by Aaron Hoopes
Chi is the prime moving force both within the human body and outside in the universe. Chi is not breath, it is the power that makes it possible for us to breathe. Chi is not simply “energy,” it is what gives energy the power to be energy. Chi is the power behind movement and thought…and it is everywhere. It is in the oxygen we breathe and the blood that flows through us.
It is difficult to define chi concretely. It cannot be seen or measured, it cannot be touched or captured. It is everywhere yet we have no way to touch it, make it tangible, or even prove its existence. Therefore chi is a difficult concept to accept. The Western mind likes the tangible, the concrete, and the specific. It likes a scientific explanation that defines, dissects, and categorizes. Chi transcends explanation. It doesn’t fit easily into a strict biomedical framework. It is simply indefinable. If, however, we are able to take a leap of faith and try to believe in the idea of chi, then maybe we can open our spiritual eyes and envision what our physical eyes cannot see or open our mind to understandings we cannot normally comprehend.
The ancient Chinese believed chi flowed through the body along sacred channels called “meridians,” just as blood flows through arteries and veins. Traditional Chinese medicine considers blockage of chi, or even the incorrect movement of chi through the body, as the cause of both mental and physical disease. People with strong chi have a healthy and youthful appearance, a strong immune system, and are full of energy, while people with weak chi appear frail and haggard, tire quickly, and fall ill often.
Chi within the body is like power in a rechargeable battery. Occasionally it needs to be replenished. The chi of the universe is inexhaustible, yet the body needs fresh chi to maintain its vitality. You take in food, water, and air and convert them to energy within your body. During sleep, while your veins are relaxed and open and your brain is calm, you are able to take in a fresh supply of chi. If you are stressed or nervous, you become rigid and circulation is blocked, you have difficulty sleeping, and your reserves of chi dwindle. When you are exchanging the chi within you with the chi of the universe, you feel healthy and vigorous. By energizing the body with chi it is revitalized naturally, enabling it to fight off illness and maintain good health. The vitality chi gives to the physical body is generally obvious, but it also gives vitality to your mind. Chi is not only physical energy, it is also mental energy. Realization of this is a key to becoming aware of chi in your life.