The 5 phases of Medical Qigong – Our connection with Nature
Lesson 1 Chapter 1
Physical vs Energetic Self
If we are want to have an lasting impact on our wellbeing and get meaningful results from our self healing we must come to an understanding of who we truly are. We are energy. More than flesh and blood, the physical being that we can feel and touch is simply a manifestation of our energetic being. Quantum Physics teaches us this with science. However, to get in touch with that energetic being, I will use the Daoist 5 phase concept, as it has been used for centuries by adepts to make powerful and lasting changes to their lives.
To understand the 5 phase concept for healing, we need to look at the Daoist philosophy of natural progression.
From the Limitless Nothingness (Wuji) emerged the Supreme Ultimate or Undifferentiated Absolute (Taiji). From Taiji emerged Yin and Yang. Movement generates Yang and when that movement attains its limit, it becomes still and tranquil. From that stillness the Absolute births Yin. When tranquility has reached its limit, movement returns again. Motion and Stillness, Light and Dark, as they eternally alternate they become one another's source.
Through this dance of life, within the flow, the 5 phases are realized, each out of the other. Each relates to every other as well as the whole, in flow and stillness and then flowing again unceasingly. From all of that we are born at our time in our place with the purpose to achieve and retreat from balance to seek it again. In that, we understand the purity of Nature and the enormity of Love that emerged from the Limitless Nothingness to bring us life so that we may Love ourselves, and each one that crosses our path.
It is though this Love that we can heal. However, before we can love ourselves unconditionally, we must first understand how we function. The five phase concept looks at nature, and then how we fit in to those cycles.
Yin and Yang
The fundamental principle of Yin and Yang, the two basic complementary energies of the manifest universe are also important. In this philosophy, everything that the Universe manifested, is made up of a unique blend of these two forces.
A healthy body has a balance of yin and yang in each of it's 5 phases. This balance expresses itself in many ways, but the most basic is the way that Qi (life force energy) either flows, or pools. As Qi flows through each system of the 5 phases and their meridians or conduits it moves much like the earth`s rivers and streams. This Qi is responsible for animating all of the body's physiologic functions.
There are 5 different methods to manipulate the way Qi flows in order so that the body can repair itself the way nature heals. Acupuncture uses needles, articulating with a single point in a specific meridian where Qi flows through a body. In moxibustion, the practitioner applies heat in the form of the smoldering herb moxa on those same points to manipulate flow. In the Daoist Bodywork called Tuina (Literally "push/pull"), that practitioner uses fingers on those points for the same purpose. An Herbal medicine practitioner uses plant, animal and mineral substances as well as special diets to balance the relationships of the five phases.
The fifth branch of Taoist Medicine, the oldest and truest classical Daoist Medicine is Qi Gong, which uses exercises and mental intention with imagery to balance the flow of Qi. It is practiced as self-care, and we will use it as our prime modality.
Two vital substances in our body, Qi and blood, are Yang and Yin in respect to each other. The nature of Blood is Yin. It is liquid, flowing, nurturing and has substance. The nature 0f Qi is Yang. It is active, energy, and etherical. These two substances work with each other in synergy to balance our system.
Yin and Yang interact in the universe as opposing forces that work to create harmony. This teaches us that an oppositional aspect doesn't mean an enemy force. The Five Phase theory in Daoyi differentiates this dynamic into stages of existence. Each phase depicts a season as well as a phase in life. birth, growth, maturation, death, and rebirth. Movement through each phase reflects seasonal change as well as growth and demise. The 5 cycles are repeated and expressed in every aspect of the manifest universe.
Five Element Qigong
Five Element Qigong is an extension of the five element theory of Chinese Medicine, culture and philosophy. Although it is called five elements, it is really five phases, and even 5 archetypes. How the phases interact and their archetypal relationship with each other and each person is important in my process of diagnosing the origin of pain points and how to resolve them.
