Types of Jing are distinguished according to their source and function: there is congenital Jing, acquired Jing, Jing of the Zang Fu organs, and the Jing of reproduction. The types of Jing do not exist as four separate substances, but interact with, with, support, and transform into one another. Congenital Jing is inherited from the Jing and blood of one's parents and forms one of the prime substances of vital activity in the human body. Congenital Jing is involved in the support and transformation of other types of Jing.

Acquired Jing comes from the nutrients in food. Jing is extracted from food by digestion and absorption under the auspices of the spleen and stomach. Through the function of the lung, it is transported to all the Zang Fu organs where it becomes Zang Fu Jing.

Both Jing and Qi are stored in the two kidneys. The kidney also dominates the bone and produces marrow. The Kidney is the root of Qi. Qi Gong exercise stresses exercising Jing, nourishing Jing, and reserving Jing, particularly stressing exercise of the vital energy stored between the two kidneys.

In the practice of Qi Gong, attention is paid to increasing one's intake of nutrients in order to reinforce acquired Jing, and to keeping sexual activity at a moderate level in order to preserve congenital Jing.

Qi (vital energy): The meaning of the term "Qi" is very broad. Ancient Chinese philosophers, doctors, and scholars considered every vital activity in the world to be a function of Qi. Qi was considered to be the essential substance out of which the world is composed. The transformations of Yin and Yang Qi produce the various things existing in the world. "The body receives Qi and thus can live." "Life is due to the coming together of Qi and death is due to the dispersion of Qi." The body is within Qi and Qi is within the body. Thus all life depends on Qi. With Qi, beings live; without it, they die. It is a dynamic power promoting the activity of the human body. Qi coexists with Jing. Where there is Qi, there is Jing. Where there is Jing, there must be Qi. For this reason, ancient scholars often referred to Jing and Qi together as "Jing Qi." In TCM, the circulation and transformation of Qi within the body is thought to operate according to its own law, undergoing processes of ascending, descending, going out, and transforming.

The Qi in the body, the Zheng Qi [called true or healthy Qi], has three sources:
1. The Qi inherited from one's parents. This is known as Congenital Qi.
2. The Qi derived from the air. This is mainly connected to the oxygen we breathe from the air.
3. The Qi acquired from food.

Both air-Qi and food-Qi are Acquired Qi. All three forms of Qi are indispensable for life.

Both Acquired Qi and Congenital Qi are stored in the kidneys. Through the respiratory action of the lung, the circulatory activity of the heart, the digestive and absorptive processes associated with the spleen and stomach, Acquired Qi and Congenital Qi are transported throughout the body.

Shen: "Shen" means different things in different contexts. Most frequently it means spirit, mind, sense, or expression. Here it mainly means spirit or mind. Shen is also a general name for the vital activity of the body. It is the result of the highly concentrated activity of the brain and manifests outwardly as an expression of the Zang Fu, meridians, Qi, blood, Jing, and body fluids. It is derived from Jing and Qi, and like them it has a substantial basis. It may be said that Shen is the outward manifestation of the cooperating action of Jing and Qi. Where Qi is strong, there will be Shen, where Qi is absent, Shen will weaken. Shen moves along with Qi and Jing is its interior. The substance of Shen manifests in bodily appearance, while at the same time, Shen is a function of bodily appearance.

In Qi Gong practice, we pay a great deal of attention to preserving and training Shen. The exercise methods of nourishing the Heart/Mind (Xin) and calming, regulating, and preserving Shen are therefore developed. By the three forms of regulation [regulating the body, regulating the breath, and regulating the Heart/Mind (Xin)], the brain activity is inhibited and the body feels comfortable. This is the state known as "Inner Quiet." In the Qi Gong state of Inner Quiet, the brain cells are rested and their function is regulated because of the reduction of disturbance to the brain. The body metabolism is generally reduced and oxygen consumption decreases while the storage of energy increases. Through these means, the functioning of all the systems of the body are directly influenced and strengthened, and imbalance tends toward a relative dynamic equilibrium.

Among the functions of the Qi Gong state of Inner Quiet are the build-up, transfer, and strengthening of Zheng Qi. How can Qi Gong prevent and treat disease, promote intelligence, prolong life, and develop human potentialities? By regulating and nourishing the heart and the mind through bringing the brain to a quiet state and thus promoting a condition of active regulation.

