Today is one of my favorite days of the year, it’s a little known “holiday” if you will. Before I go on explaining what exactly today is, I’d like to illustrate why it’s a personal favorite. To do so, we need to talk about something everyone goes through, life.
The Messiness of Life
Life is messy. Even if you’re lucky and have a fortunate life, it can still get messy. There’s stress, sickness, and the practically inevitable aging. Most of us however, are not so fortunate. On top of that, people get injured and traumatized. Trauma can happen on multiple levels, and often does.
Trauma can take place in a vast multitude of ways physically. If you want a good idea, take a look at all the possible medical diagnoses there are. It can take place as an injury resulting in a broken arm/leg, it can take place as a spinal injury, or even a bad virus causing respiratory failure. There’s seemingly countless ways for us to be physically traumatized.
Mental trauma is unfortunately less recognized, but society is getting better at that. Mental trauma can be caused by virtually anything, and it’s highly subjective from person to person. Hell, even stress is mental trauma. What is even less recognized than mental trauma, is spiritual trauma. I’d argue one of the greatest and most widespread spiritual traumas there are is not being awake. But other than that, there are some pretty bad scenarios. This can range from extremes such as possession, or kundalini syndrome; to milder cases of distorted perception.
Another thing that people don’t seem to realize is that these levels of our being are not isolated from each other. In fact, trauma can “leak” from one level to another. When we’re injured, that of course causes stress. Depending on the injury, it can also damage our self-esteem, which can lead to depression. Depression can then go on to damage us spiritually too. Or we could go the reverse direction. Let’s use an example of false bias (I consider beliefs and biases to be held in the spiritual layer). Someone who is biased against a position might hold some strong feelings towards it. Those strong feelings, if chronically triggered, could potentially manifest into health problems. We could even start in the middle, with the mind. Recent research has been beginning to show that some autoimmune disorders are actually linked to emotional trauma. There’s no escaping it, trauma travels throughout our being.
Enough of the doom and gloom, let’s start seeing it differently. I’m going to show you what cultures have discovered long ago, and what we need to re-discover today.
The Flow of Life
Ancient cultures throughout the world recognized a type of energy within us. The Hindus (where Yoga comes from) called it prana, the Chinese called it qi (pronounced “chee”), and I believe the Hebrews called it ruach. I’m without doubt that there have been other cultures with other names for it, but I just don’t know the terms. What is this energy, and why do we need to acknowledge it today?
To answer these questions, I’ll take the “qi” approach. The character used for qi is composed of two other chinese words. It’s a combination of rice/grain/food and air. Our food and air are two of the main sources of our qi. From a medical standpoint, we need both food and air in order for our bodies to metabolize energy and function. Qi is essentially our life force/energy. There’s no single “thing” called qi. Many specific “things” can be called qi, it’s a somewhat general idea.
So of course from that understanding, qi is essential and necessary. But qi is more than just the energy our body uses to function. It’s also the in-between our minds and our bodies. It’s also heavily tied in to our emotions. Don’t believe me? Think back to when you’ve been angry, or stressed, or fatigued, or depressed. Have you felt differently, did your energy levels change? I’m not saying these changes are mystical in nature, but qi was/is a primitive model used for understanding these changes. Qi is our metabolic energy, as well as our endocrine system and probably a host of other systems that tie our minds to our bodies.
Time to get a little advanced here, so apologies if it’s a bit much. Qi can be considered the middle layer of our being. It can also be said to be our mind’s extension into our bodies. A common model proposes us having 3 “bodies”. We’re all familiar with our physical body, but we also have an energy body, and a spiritual body. These layers/bodies have an interdependent relationship to each other. The Chinese understood these layers of having a yin/yang relationship with their adjacents, under the rule “yin supports/nourishes; yang governs”. The physical body provides the foundation for the energy body, so the energy body feeds off the physical. The energy body in turn determines how the physical body functions. The spiritual body feeds off the energy body, and in turn determines how the energy body functions.
How Trauma is Stored
Now we can see how this ties into trauma. Energy is the vehicle that trauma uses to travel throughout us. If we have a physical energy, that can have an impact on the energy running through that area, which in turn will adversely affect how our spiritual body is nourished. If we are chronically stressed and have buried emotional traumas, that adversely affects how the body functions in the long run and we can develop health problems. That can also lead to weakened spiritual health. And of course if something hurts us directly spiritually, that can trickle down into our energy and possibly even physical bodies.
What happens when we’re hurt is this energy gets hindered and stagnated. These blockages build up in our channels and our chakras (energy centers along the spine that control different stages of development). We are not powerless though. These blockages can be cleared. When they are cleared, we heal from the various traumas. How do we do that?
How We Heal
We clear these blockages through mind-body practices. My personal favorite is Qigong. Qigong translated means energy work. It’s a discipline using the body, breath, and mindfulness to optimize the flow of energy. I cannot recommend the Flowing Zen Academy enough for those interested in taking up qigong. If online learning isn’t your style and you can’t find a qigong class nearby, then take up Tai Chi. Tai Chi is basically qigong turned into a martial art, and it’s widely taught therapeutically. They usually incorporate qigong exercises as a warm-up too.
If qigong or tai chi isn’t your cup of tea (it is mine), there’s other choices too. Yoga is more than just stretching, and you can take it to the next level by trying to do it in a state of mindfulness too. If doing isn’t your thing and you prefer treatment, check out acupuncture or go to a new age shop that offers chakra cleansing. There are options out there.
This brings me back to today. Today is International Tai Chi/Qigong Day. It’s a commemoration and promotion of amazing mind-body practices that promote healing. Even if you think you’re in good health, these practices can help take you to the next level simply because it optimizes the flow of your energy. Check out this site here for more info. Today is an excellent to start taking charge of your own healing!