THE WAY THINGS ARE
By Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou
I took down my Qigong (Chigong) Therapy book given me by a Chinese friend. A death in the family allowed old war wounds associated with betrayal to bleed painfully into the present. My emotional turbulence was on full tide and I knew I wasn’t doing myself much good letting it hammer away at me.
We breathe automatically but not always correctly, and breath rhythm goes into overdrive when we’re upset. Prior to our lockdown, a friend was hospitalised for weeks with a severe lung and chest infection. Since then, she has been housebound. When we spoke by phone, she told me she would never again take breathing for granted.
The word Qi is associated with air but there is much more to it than that. Gong may be more familiar to us as Gongfu, which has broad implications but in short, is a method to build up Qi. To make the mind relaxed and comfortable in terms of Qigong, means to ‘regulate’.
According to the ancients, it’s to regulate the heart, ‘to adjust the disorderly mind and put it into tranquillity’; just what the fire breathing dragon in my head needed. I leafed through pages, reading points I’d underlined years ago.
Amazing how, long before machines were invented to show the fault lines in brain and body, these ancient Chinese practitioners were so aware of the importance of mind and body acting in unison to make a person stronger or calmer as a cooperating entity.
I sat comfortably, palms on thighs, body as relaxed as I could make it, until calm set in. I thought of how life is a constant challenge for everybody and everything. Our species, ancient or modern, has always been faced with some threat to mind or health, or even life itself.
I often feel when among trees in a quiet spot that they exude a gentle strength, an intangible but sure, silent force. Quiet now, I thought back analytically on the actions that had hurt not only me.
My book says, ‘The internal energies have different characteristics: heart-energy is like fire; kidney is like water; liver is like wood and lung-energy is gold.’ Inside the human body these elements need to counteract or blend. Even if you shake your head and pooh-pooh all that, it’s common sense that the amazing machine in which our brain finds itself can respond to natural input as much as to pharmaceutical drugs.
Granted, science has worked wonders for many of our needs but again, there’s usually a cost.
In ancient physical disciplines that also doubled as martial arts, persistence and balance are two essential elements. Breathing regulation through Tai Chi or Qigong needs persistence and costs nothing for a temporarily, emotionally off kilter mind, but more importantly, can offer a balance that pills and drugs often do not.
There are serious mental illnesses that exercise alone will not help, and yet certain drugs that promise control often have side effects that can create further problems. The recent disappearance of some trusted brands from pharmacy shelves compounds patients’ metal anxiety.
Some drugs drive the appetite to increase, thus weight gain depression is added to physcological trauma, or they can cause visible physical ticks. Read the possible hit list of side effects of many medications and wonder how they are allowed to pass as helpful drugs.
Some say it’s the eyes that mirror the soul. However, as an asthma sufferer who knows the rare value of a day of clean breathing without an allergy-belaboured body, perhaps it’s the breath that carries what we term the spirit. When we stop taking in air life is gone.
I made myself a cuppa cha. Simply cupping a warm drink in your hands and breathing in its aroma can be very soothing. Isn’t breathing such an underappreciated gift?