In Five Element Qigong, the elements or phases are named: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each of these elements incorporates an organ system, Each system has two organs and a meridian network The meridians are like connecting and delivery channels, As I refer to the organs, they have the same names of physical organs, and they articulate with the physical organs, but they are in fact energetic and should not be confused with the physical organs with the same name. In Qigong, there is an energy body that interacts and animates the physical body, but it is not the physical body.
In the illustration above, each element is depicted with a colored ball. The thick arrows show a relationship. The arrow comes from the nurturer, like a parent, to the child. So Water nurtures Wood, Wood nurtures Fire, and so on around the circle. The thin arrows depict control. It’s a little like a grandparent. Water controls Fire, Wood controls Earth and so on around the circle. These relationships are a valuable tool for me when figuring out the source of chronic pain or imbalance.
Nature and the 5 Phases
Water flows down the terrain where it nurtures all plant species, depicted as the wood element.
Here the wood grows upwards towards the Sun (Fire), which eventually dries them.
The wood may fuel fire which then turns the wood into ash. Both the ash and the dried plants turn to soil, the Earth element.
Over time, bacteria and fungi in this new soil changes the compost into life supporting minerals. Slowly it is compressed into stone, and crystalizes into palatable mineral deposits, the metal element.
These minerals are then taken into the earths waterways by rainfall and absorbed into water, giving it nutrients. This enrichened water is absorbed by plants, the wood element and the entire cycle begins once more.
The Wood Element
The Wood Element’s season is Spring. The organ system is the Liver/Gallbladder.
The predominant wood attributes (when in balance) are strength flexibility and courage. Think of bamboo, strong, yet flexible, pervasive yet adaptable. Imbalanced, the Wood Element will show the body in stress, with inflammation and rigidity. The imbalanced emotions that becomes stagnant and destructive in the Liver are anger, irritation and annoyance. While the constructive emotions are courage and confidence.
Wood Element Qigong
One simple Wood Element Qigong starts as you stand with legs shoulder width apart.
Visualize roots extending from heels and balls of feet, twice as deep as you are tall.
Raise the arms up and imagine your body is the trunk of a strong tree, your legs the roots set deeply into the earth, and your arms the branches.
A wind begins to blow, first from the left, as you inhale, then right, as you exhale. As the wind blows, your branches go with the wind, not resisting. They bend and sway but never break – your trunk sways slightly with the wind following the movement of your (arms) branches.
This teaches our body to be supple, flexible and mobile in the face of daily challenges. Using deep breaths, along with the gentle movements and visualizations, help to dissipate stress, the most common cause of Wood Element imbalance.
The Fire Element
The Fire Element’s season is Summer. The organ system is the Heart/Small Intestine.
Fire is active in it is character, The energy of the Fire Element is expansive. Fire is associated with the qualities of exuberance and persistence; it is also connected to restlessness. Warmth and creativity are also attributes, although, in excess, impatience and impulsive behavior will dominate. When you are true to yourself, this element nurtures the joy and laughter associated with playfulness. The destructive emotion, that becomes stagnant and uncomfortable is anxiety. In balance, the Fire Element likely reveals the prevailing constructive emotion of joy.
Fire Element Qigong
Stand with legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart – Lift the toes of the left foot and rotate on the heel 90 degrees to the left. Bending the left knee into warrior 2 legs, with the right leg straight behind you – raise your right arm parallel to the ground with a bent elbow as if to block someone is trying to hit you – extend the heel of your right palm under your left forearm as if you were going to strike the same opponent in the chin – Yet, rather than a fighting pose, imagine your forearm and palm absorbing brilliant red light like solar collectors, shunting the light through the chest and torso into the back leg – rotate back on the left heel to the original stance and repeat the same process on the right side – inhaling when rotating to the left and exhaling when rotating to the right – repeat the whole round nine times with long deep breaths. This exercise cultivates healthy heart energy while dissipating the stagnation that can cause anxiety.
The Earth Element
The Earth Element’s season is Summer. The organ system is the Spleen/Pancreas/Stomach.
The Earth’s archetype is like a Grand Matriarch, drawing all beings together with Herself, in order to bring harmony, the sense of feeling grounded and stability.