As we have been stressing throughout, Jing, Qi, and Shen play important roles in vital activity. Thus, the ancient practitioners of Chinese medicine and scholars specializing in methods of preserving health paid particular attention to the preservation and exercise of these three fundamental substances. Jing, Qi, and Shen do not exist in isolation. They coexist in the same body and cannot be separated. The Ancient doctors pointed out that Shen moves along with Qi and that Jing exists in the interior of the Shen. The longevity of the body depends upon the care and preservation of Jing, Qi, and Shen.

Through the regulation of body, breath, and heart/mind, the various forms of information coming from the inner and external environments – information that stimulates and disturbs the brain – can be responded to effectively, thus protecting and strengthening the self-stabilizing, dynamic equilibrium of the body's control system. [I.e., protecting and strengthening the body's ability to maintain health!]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eight Healing Sounds qigong: how it works

Whether it's Six or Eight, the Healing Sounds Qigong is one of the most powerful of the healing qigong practices, but there is very little written about the way in which it works. There is usually mention of vibration and harmony, but what (besides the vocal chords) vibrates, and how does that create harmony and health in the body?

We can talk about qi and energy channels, but that doesn’t satisfy the thirst of Western Medical science to understand the process of healing sounds.

Recently, I found two especially enlightening papers on the topic of sound and healing. One concerned itself with how sound waves travel through the body, and the other expanded upon the healing power of your own personal sound-making ability.

The sound wave transmission article was especially interesting.

Controversial New Idea: Nerves Transmit Sound, Not Electricity

By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor

posted: 14 March, 2007 1:00 pm ET

In this article, the author tells you that Thomas Heimburg, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen and expert in the intersection where biology meets physics, said: "The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced."

I guess that if it did, our nerves would be warmer, eh? So, if it isn't electrical impulses that travel from the brain to the body, not warming our nerves and sending messages of movement to knees, elbows, fingers, and toes, what is it?

Sound! Or so believes Thomas Heimburg.

Here is a quote from the article:

"Nerves are wrapped in a membrane of lipids and proteins. Biology textbooks say a pulse is sent from one end of the nerve to the other with the help of electrically charged salts that pass through ion channels in the membrane. But the lack of heat generation contradicts the molecular biological theory of an electrical impulse produced by chemical processes, says Heimburg, who co-authored the new study with Copenhagen University theoretical physicist Andrew Jackson.

"Instead, nerve pulses can be explained much more simply as a mechanical pulse of sound, Heimburg and Jackson argue. Their idea will be published in the Biophysical Journal.

"Normally, sound propagates as a wave that spreads out and becomes weaker and weaker. But in certain conditions, sound can be made to travel without spreading and therefore it retains its intensity."

The possibility that a sound wave retains its initial intensity as it travels from one end of the nerve to the other is something you may be able to use to your advantage in your practice of Healing Sounds.

But, how do you know the sounds you make are Healing Sounds?

Here, we consult our second expert, Dr. Jeffrey D. Thompson, D.C., B.F.A. of Bio-Tuning®, the process he pioneered that is "the process of using one’s own voice to facilitate self-healing." He may be the modern pioneer of this process and the use of technology to employ it, but the Chinese had it several thousand years ago. Healing Sounds were written of in the Yellow Emperor's Classic, the book on Chinese medicine, written in the third millennium B.C.E.

I appreciate and am very grateful for Dr. Thompson's research and bringing the possibility of this alternative health method to the attention of the modern patient and healer.

In his article, "Using the Sound of Your Own Voice to Facilitate Self-healing," he says:

"…I knew I needed to use a person's own voice singing this fundamental note. This would release a unique set of harmonics and overtones, which only one’s own vocal cords can produce - a voice vibration fingerprint. This voice vibration fingerprint is an exact pattern match of a person’s essential vibratory template - the one used by a person’s own "Biological Organic Intelligence," the Intelligence used to form one’s body from two cells and to maintain it moment by moment thereafter. One also experiences a profound sense of subconscious recognition of the vibration frequencies of one’s own voice. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

"Using this voice-tone-frequency to the exact cent for balancing and healing, through a special Neuroacoustic Sound Therapy Table, one’s body is kinetically resonated to the cellular level. The Sound Table has speakers built into it, so that one becomes one with the sound itself, as it were. Using this technique, it literally becomes difficult to distinguish where the body ends and the sound begins. There is a sense of melting into the vibration of one’s own sound and one’s own voice.

"To me, this is what the Mantra really was. A person would go to a great master who saw the entire world as vibratory patterns of energy and light. He was able to see the individual also as a unique vibratory pattern in the universe. The Master would sing the unique acoustic octave of this sound to the person, who would sing it back until known and memorized. The person would then meditate and chant this sound to him/herself - resonating from the inside out and balancing him/herself right down to the core of consciousness.

