In ‘Healing and the Mind’ Bill Moyers talks with physicians, scientists, therapists, and patients – people who are taking a new look at the meaning of sickness and health. In a series of fascinating and provocative interviews, he discusses their search for answers to perplexing questions: How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?” In the second part of the series, Moyers explores Traditional Chinese Medicine and its approach to healing through ‘Qi’, the vital energy force.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
In the second part of the series, Bill Moyers, with the help of his guide, David Eisenberg, (MD from Harvard Medical School), travels through Beijing and Shanghai, exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its approach to healing through ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chi’), the vital energy force.
TCM has been successfully practiced for thousands of years. According to TCM, the geography of the human body goes beyond the western medical system’s understanding of the human anatomical structure.
Qi, the vital energy force
TCM views health as based on energy balance:
- When Qi – the vital life energy – flows strongly and smoothly through our body, the energy is in balance and we are in health.
- When Qi either stagnates, is blocked or flows weakly, the body’s energy system is out of balance and this leads to various illnesses in a person.
- Healing involves diagnosing where the Qi is blocked, stagnant or weak and then working with the energy channels (meridiens) to get Qi to flow strongly and smoothly again, using a variety of techniques.
As Bill and David visit some of Beijing and Shanghai’s most reputed hospitals, they try to come to grips with this subtle and intangible energy force called Qi. They learn that in China, patients can choose to be treated either by TCM or modern/ western medicine (Allopathy) and that a significant proportion of the population opts for TCM to cure even acute and chronic conditions.
The video shows a young woman undergoing surgery in a Chinese hospital for a very large tumour in her brain. In a Western hospital, this sensitive procedure would be conducted under general anesthesia but here it is done with the woman fully conscious and able to talk … the doctors had anesthesised her locally, using acupuncture needles! Using a combination of TCM and Western techniques, the surgeon successfully removed the tumor, with no pain whatsoever and using half the amount of drugs.
TCM treatments primarily comprises the following, all of which aim to balance Qi:
1. Herbal Medicines
These are prepared by boiling certain, carefully selected ingredients (herbs, tree-bark, roots, dried insects, animal parts, etc.) and are to consumed regularly for a period of time. Interestingly, the medicinal herbs are prescribed, not based on the chemistry of the core ingredients but more so on their ability to either increase/ decrease bodily heat and thereby address the flow of Qi.
As described in the example above, acupuncture involves using very fine needles along specific meridians (energy channels) to reconnect broken energy circuits, and to restore/ balance Qi.
is another way to work with Qi (also called Acupressure), but this time by applying pressure to certain meridien points using one’s fingers and hands. Interestingly, research shows that a range of ailments can be successfully addressed through therapeutic massage including many that are apparently ‘incurable’ in the west, like fibroids and cysts.
4. Chinese martial arts (Tai-chi ch’uan and Qi gong)
These are widely practiced in both urban and rural China, once again with the aim of balancing Qi. TCM holds that body movement is as important for health, as eating or sleeping. Just like a door’s hinges if not swung open often, are bound to ‘rust.’, similarly the body’s joints are places where Qi can stagnate or be blocked, if not used properly or regularly. Interestingly, experienced TCM practitioners can also offer ‘external Qi Gong’ where the doctor uses his/her own Qi to restore and reactivate the patient’s Qi.
5. Meditation/ Visualizations
These focus on healing the mental/emotional patterns that could have resulted in disease. The TCM philosophy is ‘Don’t try and cure the disease; instead, find your centre and you will be cured.’
For the Chinese, health is not just the mere absence of disease, but an overall philosophy of life (and lifestyle). The Western world is also beginning to see the need to go beyond the physical body and understand how the mind and spirit can influence health. However, for the best results to emerge, the two approaches need to come together and find common ground. Why can’t the two systems go hand-in-hand?
- In which situations do you feel energetic and full if vitality?
- When and where do you feel dull, dense or stuck?
- What patterns do you notice?
- How can you ensure that your vital energy force (Qi) flows smoothly and steadily?
‘Healing & The Mind‘ by Bill Moyers
After obtaining a degree in Psychology, Vidya Ramaswamy felt her subject learning had been limited since it stopped with the study of the mind. Believing that humans are “whole” beings, she decided to pursue a discipline which appreciates the inter-connection between body-mind-spirit. She qualified herself as a Clinical Hypnotherapist from the California Hypnosis Institute of India (CHII). Vidya now works with cancer patients on a daily basis as a Treatment-Coordinator/ Therapist at the Ojus-Sampurnah Integrative Medicine Clinic in Bangalore and practices as an independent Hypnotherapist as well.
More from this series
|Title||About the article|
|1. Introduction to Healing & The Mind||In this landmark series, Bill’s aim is to present his answers to the ever-perplexing questions : How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?|
|2. The Mystery of Qi||In this part of the series, Bill Moyers, with the help of his guide, David Eisenberg, (MD from Harvard Medical School), travels through Beijing and Shanghai, exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its approach to healing through ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chi’), the vital energy force.|
|3. The Mind-Body Connection||How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?|
|4.Healing From Within||In the third part of the series, Bill Moyers offers new insights into how the mind and body are intimately interconnected.|
|5.The Art of Healing||In the fourth part of the series, Bill Moyers examines two therapies – Buddhist meditation and group psychotherapy – that involve neither drugs nor surgery|
|6.Wounded Healers||In the final part of the series, Bill Moyers aptly completes the circle by focusing on real people and their real stories and emphasising the ‘human connection’ that is so crucial in the doctor-patient relationship.|