torsdag 21 april 2011

The Stomach Channel in Chinese medicine and post-birth qi: how we get energy to live after we´re one year old

Well, god knows how we do that, really, given the stresses life can bring with it. But in Chinese medical view, there are two main different types of energy that powers living beings: xiantianqi and houtianqi, pre-heaven energy and post-heaven energy.

The stomach is much more important in China than in the West. This is not unique to the Chinese, it´s simply a reflection of a society were food is scarce and starvation a real possibility. The Stomach becomes crucial, something reflected in the old Chinese greeting which used to be ”Ni chi fan le ma?” - have you eaten? In the 19th century, due to Western traders, ”How are you?” came into the Chinese language instead in the phrase of ”Ni hao.” These days in the West, most have forgotten what it is like to constantly worry about getting food (interestingly, the Earth element that the Stomach and Spleen links to, has worry as a pathological emotional state). Everything in us is full, all the time, we can buy whatever we like in the store and the risk of a famine is as real as a science fiction series on TV. Due to this, most people have shi, problems of excess energy, in the West, while most people in China and developing countries often have a high frequency of xu, problems of emptiness or deficiency.

Daoism and Chinese medicine both see that up to the age of about one-and-a-half we use xiantianqi, pre-heaven energy, where we take in nourishment from the outside in a small way but keep on charging energy from the universe like we did in the womb. Once that age is past, we go into houtianqi, the energy of post-heaven, where we get nourishment and energy from three things: 1) food, 2) rest, 3) air. Long-term Daoist qigong- and meditation-practice will change this and slowly relink a person to the pre-heaven qi over work of many decades of training, while continously upgrading and refining our post-heaven qi and its ability to work in our body and life.

The Stomach is seen as the most important pivot for this, as it brings in crucial nourishment through food. It is seen as transforming food into guqi, ”grain energy” that nourishes our body. The Stomach is paired with the Spleen in the Earth Element, and they together are responsible for ”ripening and rotting” food while transforming some of it into pure qi that will work in our body. There is a long sequence of organs involved in distilling and refining this food qi to usable qi in the body, while the simultaneous western view of food disgestion takes place. Both exist simultaneously.

The Earth Element is also the Element that integrates things on all levels, all the way from our life to our ideas to information we get. It is the one Element that is destroyed the most in the lifestyle of the industrialized West. It is the Element that integrates the other four. In older Chinese drawings, sculptures or incense burners, the five were often depicted with Earth in the middle and the other four around it.

The ability of the Stomach to digest food is very important. If the system is unbalanced, the body will not properly digest the food coming in and the person will become sluggish, with too little heat inside to transform food and move the body. This is often a problem with the Earth element itself, a yin problem. A yang problem would be too fast metabolic rate and no interest in food, where food is only fuel to move the organism. To the first person, food would not be particularly interesting, and they would eat very little but prefer sweets or carbs if they can. To the second one, food will be important to eat but won´t really taste much – it´s just fuel, something that has to be eaten. If the Earth element works well, the Chinese medical classics say ”You taste the five flavours” - that is, you truly taste and enjoy the food you eat, feeling each nuance of flavour clearly and savouring them.

In the Five Element cycle Fire releases into Earth like summer into indian summer. Earth opens into Metal, like indian summer opens into autumn.

Linking to the channels in the body, what is called interior-exterior paired channels, the Spleen is linked to the Lung channel, while the Stomach is linked to the Large Intestine channel. Spleen and Stomach is part of the Earth element, Lung and Large Intestine is part of the Metal element. This relationship is also seen between Earth and Metal, in that Earth is seen as creating the zhengqi, the Upright Qi, our ability to remain upright and straight and simply work or walk without becoming tired. If this fails to work well with Metal, which is linked to our spine and lungs, our spine will slumping, weaker, and tired.

The energy of the Stomach, Spleen and Earth element grounds us, integrates our life, puts both feet on the ground and keeps us centered. When in balance, it nourishes freely and gently, and lets us enjoy our earthly existence while we are here.