"The imbalances one may experience physically, emotionally, or mentally, for example, are only external projections of the only real imbalance that can exist – an imbalance in consciousness itself. Reaching this place and coming into balance - me with my Self - is the only way I can heal the real cause of my pain and suffering." [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

I would like to return for a moment to the second paragraph of Dr Thompson's quote: "The Sound Table has speakers built into it, so that one becomes one with the sound itself, as it were. Using this technique, it literally becomes difficult to distinguish where the body ends and the sound begins. There is a sense of melting into the vibration of one’s own sound and one’s own voice."

If you have ever mindfully practiced the Eight Healing Sounds, you know that you experience that exact same sense of "melting into the vibration of one’s own sound and one’s own voice" without need for table, speakers, or any other device outside of your own self.

In my observations from a previous article of my own, "Eight Healing Sounds Qigong"

I point out:

"The Eight Healing Sounds Qigong is 100% safe and effective because you are making the sound yourself with your breath, your healing visualization, and your intention. The energetic vibration you create is uniquely yours.

". . . the vibration you create with the sound you make through the practice of proper breathing techniques, the flow of energy created through the accompanying movements, and your intention will be a sound that is beneficial and healing for you just as any sound that I make under those circumstances is good for me.

"It is the same principle that can be observed in the function of the immune system, the digestive system, the respiratory system….any body system you can name. Your systems and mine work slightly differently depending on our immediate needs and our general health, but when our bodies are responding to our needs, my systems work exactly right for me just as your systems work exactly right for you.

"You may safely practice the Eight Healing Sounds and trust that your body is going to automatically do what is beneficial for your health when you relax into the practice and do it naturally."

In some ways, I am disappointed that Dr. Thompson advocates the necessity for the use of technology after telling you right up front that you are your own best sound system (to requote from above: The person would then meditate and chant this sound to him/herself - resonating from the inside out and balancing him/herself right down to the core of consciousness.), and that the vibration of self-generated sounds are much more powerful than sounds that come through the ears and flow through you from outside by playing a CD and listening through a headset. (See "Normally, hearing involves sound waves. . ." below.)

In his article, "Clinical Use Of Sound," he says: "Research projects in major universities across the country have explored the neurophysiology of meditation, deep relaxation states and mind/body interactions during healing. In one study a simple meditation technique used for 20 minutes a day caused profound changes in blood pressure, stress handling ability, immune response and feelings of well being - never mind using any kind of high-tech approach which could bring consciousness to very deep levels of relaxation." [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

Furthermore, he says: "Our first sensory experience in life as a fetus in the womb is of sound and vibration. We float in body temperature amniotic fluid - weight-less. We have fluid in our nose and mouth, which eliminates the senses of smell and taste. We have our eyes closed and are in the dark-no sense of sight. We have fluid in our ears pressed right up against the eardrum - but sound travels through water fives times more effectively than through air, therefore our sense of hearing is actually amplified. The symphony of sound patterns we experience at this time will be deeply imbedded in our subconscious mind for the rest of our lives - water swishing sounds, arterial pulse sounds and voice sounds. These are our first experiences of 'Primordial Sounds.'"

This really made me stop and think of each of the Eight Healing Sounds and what primordial sound they could represent! A variety of connections came to mind that I may expand upon at a later date.

Meanwhile, here is further evidence from Dr. Thompson on the efficacy of personally-generated sound to facilitate healing. He writes:

"The obvious stress reduction benefits of listening to relaxing music have been proven through numerous research projects in hospitals, universities and private clinical practices over the course of many years. Normally, hearing involves sound waves pushing air pulses against the ear drum, moving the mechanical joints of the middle ear bones which amplify these vibrations to the inner ear, which pushes fluids into wave pulses, which move tiny nerve endings, which fire signals through the 8th cranial nerve directly into the Temporal lobe of the brain, which interprets these impulses as 'sound'."

Here is where the practice of the Eight Healing Sounds appears victorious over all outer contenders (i.e. sound machines or CDs) and makes an effective and holistic treatment out of self-generated sounds. Yes, machines of his "Vibro-Tactile Induction" variety may deliver the right sounds and be effective, but are they as perfect and harmonious for your body as the sounds you yourself create?

