Chi (pronounced chee and also spelled qi or ch’i) is energy – the life giving energy that unites body, mind and spirit. Everyone has Chi. When you die, your Chi is no longer there.
It is a lifetime (or many lifetimes) of study to understand, develop and direct one’s Chi as the Masters do. However, great strides can be made to increase and direct one’s Chi with simple exercises and practices. It is always worth the effort. It is amazing how well our body responds to proper care even if we’ve neglected it or been abusive for a long time. This is part of the function of Chi.
When your Chi is strong, balanced, flowing and focused you exude energy and good health. Good health and strong, balanced Chi are almost one and the same. In Chinese Medicine one of the causes of ill health is the stagnation or blockage of Chi.
In the best-selling Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide to Chinese Medicine, authors Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold write,
“That which animates life is called Qi. The concept of Qi is absolutely at the heart of Chinese Medicine. Life is defined by Qi even though it is impossible to grasp, measure, quantify, see or isolate. Immaterial yet essential, the material world is formed by it. An invisible force known only by its effects, Qi is recognized indirectly by what it fosters, generates and protects.
Matter is Qi taking shape. Mountains forming, forests growing, rivers streaming, and creatures proliferating are all manifestations of Qi. In the human being, all functions of the body and mind are manifestations of Qi: sensing, cogitating, feeling, digesting, stirring, and propagating. Qi begets movement and heat. It is the fundamental mystery and miracle.”
In T’ai Chi, ChiRunning and ChiWalking some of the goals are to increase the amount of Chi, to learn to focus your Chi and to make sure your Chi does not get blocked or stagnant.
Master George Xu, my T’ai Chi teacher, is always trying to get me to focus on my dantien, my center and to have my Chi then come from that place and move into my limbs to create movement. Why? Because Chi is stronger than muscles and movement that comes from Chi is more deeply powerful.
More powerful than muscles? In the West, muscles are almost akin to a god. We worship muscles and what they represent. Covers of magazines and TV commercials extol rock hard abs and buns of steel. What is stronger than rock and steel?
In T’ai Chi we quickly learn that muscles are no match for the power of Chi. In ChiRunning and ChiWalking, we see that the power of Chi takes you much further and faster than vulnerable muscles whose duration are very short lived.
Your dantian is the best home for your Chi and the best place for you to focus your energy so that you can come form a balanced, whole place in yourself. Your dantien is just below your navel and several inches in toward your spine. In ChiRunning and ChiWalking we encourage all movement, all action, all choices to come from this center, that deep place in yourself that is home to your greatest potential and power.