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Qi, Energy and Prana – Reflections

In the last Shiatsu Society News Bill Palmer shares with us some of his thoughts on the whole issue of Qi and / or energy which prompted me to share with you all some of my own thoughts on this very interesting subject and hopefully contribute to the ongoing discussion. As a Shiatsu practitioner and teacher and yoga teacher I’ve had to think of this question a lot as I need to communicate to my students how they can understand what qi, prana or energy is or how it manifests and how we can perceive it and slowly work with it more and more.

Although all Shiatsu practitioners work with qi we have different levels of understanding, different sensations, experiences and ways to conceptualise this phenomenon. So I understand and respect Bill Palmer’s point of view as much as I respect Cliff Andrews ideas of vibrational frequencies and the link with Quantum Physics.

I agree with Bill Palmer that the concept of qi is very deeply understood in Chinese Medicine and that the more simple word energy cannot do justice to the complexities and intricacies of the word qi in chinese language, culture and medicine. This is a familiar problem to translators. Do I use the original word because exactly the same word does not exist in my language or should I use an approximation in my own language because the foreign word will never really be understood as the cultural and linguistic and perhaps spiritual references are missing ?

Like many teachers I used to explain the idea of qi via the ideogram of rice and steam, yin and yang and generally I spoke more about qi or rather ki, instead of energy as I know Japanese culture quite well whereas I have never been to China, don’t speak any Chinese at all and I have never practised any Chinese arts. 
Chinese Medicine has it’s own internal logic and for anyone wanting to deeply understand Chinese Medicine I think they’ll need to deeply understand the Chinese ideas of qi. But energy is universal and not limited to any particular cultural or medical understanding. That means that we can do Shiatsu with a more or less profound or particular TCM bias. The Zen Shiatsu style allows us to work within purely energetic considerations of kyo and jitsu and just the basic TCM notions of qi.  

Linking our understanding of energy to Quantum Physics helps us delve into how energy behaves at a very subtle level, the sub-atomic level and how energy can be  influenced and manipulated through consciousness. Then we have the idea that there is indeed an etheric field or matrix through which subtle information can pass or through which related people, animals, plants or objects can communicate with or without the need for energy to pass through any time-space zone to get from one place or person to another. So Quantum Physics gives us an energy model for understanding for example how prayer works. That deep concentration and intention sends out powerful « radio » messages has been understood by many traditions for millennia which is why so much practice is devoted to it.

"We help transform often heavy and negatively charged energies to radiating higher vibrations of energy which positively affect all the various bodies"

Alchemy is another case in point and has always been known and practised in many secret societies. It is about manipulating the physical world through consciousness and intention and our own practice, Shiatsu is also « practicing alchemy » as we help transform often heavy and negatively charged energies to radiating higher vibrations of energy which positively affect all the various bodies ; the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual and therefore clean the auric field.

So the word energy, just as qi or prana, also has many facets to it as we slowly explore the concept at deeper levels. As a discipline Shiatsu needs to be defined and explained and our own understanding of qi, prana (mostly just translated as breath) and energy as well as meridians, chakras and nadis is constantly evolving. Are meridians the same as nadis (sometimes described as astral tubes) or are we talking about different ideas altogether ? How do the chakras relate to the meridians ?

But there is one important area of energy medicine we rarely talk about. We have stripped all the talk about energy from it’s true source which is spirit. Even Quantum Physics is only really interested in how the physical universe works and doesn’t ask or answer the question WHY it’s there in the first place, what does it do and how is it related to the evolution of human souls ? What is the source of love and of consciousness ? Why must consciousness evolve ?

It is only when we ask the why question that our own consciousness really expands. Of course that takes us into the whole field of spirituality / religion / esotericism as physics and even quantum physics yield no answers at all.

We should keep our own spiritual beliefs out of Shiatsu, no doubt. We need to present an image to the public that demonstrates that Shiatsu is a great oriental body and mind therapy free of any religious bias. Sure ! But if we really want to talk about energy we simply cannot ignore the whole concept of spirit. And at some stage the issue must be discussed within the Shiatsu network because we work with « subtle energy ».

Love and compassion are certainly very strong energies and also extremely important when projecting light, colour or sound. This directly involves the practitioner’s heart chakra and can be felt by the patient as empathy or warmth or seen as a colour or hue. The effect of a « simple connection » like this may be very powerful and induce healing on other levels, for example the physical and not just the emotional or spiritual body.

But let’s go a little further. During a treatment recently I perceived or visualised (I can no longer distinguish what comes through first and why) Mary, the mother of Christ behind the patient’s head sending and enveloping my patient with love. This was towards the end of the treatment and there was a definite change coming all over her, as if carried in a coccoon of love. Talking about it after the treatment we realised that we had both felt the same thing and had both felt this beautiful benevolent spirit.  

"However I always start treatments with a prayer and try to align and connect with my own spirit guides. I no longer work alone."

This little example of working with spirit, of course is also felt as energy. Many psychic healers work with spirits, guardian angels and spirit guides and have a somewhat different idea about energy than what is commonly accepted in the Shiatsu / TCM world. I am not clairvoyant and don’t have any particular or unusual psychic abilities.  But I have had many experiences such as the ones described above but not always. However I always start treatments with a prayer and try to align and connect with my own spirit guides. I no longer work alone.

My own understanding of energy changed radically when I first went to Brazil seven years ago. Since then I have returned nearly every year and I have experienced and witnessed things I never felt or saw before. The main person I see there is a healer working with his hands on the body. Any further relationship with Shiatsu stops here ; he does have psychic abilities, works as a medium, mostly in trance (natural, not drug induced) and treats people individually, does group sessions and trains mediums. I can only describe him as a very spiritual or religious person. The healing centre he runs in São Paolo looks more like an esoteric temple or church with treatment rooms rather than our idea of a new age integrated health clinic.

Energy and spirit also come to mind when I think of a recent trip to Delphi in Greece and to the tomb of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy. In both cases the energy was very strong. Delphi is a wonderful place to visit but around the temple of Apollo, the inner precinct of the oracle, the energy was particularly strong and felt like a vertical current going through my body. It was grounding and at the same time uplifting. At the tomb of Saint Francis the energy was all around and then got denser and enveloped me. Within seconds I burst into tears, unexpectedly, as I had been quite calm before…

These are completely natural phenomena and every year during our summer Shiatsu workshop in Greece the energy from sea and mountains, the ancient history and spirit of the place together with practicing Shiatsu produce strong sensations in all of us which go beyond the words of energy, qi or prana but connect us deeply with the natural world and work on our hearts and souls. 

Copyright : Gerry Rixen 2008  



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Prochaine initiation juin ou novembre 2017

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Cervera del Maestre, Valencia
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