Here is the result he claims of the delivery of sound through the body via technological means:

"By delivering these sound frequencies through the body directly, an entirely different system of the body - spinal cord and areas of the brainstem and brain - are brought into play, with the possibility of a much deeper whole-body response. With this delivery system we have the possibility of direct cellular stimulation. Direct stimulation of living cellular tissue using sound frequency vibration has shown marked cellular organelle response with a corresponding measurable increase of cellular metabolism and therefore a possible mobilization of a cellular healing response. Since the human body is over 70% water and since sound travels 5 times more efficiently through water than through air, sound frequency stimulation directly into the body is a highly efficient means for total body stimulation, especially at a cellular level.

"Sound frequency pulse waves played directly into the body also has a profound effect on the nervous system. The entire posterior 1/3 of the spinal cord consists of nerve tract bundles whose sole purpose is the transmission of vibration sense data to the Brain Stem, Cerebellum, Pons, Medulla, Hippocampus/Limbic System (emotional processing areas) and various areas of the Cerebral Cortex." [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

The mechanically-generated sounds seem to be pretty effective.

However, can you just imagine the level of power and regenerative healing stimulated by your own personal sound system on your own living tissue when you create the sounds yourself as you practice the Eight Healing Sounds Qigong? It must be positively amazing!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Recession Fears Threaten Workers' Vacation Plans

Here is another article on vacations just posted today by the same man who wrote the artilce I posted immediately before this one. He offers some updated info, and good suggestions for ensuring that you do get that well-deserved break!

Recession Fears Threaten Workers' Vacation Plans

Experts Offer 10 Ways to Take a Necessary Break

Tom Musbach, Yahoo! HotJobs

The slowdown in the U.S. economy is threatening a necessity for workers: vacations.

According to the annual Yahoo! HotJobs vacation survey, 51% of respondents said they plan to skip taking a vacation this year, opting to save money instead.

Not a Frivolous Matter

"Vacations are usually the first thing to go when people feel job or economic pressure," says Joe Robinson, a trainer in work-life balance and author of "Work to Live." He continues, "We're programmed to believe that free time is worthless, a frill to shove aside, but vacations are as important as watching your cholesterol or getting exercise."

Skipping a vacation can also be bad for your employer.

Milo and Thuy Sindell, founders of Hit the Ground Running and authors of "Job Spa," say, "You are not helpful to the company and your coworkers when you are not operating at full capacity. Vacations help you to get rejuvenated to come back to work at full capacity."

Make It Work With Less

For those tempted to skip vacation this year due to financial worries, experts recommend the following tips:

  • Remind yourself: Vacation is not a luxury. "You owe it to yourself, your family, and your company to take care of yourself by stepping out of the office for at least a few days at a time," says Liz Bywater, president of the Bywater Consulting Group, which helps improve organizational performance.
  • Put aside some funds each week. "Even $50 a week [or less] can add up and make your trip happen," says Robinson.
  • Plan leisure activities near home. "Stay at home and read, garden, hike, jog, bike, or whatever you like to do but never have enough time for during the weekends," say the Sindells. "Or be a tourist in your own city."
  • Try home-swapping. You can swap with someone you know in another city, or use an online service, such as or even (Vacation Rentals by Owner). "It can have the look and feel of a vacation at a much more affordable housing cost than paying for hotel or resort lodging," says Michael Haubrich, president of Financial Service Group and an expert in financial planning for career issues.
  • Keep the itinerary simple. Travel columnist Donald D. Groff recommends selecting a destination within 200 miles (a three-hour drive) from your home. If you're traveling by plane, fly nonstop whenever possible. "The sooner you get to your destination, the sooner your relaxation begins," Groff says.

Stress-Busting Strategies

The economic downturn is also adding to workers' stress levels. Nearly a third of the respondents (31%) are worried by how the economy is affecting their workplaces, and 34% said they feel pressure to improve their performance for fear of being laid off.

With 55% of respondents admitted to being "burned out" by work, stress and fatigue add another threat to vacations. Experts say you can prevent the threat in the following ways:

  • Start small. "Start with an afternoon off to do something you really enjoy, even if it's just a walk at the beach or a visit to a farmer's market," says Beth A. Levin, author of "Making a Richer, More Fulfilling Life a Reality."
  • If planning is a burden, don't. "Instead of planning a vacation, just take time off to be at home and figure it out each day as you go," the Sindells suggest.
  • Enlist back-up support. Ask a trusted coworker to back you up while you're away and offer to return the favor, Bywater suggests. "It's much easier to relax when you know someone's got you covered."
  • Choose according to what you need. You may need a peaceful retreat from stress, or you may benefit from something more active and exciting. "Avoid the kind of vacation that will leave you even more exhausted than before," she adds.
  • Give yourself a deadline. "Stop thinking about it and just do it," says Bywater. "Think of it as 'doctor's orders.'"

