As acupuncturists, the dominant imbalance that we see in patients living in American society and culture is something we call Qi stagnation. This diagnostic pattern has been widely discussed in other of our blog entries. In treating this pattern of imbalance, there are many avenues by which we can take. Obviously, regular acupuncture treatment is one of them; another might be massage, tai chi, qi gong, yoga, etc. These are great ways to get the body moving, and indeed, general exercise routines do wonders for stagnant qi. However, the trend here is that it is only through physical exertion that we are able to overcome this imbalance, and that is simply not the case.
There is one prevailing assumption within the Cartesian mindset that we have all been raised to develop, namely that the mind/brain/consciousness is somehow intrinsically separate from the body. We say, ‘my hand’, ‘my feet’. Very rarely do we look at these body parts and say, ‘there I am’. And yet indeed, from an acupuncture perspective, there is no distinction between the mind and body. The same imbalances that affect our body affect our mind, and vice versa.
Therefore, as effective and, in fact, necessary physical exercise is for moving our qi, so too can we exercise our emotions/mind. Qi stagnation closes things down, tightens things up, and slows things down. In the mind, qi stagnation manifests as stress/anxiety, irritability or anger, overthinking, excessive worry, depression, an inability to let things go, to name a few. We can see in these examples that the ‘stuckness’ of the flow of qi through ourselves impacts the way we perceive and interact with the world. We can be proactive, however, in overcoming this ‘stuckness’ by doing little things in our day to help develop a smoother, more even flow to our mental state.
I often give patients several options and ideas on how to envision this process. I say that this is a personal exploration in techniques that should make the most sense to each person, and should be comfortable enough to allow the behavior/perspective to be adopted. These can be things like healthy means of expressing oneself and not bottling emotions too much, journaling, talk therapy, meditation, trying something new and different, remaining open minded, etc.; even allowing for the idea that you/things can change opens the flow of qi. This is why I explain that it should be comfortable and personal. This is obviously not a passive process, but like regular exercise, ‘we have to walk before we run’. Taking an active role in doing one thing a day that helps to let go of certain thoughts, broaden the mind, or take a new perspective, can have profound snowballing effects when taken on a whole.
The most cumbersome aspect of qi stagnation is that it is easier to stay stuck. ‘I don’t want to run today, I’m too __________.’ ‘This isn’t working.’ ‘I don’t care.’ Again, emphasizing the point that stagnation affects our entire being, we can see how our own mental state at any given moment can easily give way to ‘the norm’ or what we are used to, even if we know quite well that it isn’t the healthiest choice or perspective.
Do not be lulled into complacency, do not get stuck. Move and grow beyond the rut of ‘easy’. One can do small things every day that have profound effects over the span of one’s life.