That steadfastness, stability and a feeling of trust in life’s process is the essence of a balanced Earth Element.
Worry, which is the mind throwing its energy and thoughts into the future, brings instability, dizziness and an upset stomach. These symptoms indicate that Earth is out of balance. Worry is the stagnant destructive emotion and harmony and trustworthiness are the balanced constructive emotions.
Earth Element Qigong
Make a triangle with thumbs and index fingers and hold it above and away from your forehead with the arms extending the triangle about 18 inches in front of you. Visualize golden sunlight coming through it and into the third eye, between your eyes and brow.
Slowly twist your upper torso to the left. Simultaneously draw golden Light up the inner aspect of the right leg. Repeat, twisting slowly to the right as you exhale, continue seeing the sunlight coming into the third eye through the triangle and drawing golden Light up your left leg.
Repeat nine times.
As you move back and forth, with long deep breaths pacing your movement, think of the sun, rising and setting, as it comes across the horizon with your movement. Feet rooted deep into the earth, there is nothing to worry about as you trust that the sun will continue to rise and set every day. This exercise cultivates harmony and a healthy immune system, while dissipating worry and distrust in life’s process.
Metal Element’s season is Autumn. Yin organs in this system are the Lungs. The Yang organ is the Large Intestine, which is more hollow than the Lungs, the Yin organs.
Qualities associated with metal when in balance are persistence, strength and determination. Inflexibility indicates imbalance. Metal as a character archetype depicts organization, cleanliness, and minimalism. Metal is very strong; and the element cultivation promotes self-reliance. The imbalanced metal emotions are grief, sadness and betrayal, while the constructive emotions are trustworthiness, caring and understanding.
With the season of the Metal Element as Autumn, this phase deals with transition from life to death and having something and knowing the time and value to let that go. Attachment is a cause of great pain within this phase. We can learn from Nature, by observing the trees as their leaves fall in Autumn. Trees are not attached to their leaves, they know those leaves will eventually become nutrients for their future wellbeing, In the same way, we can know that the experiences from whatever we are letting go will feed us when we need them. Holding on to these things beyond their time will cause festering and lead to issues with either the lungs or large intestine.
Metal Element Qigong
Stand with legs shoulder width apart. Hands start in a prayer position.
Inhale slowly and deeply while slowly extending both arms out to your sides, palms facing forward, visualizing pure white light flowing up the arms and into the chest.
As you exhale, bring your arms and palms back towards your solar plexus, visualizing yellow thick sludge exiting the arms and collecting in the palms. With all the rest of your breath, make a strong hissing sound while raising up the hands and tossing the yellow sludge out from your hands.
Repeat 9 times
Water Element’s season is Winter. Yin organs in this system are the Kidneys. The Yang organ is the Bladder. The more solid something is, the more Yin it is. A Bladder is hollow, so it can hold urine. In comparison, the Kidney is more solid, thus it is deemed the Yin organ.
The destructive emotion of the Water element is depression. A sense of lack, not having or being enough is the voice of an imbalance in this phase. Abundance and Confidence are depicted by a balanced Water element.
Water is Yin in character, its energy moves downward, constantly seeking source, patiently following the path of the least resistance. In balance, the water element nurtures abundance and stores our primordial energy, like a battery.
Winter, the Water Element’s season is the time of stillness rest and regeneration. Take time to rest and rejuvenate yourself. It is in the Water element that all great innovations and ideas are birthed. Without the rest, the inspiration may get blocked.
Water Element Qigong
Stand with legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart visualizing yourself standing knee-deep in light blue water – place the back of your left hand behind your right kidney – inhale as you bend the knees.
As you are dipping into the water with your right hand, scoop the water and lift and rotate it up to the left of the body – turn the hand at chest height and visualize the blue water transforming into a blue mist – exhale while bringing hand and mist across the front of your face, palm out while rotating the upper body to the right – listen intently for the sound of the hand's movement.
Repeat nine times.
Change hands and do the opposite side, changing the water color to a darker blue. Repeat nine times.
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