Monday, June 02, 2008

Vacations threatened by work burnout

Even your computer knows you need a vacation!

I posted this article last year, but as we approach summer, I felt it was worth a reprint because the burnout and lack of vacations is still as big a problem as it ever was.

Work Burnout Threatens Vacations by Tom Musback, Yahoo! HotJobs May 21 2007

Despite summer's reputation for being a time of travel and leisure, many U.S. workers are not using all their vacation time and are too tired to plan a getaway, according to a new Yahoo! HotJobs survey.

Nearly half of the respondents (49%) said they feel "burned out" by their jobs, and many did not fully use vacation time as a remedy. Out of 1,800 professionals surveyed, 45% said they did not use all of their vacation days allotted in 2006, and 39% said they were too tired to take a "real" vacation during their days off.

"People don't always realize the true benefits of taking vacation time," says Susan Vobejda, vice president of marketing at Yahoo! HotJobs. "They focus more on the absence from work and related details, when in fact a vacation allows time to recharge batteries and come back to the office with new energy and increased productivity."

Why Create More Work?

There are several reasons why workers don't use all their vacation time: having too much work to do to take a vacation (36%), not being able to afford a getaway (34%), wanting to save vacation time for emergencies (32%), and worrying about coming back to an excessive workload after a vacation (15%).

"I think people have thrown in the vacation towel," says Debra Davenport, a professional mentor, licensed career counselor, and employment agent. "What's the point of taking a vacation when you're still strapped to your cell phone and laptop, and, worse, you return to the office from your break only to have 500 emails, 100 voicemails, and weeks of work to catch up on?"

Taking a “Mental Health Day”

When people do take time off, it's often used in ways unrelated to vacations. In fact, nearly a third of respondents (31%) said they use the time to run errands, such as doctor visits, and 30% said they often use vacation time as "mental health days" to cope with stress.

"The issue," says Davenport, "is making self-care a priority. Vacations are an extension of that mindset."

The Problem of Presenteeism

Liz Bywater, president of Bywater Consulting Group, which specializes in organizational behavior change, suggests that elements of corporate culture may be responsible for the work-vacation imbalance.

"Part of the problem is that our culture supports an ethic of 'presenteeism,' whereby employees show up for work even when they are too ill or tired to be effective on their jobs," she says. "There is an expectation, sometimes unspoken, that people will come to work under all but the most extreme circumstances."

Making Vacation a Priority

Bywater offers the following tips for making the most of vacations:

• Choose the vacation that best meets your needs. You may need a peaceful retreat from stress, or you may benefit from something more active and exciting. Avoid the kind of vacation that will leave you even more exhausted than before.

• Plan ahead for your time off. Take practical steps to manage your workload with your upcoming vacation in mind. Try to wrap up important projects before you leave. Don't leave behind time-sensitive tasks that only you can handle.

• Enlist help. Ask a trusted coworker to back you up while you're away and offer to return the favor. It's much easier to relax when you know someone's got you covered.

• Have no regrets. You earned the vacation, so enjoy it!


Michelle here….does anyone else see the irony in this article?

How many of you searched for just the right job with just the right perks, which included three weeks of vacation a year, and don't bother to take any of them?

Employers should insist that employees take vacations. They should also insist that the employee leave the cell phone and laptop computer at home when they do take a vacation, but it is unlikely that they will. Why let go of someone, even temporarily, when you pay them to work a forty-hour week and then have them on call 24/7/365?

Stress is causing more and more illness in the forms of anxiety, depression, heart trouble, high blood pressure, skeletal and muscular problems, and yet do people consider serious stress-relief except on the most superficial, temporary level?

Not often. Employees and employers must find common ground on this topic. Employers must arrange for a person's job to be covered when they go on vacation….remember when that used to happen? I do. A person could go away for a week and not have two weeks worth of work waiting when he or she returned.

Employers, you are not doing yourselves any favors by burning out your employees. In the long run, you will lose more in sick days and training replacements than you will gain in working your people 24/7/365.

Employees, you must take the time that is yours by right and protect your health. In the long run, that is what a vacation is meant to do, give you a chance to get away from the craziness of the work world and enjoy the rest and relaxation of the leisure world….without cell phones and laptop computers!

A great vacation is one of the most holistic methods to reduce stress!

Make your plans now, and have a Great Vacation!