-Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century
My reflections this week are elemental. Not only am I engaged in some private research on the elements, but I am also beginning a course acupuncture treatments for chronic sinusitis, an illness which has plagued my whole life. I found it thrilling, therefore, to find in twelfth-century visionary artist Hildegard von Bingen's writings the epigraph above on the nature of lifeforce.
Our bodies are living organisms with communities of organs working in collaboration and with a network of neurons deciding on courses of action. Our nerves are like the invisible wires that cause mechanical devices like computers to switch on or switch off in a pattern of ones and zeros. If this metaphor holds, then it also stands to reason that sometimes a body's wiring or mechanisms may not function correctly, or might encounter a problem creating an infinite feedback loop. Clearly my immune system has been running poorly and is currently experiencing a breakdown.
Western medical science can perform great miracles. I don't doubt that it is a valid path of restoring health. I do find, however, that after some 34 years of attempting standard Western medical practices: drugs, injections, inhalers, etc., I need a breath of fresh air and a different point-of-view to help solve my systemic problem. It's not just the headaches I often feel, ranging from mild to migraine. It's not just the sore throat, coughing, wheezing and general feeling of listlessness that comes with each infection. It's the constant rash of dry, crackling skin; the insane amount of water I need to drink to prevent dry-mouth; and the pressure on my brain. Sometimes it's also the millisecond of fright that arrives in the morning, wondering if I'll be able to take that first breath of the day through my nose or mouth -- or at all.
That's where the Chinese concept of Qi comes in. Qi, life energy, is a concept that I have known about since I wandered about studying Eastern philosophies during college.
A definition of Qi from Wikipedia.com
There must be something within my body's energy or lifeforce that is not working as it should. Why should I labor under a near constant state of illness, no matter how slight? It's been so long since I've sought any medical treatment for my sinusitis, and since I last received care for it, the world has changed. Insurance companies now accept the probability that cases like mine can be treated with acupuncture. And that is where I arrive at the Qi concept. I know someone who found great relief from sinus trouble through acupuncture. Other friends of mine have had even more serious illnesses like Crohn's disease treated successful by Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
At last I have found the right combination of willingness to try something new in the hopes of relief from my non-debilitating, yet irritating condition and of ability to afford said treatment. I found my courage and went to my first acupuncture appointment last Thursday.
The first thing I realized was that it was more like going to a massage therapist appointment than like a doctor's office visit. I didn't have to undress and wear a tiny sheet. I didn't feel cold. The room was not lit by harsh fluorescent lighting, but rather dimmed, warm light. There was gentle music playing in the background. My acupuncturist was calm and professional as any medical practitioner might be, but with that hint of empathy you don't often receive from a medical doctor. She feels my case is treatable, but she will need to see me frequently at first to get my wiring to recalibrate itself. The needles, don't hurt, by the way. You hardly feel them at all. In comparison to the years of desensitization injections and antibiotic injections I received as a child, they are a walk in the park. I know well that I will have to wait and see if acupuncture can offer me some relief, but I long for my body to be in harmony with itself.
If you are curious to know more about the relationship of the Chinese concept of Qi to medical health you might want to read an online article on acupuncture and qi or the following paragraph from Wikipedia's article:
Qi in traditional Chinese medicine
Theories of traditional Chinese medicine assert that the body has natural patterns of qi that circulate in channels called meridians in English. Symptoms of various illnesses are often believed to be the product of disrupted, blocked, or unbalanced qi movement (interrupted flow) through the body's meridians, as well as deficiencies or imbalances of qi (homeostatic imbalance) in the various Zang Fu organs. Traditional Chinese medicine often seeks to relieve these imbalances by adjusting the circulation of qi (metabolic energy flow) in the body using a variety of therapeutic techniques. Some of these techniques include herbal medicines, special diets, physical training regimens (Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan, and martial arts training), moxibustion, massage to clear blockages, and acupuncture, which uses small diameter metal needles inserted into the skin and underlying tissues to reroute or balance qi.